Heart of Africa Expedition: Into the Hot Zone

I knew today was going to be kind of make or break for reaching our destination, the Kotto confluence with the Ndjé. I was somewhat worried that our boys’ courage could have evaporated in the night, or the boogy man left the scene at dawn and suddenly the threat of Seleka goes down.

We wait around for the guys who said they would come, but never did. What the heck, let’s just go downstream and see where the path takes us. I decided to let the guys go out front today; I felt like a slow concentrated pace.

We were going through these landos that were freshly burned and bright green. They should have all had 3 or 4 hartebeest or a warthog or two, yet nothing, day after day. At at a certain point I got a bit off track and went down to check out a lando. Just as I was getting close to the path, I could hear the motorcycle, then I saw it, headed almost straight for me. Do I call it out, or go invisible? I decided on invisible, knowing people on a moto just look for movement in the periphery, and facial recognition is high. So don’t move, don’t look them directly in the eye.

This dude was no more than 5 meters away from me when he sped by; he never saw me. I made tracks to catch up because I didn’t want the motorcycle guy to report that he had seen the white guy’s team but not the white guy. More intrigue in the OK corral.

I caught up before the moto man had taken off. He was a Muslim from his demeanor; he also wore a matchette turned into a sword close to his chest, usual sign of a moslem. These guys consider themselves warriors. He didn’t give us much information, other than the Seleka threat had diminished somewhat out here because they were collecting in Bria.

We contined on the motorbike track.

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

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.