A team member struggles with dehydration on long walk in African wilderness

Today started like the others, a bit of trepidation about vegetation and rocky mountains, and the excitement of thinking what we might see.  Herve had used one of the carp I caught yesterday for bait and this morning the 100lb test line was cut. We saw some huge catfish in the same spot.

We skirted between the forest and the rocks most of the way. We ran across baboons, guinea fowl and warthogs a few times. It was another hot one.

20170314_054714 End of the mountain-001 20170314_085558 Still in rocky terrain-001 20170314_085229 Unburned savanna-001 20170314_083207_001 Team trucking along-001 20170314_064219 Typical savanna view-001

We took a rest at a spot where we were next to the Chinko, and when we getting up I could see Herve was walking real slow. I said, you are walking like an old man. He said “stomach worms are bothering me, I have been throwing up”. He looked like hell.

20170314_060832 Herve tired after climb-001

We recommenced and about 1 km down the way I heard whistling. The guys said Herve was throwing up more. I went back to see and he was still chugging along toward us. When he sat down he looked like he was dying.  I thought, mix of sun and dehydration.  Right away we gave him a mix of powdered milk, sugar and a teaspoon of salt. We let him stabilize for a while.

20170314_102735_001 Herve collapes from dehydration-001

In the meantime, I walked around and saw several piles of roan antelope dung. It was all old but this was our first observation of a large antelope. They probably take advantage of the rocky terrain here. We saw mostly burro dung today and very little cow dung and few cattle tracks.  The herders probably travel with the cows on the north side of the river and hunt over here.

20170314_101907 Roan dung-001

I decided to make a beeline for the river. I took Herve’s pack and we made the river in about 2 km. We found a good spot under the trees and I sent Herve into a tent, gave him more of the bush rehydration concoction and went to sleep.

By 5pm Herve seemed to be out of danger; he was sitting up and talking fairly normally. Trouble is, of course, is dehydration knocks it out of you for a few days and we were supposed to make our big crossing to the Vovodo tomorrow.

A traveling band of people is only as strong as its weakest element. Herve is going to hold us back. We will make our way slowly to the traverse point to the Vovodo tomorrow and decide whether we cross or continue up the Chinko. We will assess stores and weight. These guys snuck too much extra stuff in their packs, so we are going to do some triage, even though they are still resisting.

Took a stroll this afternoon and saw more roan antelope dung, warthogs, baboons, and the first rabbit of the trip. We also heard a bushbuck.

Caught some more fish in the evening. Two tiger fish the guys say aren’t the normal tiger fish, which they call benga.  The two I caught they call ngana and boole. So there are three tiger fish up here. There is less and less water in the river. We will see where it peters out.  I have also been collecting tse tse flies for analysis for Thierry, good revenge to drown them in alcohol, at least getting bitten feels worthwhile.

20170314_161934 Tigerfish caught on my flyrod-001

20170314_063506 Sample of tse tse fly for disease and genetic analysis-001

20170314_130658 Camp recuperation-001

Seems like we have been on the trail for a long time now. That is a good thing. It means we are in the rhythm of the walk. What has been left behind is left behind and when you get up in the morning you can’t wait to go because you are going ever deeper into the unknown.


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.

Mike Fay's whereabouts in the Heart of Africa on the 4th day of his expedition near the border between the CAR and Sudan.
Mike Fay’s whereabouts in the Heart of Africa on the 4th day of his expedition near the border between the CAR and Sudan.

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.