Heart of Africa Expedition: The sweat bees are thick

The guys were not super happy to get out of bed this morning after the first-day walk blues from yesterday. It is not the distance, it is the weight. We crossed the Chinko right away to avoid a creek on our side. Turns out it was a mistake, the grass hadn’t been burned on the opposite side, which makes going ten times slower.

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Location of Mike Fay in the Central African Republic, a location known as the “Heart of Africa”.

Then we got to where we’re going to cross again and it was deep for about a kilometer. Just before we crossed, the guys said stop. Just then a huge giant forest hog came running up the bank, and almost bowled over Herve with his huge pack. Then six more ran up and made an about face when they saw us. There was also a big group of guinea fowl in the same spot.

Some people tell stories about the ferocious giant forest hog. But they are like any other pig, they run — and if you are in the way they will bowl you over. These guys can get up to 600 lbs, but I have never had a problem wth them.

I was the first to cross the river to check the depth. There are some huge crocs on this river, so walking through the murky water is always a bit of a thrill. I got to the far side and there were rocks covered in these huge spiny fresh water oysters. My chacos went over, no problem, but the guys were barefoot. I told them to put there wellies on. Never seen these oysters before. The guys say they are definitely edible.

20170312_070735 Freshwater oysters in Chinko-001

Just as we we’re coming up the hill we heard a shotgun blast upstream, so there are definitely armed people lurking about. That is the beauty of a vast no man’s land, you just walk away from danger.

I am getting better at navigating. I have satellite imagery and can really tailor the walking. The packs are still way to heavy for steep hills.
We crossed a creek about 12 km on and the only water was a puddle . Water was grey green and tasted like algae, but that is why our stomachs are full of acid, right?

We saw some warthogs, two small duikers, a troop of baboons and a fresh hyena track on our path.  So still not a single mammal that a Muslim would poach today. Seems that most of the cattle herders are to the south of us; there is little grass where we are now.

20170312_105243_001 Spotted Hyena Track-001
We were still walking at 15h00 and the sweat bees were thick. I navigated us along a laterite outcrop for the last hour to the river and we hit one of those kind of paradise camping spots.  The water was deep and pretty clear and the banks gravelly and open. This cheered the guys up to see water after about a 22 km walk today. I went fly fishing and caught another carp relative and a tiger fish. Not great eating, but they’ll do. Tomorrow we keep heading north along Chinko.

20170312_172040_001 Camp-001 20170312_171825 Laterite stone going to river-001 20170312_111515 Water not the best-001 20170312_111623 boys worn out from too heavy packs-001

Click image to enlarge the map showing location of Mike Fay today.
Click image to enlarge the map showing location of Mike Fay today.

Africa explorer-conservationist J. Michael Fay is in the Central African Republic, completing an expedition he started in 2014, retracing as best he can the footsteps of the 19th Century American Game Hunter-Explorer William Stamps Cherry. Fay, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and recipient of numerous National Geographic Society grants, has also worked for decades for the Wildlife Conservation Society. His transects through some of Africa’s most remote and inaccessible wildernesses (among them the National Geographic-sponsored Megatransect and Meglaflyover) rank among the most significant in the history of exploration of the continent. You can read all his dispatches at Expedition Through the Heart of Africa.

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.