Friday, July 6, return to Gamba
The night has passed without incident, other that a roof support pole breaking along the roofline of the student’s tent. The ghosts of mischief must have paid a visit to their tent. No reptiles have sought harbor beneath my tent, and I have slept well. Good thing, for we have a long hike ahead of us today. Awakened by the turaco chorus, it is porridge and muesli again for us this morning. Porridge. I don’t know if I will ever need to eat porridge again.
We bottle riverwater that was boiled and set out to cool last night, for our drinking water supply has nearly run out, and several bottles of the boiled water are packed as reserve for the hike to Sounga. It will be easy to tell from the last of our bottled water, judging by color. Breaking camp after breakfast, the fire is doused, packs cinched, and ranks assembled for the march to Sounga. We take the direct route, there is no need to stop to sample fruits, look at pretty flowers, listen for wildlife. It is a GPS countdown.
We run up against an army of ants on the move, it is a facedown on the single-plank bridge lying in a stream before us. They scatter and ready their defense in Ghislain’s wake, creating challenges for the rest of us, but, no problem. Ghislain flips the bridge over, and the flotilla of ants churn the water downstream as we hustle across the temporarily passable bridge and hop through the mass of ants descending the hillside. Further into the forest, Ghislain stops momentarily to consult with Kassa, noticing a particular odor in the air along the trail. I think perhaps we all need a shower after a week in the forest, but apparently, gorillas may have spent a night adjacent to the trail here, and Ghislain can detect the faint odor of their presence. We listen for a moment, then back to the business of getting ourselves out of the forest. We reach the plantations a few hours later, and Ghislain negotiates for a stalk of sugarcane. Once we are in the village of Sounga, we drop the packs to take a moment’s rest, presenting several sacks of rice, pasta, and candies for the village family to enjoy.
On the shore of Lake Sounga, the boats are readied while we choke down sandwiches of stale bread and dry salami.
The air off the lake is refreshing. Mary and I search for the cans of refreshment that we have been dreaming about since entering the forest, stashed among the boat provisions, but they have mysteriously disappeared. The last of my canteen is emptied as we board the boats to begin the lagoon portion of our return to Gamba. The shallows of lake Sounga require some careful piloting once again, but once we reach the river to Sette Cama, we make good time. Stopping for a moment to deliver several porters to Safari Lodge, we say our goodbye’s and focus on the final hour of lagoon to Gamba. The Shell Jetty is locked tight when we arrive, and a phone call confirms that Celestine’s crew is on the way. Bernadette, Rob’s wife, is waiting for our arrival, and climbs around the boat compound to the jetty, greeting Mary and I with gin-tonics on ice, and refreshments and fresh baguettes for everyone. It suddenly doesn’t matter that we are locked out, thanks to Bernadette’s rescue. Within a few minutes, help arrives and we offload gear to the waiting vehicles and close our trip to Ynioungo.