Friday, April 13, 2007

The Heart of Africa

Things started to get interesting after we climbed Mount Cameroon, which was spectacular, walking past the old volcanoes that only erupted a few years back. We road to Yaounde to pick up a visa or two and as the embassies were all close together we managed in two days to get Gabon, DRC Congo and CAR, yep that's right this is why thing started to get interesting, we decided to head to the Central African Republic to go in search of gorillas.

The road over to the border of Cameroon was hectic with logging truck after logging truck on the most corrugated roads you could imagine and not to mention the dust that filled our lungs. The bikes held up only just with the Baja's chain guide rubber wearing in half so a bit or glue and zip ties did the trick. We reached the frontier and was it a new world, Cameroon was a modern country compared to here, the border was one formality after another with them all wanting money but we just kept saying no and eventually they tired of it all.

Crowding in CAR, its Africa.

CAR was proving to be one challenge after another, just to go see gorillas I started to think was it worth it. As we road we noticed some of the people where very short looking but thought nothing of it but then it occurred to us they were pygmees, after all the Michelen map suggested they where in this part of Africa, we pulled over to chat with some Pygmee hunters that were caring spears, such primitive people, their teeth sharpened into points to chew meat!

The Pygmee hunters...Amy is taller than someone!

We came to one road block and was told rudely to "get down" that was to get of our motor bikes, then into there little make shift wooden hut with a whole tribe of Pygmees watching on with interest. The same angry sounding policeman told us abruptly to be seated, he spoke, as they say small small english, the others french only, they wanted passports the usual stuff, then finally they asked for money and a lot, we refused and were patient then the angry man turned to us and said "shut your mouth, give us money" hmm whats going on here I asked myself, he was drunk and he had a machine gun do I give him money or do I stand firm?? Stuff it I am standing firm was my decision, I turned to the other police officials and said this is wrong and that this man is drunk, that went down like a lead balloon, the police saying he is not, but I could smell it. Then he said"give me money I am hungry" wrong move buddy, I turned to the other policeman and said "see he only wants money for food, this wrong we want no trouble just let us pass" they started to see my side, one policeman stepped forward and took the machine gun from the drunk man, yep we had them, as he gave us another small volley of drunken slur we asked for our passports which they gave back to us and left, as we walked passed all the pygmee villages they looked at as with smiles as if to say "hey well done white man you beat them" we are determined not to pay a single bribe!!

Eventually we made it through the thick jungle and wet roads, the rains have started, to the Sangha Dzangha park in the bottom corner of CAR, I really felt like we were deep in the heart of Africa, with the borders of Congo and Cameroon only a stones throw away.

The next day we went in search of the Gorillas and we where not disappointed, with a Pygmee tracker each on the back of our bikes they directed us 30 k's into the jungle on roads that were hardly a road, through wash outs, mud, water and sand. We reached the camp where the local Biaka people stay and left the bikes for a walk through the thick jungle for about about 4 k's, on the way seeing forest elephants, dears and monkeys, its another world out there, so far from civilisation, and then there they were a family of 13 and of course one huge Silver Back to keep the order, he was a giant, we watched them for about an hour and a half searching for food on the ground in the trees, crossing streams and for the silver back just sitting back and watching us, fantastic!!

How did they know...........

.............and again!

The following day we were convinced by a German chap working out there called Philip to go to an area called the salines which is a naturally cleared area in the jungle were there is a huge concentration of wildlife, especially elephants, feeding on the unique minerals found in the was like a scene out of the Lion King, at any one time there were 70 to 80 elephants grazing, also Bongo's which are unique, Buffalo, deer and wild pigs, we sat for 3 hours perched in a tree platform watching this spectacle, that evening we enjoying cold beer and delicious food with Philip and Michele in a house...argh the simple things you miss!!

Pygmee mother and child, pancakes anyone?