Pushing North, Deeper Into Africa’s Heart

West of Zaco

We are still feeling the radii around Zaco, trails like spokes on a wheel that penetrate far into the bush in search of resources.

image008 We push our way north. There are lots of bicycle tracks going both in the direction of Zaco and also Yalinga. They are hunting in their small bands. We found a fresh kill of a bushbuck with an enormous quantity of stomach content on the ground. It was killed last night.

We saw a blue duiker run in the forest and saw groups of black-and-white colobus, pogonias monkeys and a group of baboons that didn’t seem to be too skittish, yet they were out of 12 ga range and I think by now they know what that is. I got bit by my first forest tse tse flies today, two to be exact. The smaller savanna version I have yet to see. There is a lot of Bokassa in this area; the savanna is overgrazed.

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By early PM several helicopters had already passed overhead, making their way to Zaco as well. The Americans and Ugandans are more and more present in the conventional sites, protecting infrastructure, people in places where the Tongo Tongo hit in the past. After the Ugandans took out the Seleka and have been stationed in Zaco, my guys say it has been calm and peaceful there. The Muslim population still controls the economy and there has not been violence against them.

We reached the larger Ouaka River, still only knee-deep. The road is lined with 75-year-old mango trees, so colonial era, and there are some bananas that have been planted along with a few sticks of manioc, typical of popular hunting camps which are in the process of human colonization becoming supply camps. There hasn’t been a vehicle on this road in decades.

I asked my guys if they know how to swim, almost as a joke. They all said no, never been swimming and can’t use a pirogue. They told me about Talingbi, which is a beast that lives in the water and takes you down and you don’t come back up. They said Talingbi is common. Sounds more like them, people who do not know how to swim.

Around the campfire the subject of rhino came up, Masarugba. Somehow the bush legend says that Erik the head of CAWA safaris killed one in 2009 and my guys attest to have had seen tracks. They said there was a big celebration. I would love to know what he actually killed. Even my guys, seasoned elephant poachers, are kind of amazed that we have not seen a single track of an elephant, or any other large mammal for that matter. They said even on the Chinko now it is devoid of elephants. The only thing they talk about there is crocodiles and fish, “ala yeke mingui”-they are abundant. Herve said he found a creek with a lot of crocodiles — he said he killed them until there were no more — but he says there are still lots.

Follow Mike Fay as he retraces William Cherry’s footsteps, sharing the experience in words, photos, video, maps, and social media: Expedition Through the Heart of Africa. This link contains all of Fay’s dispatches.

Changing Planet

Meet the Author
Mike Fay has spent his life as a naturalist—from the Sierra Nevadas and the Maine woods as a boy, to Alaska and Central America in college, to North Africa and the depths of the central African forest and savannas for the last 25 years. He has worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Bronx since 1991. In 1996, Fay flew over the forests of Congo and Gabon and realized there was a vast, intact forest corridor spanning the two countries from the Oubangui to the Atlantic Ocean. In 1997, he walked the entire corridor, over 2,000 miles, surveying trees, wildlife, and human impacts on 12 uninhabited forest blocks. Called Megatransect, this work led to a historic initiative by the Gabonese government to create a system of 13 national parks, making up some 11,000 square miles (28,500 square kilometers). In 2004, he completed the Megaflyover, an eight-month aerial survey of the entire African continent. He logged 800 hours and took 116,000 vertical images of human impact and associated ecosystems, many of which are now visible on Google Earth. In 2008 Fay completed the Redwood Transect, a new project to learn more about the redwood forest. He walked the entire range of the redwood tree, over 700 miles. Since then he has participated in the 2011 BioBlitz at Saguaro National Park, and is a regular team member of fellow NG Explorer Enric Sala's Pristine Seas Expeditions, recording the life and land above the waves.