Today I go for a distance run. The weather is cool, perhaps 70 degrees F in a light breeze and sunshine. Following the road to Point Dick, the terminus with the sea, the laterite track opens out to savannas, then passes through several bands of forest, follows a stream, finally picking up the cooling sea-breeze on its approach to the ocean. Passing through one of the forest fragments I am surprised by an explosion of leaves in the ditch. A monitor lizard scuttles for cover. It is a large adult, nearly 1.5 metres in length. A flash of tongue, the glint of an eye, the dappled sun reflects a dull glow from its scaly, dove-gray hide as it retreats into the forest. My adrenaline burst subsides.
Approaching the sea, faint elephant tracks from the past weekend follow the roadway through the scrub forest. Dust has softened the edges of the prints. The tracks mix with those of a mongoose, several monkeys, and other monitor lizards. One of the local Gabonese is fishing with a pole fashioned from the spine of a palm frond, flipping a short line out into an open stretch of brackish lagoon bordered by mangroves, the float a simple chunk of pith. The fish are tiny here, tilapia, cyclids, little mud-skippers that slop through the shallows to cover.
Breaking out of the scrub, the light is suddenly intense, reflecting the tumbling surf and sand, the smell of the sea invigorating. I’m not so much a beach person. It’s too busy, the waves crashing, salt in the air, sand in everything. The roar of the sea makes it hard to think. Of anything but the sea. I turn back to the shelter of the forest. The forest is more like the canyons that I hike in Utah. The walls close in, and I feel like I am part of the environment rather than being buffeted by the environment. In the forest, like the canyons, I feel like I am entering into a symbiosis. If something happens in the forest, I am directly affected, rather than just observing. I need to react to events in the forest. I’m not attracted to mountains for the same reason I’m not attracted to the sea. Too much environment that is unattainable.