Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Long and Winding Path

Sorry it has been a while since my last update. You can plan to write once every other week until life happens and then you find yourself hiking up a mountain and wondering why it is cold in Africa. Its easy to forget the little things.

For the past few months work has continued on as usual. I meet plenty of farmers who are eager to try new techniques on their farms. This past Sunday took me on a hike up to Lake Barombi to visit with the isolated village of the same name. The day was unusually clear and sunny for rainy season. This gave the forest around the lake a thick humid feel. The path to the village was a winding trail through thick tropical vegetation. The ground was slick and muddy, at parts sucking my entire boot into the mud. But for the most part it was a small dirt path surrounded by endless green on one side and lake on the other. Birds sung exotic song from the canopy while an endless amount of insects chirped in the background the entire way. The path passes by a few of the Barombi farms, and as you get closer and closer to the village cocoa farms become more numerous.

It takes roughly one and a half hours by foot to get to the village. I was soaked in sweat but it was a gorgeous walk. The path followed the lake almost the entire way and was full of beautiful discovery channel-esque moments. On the initial path to the lake there are a few rock cliffs and there is a cave beneath one of them. After only a few feet into the entrance I shined my torch up at the rocky ceiling and unintentionally caused a scattering of bats. They fluttered about the top of the cave and some went a bit deeper(*next time, when I am not alone, I will explore the dark jungle cave further). On the path there were some of the weirdest looking insects, some beautiful sounding but hard to see birds, tons of lizards, and I saw one lone snake. There were quite a few ant colonies creating tunnels out of ant bodies across the dirt path. I could probably keep rambling on about all the different animals, insects, and vegetation around the lake but I will end with the jungle squirrel. The jungle squirrel doesn't look much different than the common squirrel physically, but its color is more reddish brown. One in particular caught my attention because this jungle squirrel was caught in a hunters trap. It looked like a simple rope snare that caught around the squirrels ankle or tail. The poor guy was stuck on the branch he was attached to, and I was not going to get in the way of a hunter and his prey.

After a hot and sweaty few hours of hiking I made it to the lake village. I ran into two farmers who informed me that I was actually on the outskirts of town. They both were heading to the main town and offered to take me. It ended up being another fifteen minutes to get there and a lot of this path was flooded. I was dropped off at the chiefs hut and I introduced myself and my purpose for visiting. Today was an introductory visit to see if I could provide some trainings to the village. The chief and his friends were happy that I was there to help them, and he asked me several times if I could lecture that same day. I had to decline because I had nothing prepared. We agreed to meet again in late August to discuss  what needs are most pressing and arrange specific details for the trainings.

The chief then offered to get me a ride home in one of their canoes. I quickly accepted being a bit tired from hiking most of the day. An older boy, maybe fourteen years old, took me down to their boat launch which was just a four meter wide dirt path down to the water. There were four canoes and only one of them looked safe. The other three were old hollowed out tree trunks that looked like they were on their last legs. We hopped into one of the better looking trunks and paddled out onto the lake. It took a few minutes to get used to sitting in the canoe. It was narrow, but my frame just fit in. It was maybe ten feet long and didn't look to be more than half an inch thick on average. The canoe was sensitive to movement but that wasn't out of the ordinary. The lake vegetation was quite a site featuring hundreds of water lilys and several other weird looking aquatic plants. The wide open lake left us little cover from the sun which beat down on us for the forty minute trip. The water kept us cool when needed, and after  we landed I hiked back to town.       

Now I am heading to a remote jungle village to help with some environmental education and farmer trainings. After that I may be traveling again for work in another village in the South West region. Then I should be back to plan some trainings with the lake village.