Friday, April 6, 2012
Gabon. Thursday April 5, 201 At the national park today I saw many thousands of ants, 2 butterfly's, and a couple of birds. I was on a walk with an ethnobotanist, and a naturalist, so learned lots about the rainforest. The rain forest went right down to the ocean. The day started with an hours bus ride at rush hour through Libreville , a great opportunity to observe life on the street. We boarded 2 boats for a 45 minute ride at breakneck speed across a large bay around a peninsula, and to the park. There were large breakers, so getting us to shore was going to be a problem. Wade, his daughter Tara and I dove overboard a d swam to shore. Everyone else was ferried to shore In a small zodiac that had a rope tied at either end. A swimmer brought it out to the boat, 3 passengers were loaded on, and 6 men on shore hauled them in.the beach was strewn with cut and numbered logs. How did they get there? Was there a shipwreck? The logs were humongous, as long as 20 ft. And with a large diameter. The beach is a nesting site for sea turtles; the turtles recently laid their eggs, and will hatch out at the full moon in 2 months. There are nets placed around the nests to prevent iguanas and other animals from getting the turtle eggs. We had been told that we would have a box lunch, but there was a lovely open air thatch roofed restaurant, with a bar. The local beer was great, along with French wine. The buffet consisted of many salads, and 3 types of kabobs-- chicken, fish or the biggest shrimp I have ever seen. After lunch I had a long swim. The ocean, now that we're in the North Atlantic is warm, just a little below bath temperature,and salty as can be. After dinner we saw the film that Mike Fay made of the megatransect across northern Congo and Gabon through the jungle and to the Atlantic Ocean. He had pug miles as bearers , but they literally slashed their way through the jungle walking about a thousand miles in uncharted territory over a year. Incredible. Pointe Noir, Republic of Congo Cruising up to Pointe Noir we came through the offshore oil fields. The atmosphere was redolent of Northern NJ on the turnpike. Fires were burning at the top of each one,to burn off the natural gas. It was amazing to see how many rigs there are out here in the ocean, and ow long it took to get past them cruising at 16 knots. Congo was a bit of a disappointment. Tchimpounga ( the Jane Goodall chimp sanctuary) was closed because of the fire there earlier this year. It took longer than expected to clear the ship, so our excursion was cut short. We only had a few minutes to wander a craft market that was the first one to have interesting fabrics and masks. The Diosso Gorge was very pretty. They compare it to the Grand Canyon, but that is rather a large stretch. The overlook where we stood was a sandy bank. Of course there were no barriers, and we were cautioned no to get too close to the edge. Swifts we're darting around, and we saw a small raptor. Far below we're red flowers,perhaps a vine of some sort. We went to a small museum that was the home of the king of Loango. Behind it were 4 small shacks to house his 6 wives. There were many everyday objects, such as farm tools,and cooking pots that would lead you to believe that you were in a 19th C. house. He was actually king from 1953 to 1975. What has been most interesting is driving through the countryside and seeing how people live. It reminds me of Haiti when I was there in 1981. The houses are small shacks,sometimes leaning crazily, as if a puff of wind would blow them over. Many of the women are dressed in bright colorful fabrics with matching kerchiefs on their heads, and often carrying loads on their heads. It is an interesting way to carry a case of coke home from the market! I have had the opportunity to practice my rusty French. The people here speak really fast, and I have had a great deal of difficulty understanding them, but it is fun to connect with folks.