Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Recently I traveled for some work deep into the bush. My friend Joe wanted to go to the village of Bermin (pronounced bemy) and put on some agricultural trainings for adults and environmental education for students. It was going to be about one week in a remote village where they didn't even have a science teacher at the local school. That was the main gap Joe wanted to fill. He prepared a short environmental education manual that emphasized basic science.

We each brought a pack though mine was much smaller. Joe had to carry the flip charts and a few other things for the presentations. All I bought were two pairs of pants, two shirts, malaria prophlyaxes, and a few toiletries. Joe pretty much brought the same and off we hiked into the jungle., first following well cleared main roads before departing onto bush paths that only villages use. 

The trek to Bermin from Bangem is around twenty five kilometers. We departed after a hearty breakfast of eggs and potatoes. The overcast sky eventually cleared and we had a warm hike. In the South West region it is usually raining and warm, but if you are up in the mountains it can get quite cold even this close to the equator. The rainy season last from about March till December. The path was fairly muddy and ranged from grassy and dry to muddy and rocky. However when the path fell into the muddy and rocky range, it could go to the extremes. At times it seemed impossible for a vehicle to pass but they were there trying (we saw maybe two cars and a handful of motos). Overall it was an enjoyable stroll. We left around nine am and arrived at the village before Bermin at three pm. There we took a beer and relaxed before the last hour hike to Bemin.

The sights were great. Beautiful lowland jungle the entire stroll. There were massive trees with beautiful canopies, the weirdest exotic insects, and several interesting rivers with interesting bridges. The bridge to enter the outskirts of Bermin is a hanging vine bridge. It is made out of local vines that grow in the jungle. It looks like something from a high ropes course. It was fun to cross and hang out on.

After we arrived we deposited our gear in the son's room at the chiefs house. Our feet were blistered from walking and our backs were sore from carrying. Next we went down to bathe in the river. We were both quite filthy so we walked into the water fully clothed and scrubbed the mud and sweat out. Something seemed out of the ordinary to me. Maybe it was the fifteen villagers with us and all of them were naked. We, on the other hand, bathed in our boxers. 

For the duration of the week we slept and ate at the chiefs house. His wife was a great cook and made sure everything was piping hot when we ate. We ate really good local dishes for the entire week. Everyone in the village was warm and welcoming. The chief and a few of his friends were interesting to chat with about life in the bush, their dealings with foreigners, etc. Everything went really well traveling to Bermin and we were well received.

The following day we traveled to the various quarters of Bermin to inform the quarter heads and as many people we could of the scheduled trainings for the week. Then we put up a few signs with the schedule and location around the village. The rest of the Sunday we had free, so we asked the locals about fishing the rivers. They told us to catch the green grasshoppers to fish the rivers. It was here that I discovered I am good at catching grasshoppers. Quick hands and a knack for guessing which way they will jump. I will file that under skills to impress nobody with. We caught maybe twenty or so and went down to a bridge. We dropped some lines in the water and relaxed. Unfortunately we did not catch anything. 

The week of training was about to begin. We had arrived, had some meetings, and set up the classroom for the trainings. I had several blisters on my feet, a few of which popped so I was washing my blisters daily. At night the moot moot flies would enter our room and bite us to hell, though there weren't many mosquitoes. The rats that crawled around our bags at night searching for food did not bother either of us. It was all the biting bugs that made nights hot and itchy. I forgot to mention there was no electricity or running water. Thus we had to gather river water and filter it and operate by kerosine lamps at night. The lamps can give a charming feel to dinners, especially if you are eating fish and discussing why bush meat is bad, meanwhile the guy next to you is chewing on the jaw of a monkey.

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