transects beyond Nyanga river

Saturday, Jan 08.     Today my alarm has me up at 5:15am to prepare for a drive to Mayanami, a village approximately 40 kilometers from Yenzi Camp, where Hadrien and team have hired a pirogue, a canoe carved from a single tree trunk,  to take us up the Nyanga river for six kilometers, then off on another river to the village of Mbissi. Here we begin our trek, crossing savannahs for several kilometers before reaching the edge of a forest where one of several transects Hadrien is monitoring for wildlife crossings is due for a camera trap installation. We see several forest buffalo along the way, loping across the savannah. The transects, 500 meters long, were established during the dry season, and as we learn, not always in practical locations.

tracking through flooded forest

Soon after entering the forest, we encounter water challenges from mild ankle deep creeks to swamps requiring maneuvers and detours to minimize the risk of going under. We traverse downed trees and skirt the deepest water, but well into the swamp we find ourselves, once again, wading through waist deep pools, some of them studded with behemoth trees, their buttresses covered with thick mosses surrounded by tangles of lianas thick as limbs in tortuous ascent to forest canopy. It is an enchanting environment, stunningly beautiful, and as I try to capture its quiet beauty, Hadrien says to me, in his French-influenced English, “David, I am afraid for your camera”.  I understand his concern, though it would be worse to fail to document this remote world now that I am here.   His team is now wearing their packs on their heads and we wade deeper through the tea-colored waters, feeling with boots for a sunken limb or piece of root for purchase, grasping lianas overhead, sometimes slipping into a black hole, backing out in search of  another approach. My imagination is racing, and as I reach for a lichen-splotched liana, I think it is possibly a python hanging motionless and I recoil, nearly falling backwards while I catch my breath and regain my footing. The sense of awe and attention to detail spins my mind and leaves me exhilarated as we once again find ourselves on solid ground, for the moment….

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