Thursday, July 5
Today, a day of rest. I am up early and walk to the edge of the clearing. At 6:30, the great blue turacos begin to crow. Half a kilometre away, the croak of a turaco, then off in another forest, a second joins in, behind me, a third. I see a flash of blue in the canopy. A turaco has landed overhead. It runs among the branches like an acrobat, powerful legs, a glide of wing, flash of long blue tail. It resembles the archaeopteryx, a fossilized transition of reptile to bird. It produces a loud croak, followed by yodels and gargles and crowing that drowns out all other sounds of the waking forest. Lasting more than a minute, it leaves my ears exhilarated. It is the most perfect sound to hear in the forest. As it disappears above the canopy, I return to a breakfast of porridge, muesli, tea and cookies.
Today, the kids go fishing in the river, catching a few catfish and tilapia that we will have in a bouillon for dinner tonight. And after lunch, Ghislain leads the kids into the forest to demonstrate how to build a bivouac shelter, should they become stranded overnight in the forest.
Gathering leafy branches for the roof, Y-poles for the uprights, slender sticks for the roof rafters, lianas to tie all together, Ghislain proceeds to build a cozy shelter, probably with less help from the students than he would have liked, but maybe a little faster, and then they move on to an exercise in GPS orientation.
Mary and I wander off to explore a stream bed passing under the trail, then when we return to camp, I start heating water for the bouillon. Ghislain returns with students in tow, gathers and cleans the fish, and drops the sectioned
fish into a pot of scalding water. Once the water has cooled, I use a knife to scrape the outer layer of skin from the fish. Ghislain explains that without removing the layer of skin, the fish will have a flavor of the river, something less than desirable. Another pot of water is heated to simmer, to which is added the fish, a chili-pepper, a cube of maggi seasoning, salt, and after a simmer of 20 minutes, slices of onion, sweet pepper, and tomato, actually, any vegetables we have left from the trip.
Lemons are gathered from the wild lemon trees growing along the edge of the forest, and with rice and pasta, are prepared to accompany the bouillon. As close to a feast as we have for our final night in the forest.