Wednesday, October 08, 2008

TIA: A day in the Tropical African Bush [ie. A day walking through waist-high dangerous-bug-infested swamps!]

I am uninspired & overworked at the set-up of a project. My boyfriend is overworked but at least having the most incredible experience. And while the rest of us battle away with no water in the central-Jozi area for two days & Londoners with no banks… and other general mundane work days…. his latest Angolan adventures…

What he seems to forget to mention is that within the first week of him getting there, two guys have been diagnosed with Malaria (and apparently they were on meds) & another guy got Typhoid Fever (cause of Brazilian Braais).

And that there was such a hectic storm the other night, with winds of up to 58 kmph, that half his tent got destroyed and flooded and the main satellite was blown off course & broken, AND it now acts as a net to all the mangos of the area.

We set off from the camp site driving down the ‘main road’ resembling more of a cross country running track and a pothole navigation nightmare than what could be consider the major road between two towns in Angola. The little homesteads whizzing by as we sat perched high and mighty in our Land Cruiser chugging along.

Turning off this ‘main’ tarred road onto a dirt road proved even more interesting, especially when you see freight sea-container carrying trucks coming towards you. How they ever manage to drive on these roads without totally wrecking their vehicles only they would know, but come to think of it, they are all fcked, go figure. My back was sore from all the jolting over potholes and the shocking state of the road all in just the relatively short distance we had to drive to where we would be working for the day.

We are situated on the top of a plateau here in Angola, with deep incised river gorges and valleys occurring sporadically all over and it is in these valleys that we find the indicator minerals for the kimberlites and the main pipes themselves, as they weather and erode more easily than the surrounding rocks. It is also in these deep valleys that the vegetation changes to tropical jungle type fauna and flora.

As we start walking down into the valley, our crew of workers in front of us, I am confronted with the prospect that I have to overcome my fear of stepping off the beaten foot path (of the locals who live in the bush who try to milk a menial subsistent life for themselves but barely surviving off the land) and wander off into the unknown bush which I’ve been told about is scattered with landmines from various sources of information.

Hesitantly I watch as my crew with their local know-how pick a route and head into the shoulder-high grass and then I have to take the plunge and follow in their footsteps, literally with the fear of having one less limb to amble about on when going back home. Soon all of that initial trepidation is a distant thought and I become surrounded by a new world of plants, bugs, noises, smells and sights. This is what a tropical jungle looks like and it’s incredible. The guys in front are cutting routes with machetes and I am following behind in what would be near impossible cover to penetrate.

Soon I realise that my arms are beginning to itch and burn, something has bitten me, things are crawling on my neck and face, but I have to push on as no-one else seems to be perturbed by this and I’m thinking to myself that I’m the newbie and have a point to prove so I fok-voert. The ground beneath me starts to take on a mushy soppy texture, as it becomes more water logged as I trudge along. The next thing I know we’ve hit the valley floor and there is water everywhere. I try dodge and dive to escape the water from getting into my boots, grabbing onto a tree here and there, stepping onto a rotting fallen log/stump to stay well perched above the water-line, but I know that inevitably my boots will become soaked, my feet will be wet and I’ll be squelching my way back into the camp with clammy granny-skin feet. And I have to hope I can dry them before the loathed “Foot Rot” sets in, but that only comes with repetitive days of jungle bashing.

So when I do step onto a really rotten log or a clump of undergrowth that just gives way and the water gushes in over the top of my boots, I utter the proverbial f-word and look around to all the old-timers laughing at my dismay. They’ve tried to counteract such dismay already by walking straight into the first signs of flowing water, knowing all too-well that you are fighting a loosing battle. Once overcoming all of this, I start to really feel the experience and relish the wading at times in waist-high water under the protection of the jungle canopy.

Beautiful colours surround me, pretty irises growing everywhere, menacing looking vines and luscious ferns abound everywhere. The humidity is uncomfortable and the sweat just drips off my body and by the end of the day, I’m completely drained and ready to head on home to a nice outdoor shower and a freshly brewed cup of coffee made from the finest Brazilian coffee beans.


po said...

It sounds like quite an adventure! Please exuse my abject ignorance, but what is a Brazilian braai? I am assuming it has nothing to do with braaing actual Brazilians?

Champagne Heathen said...

Yes, they apparently can also manage to give you rather sore stomach.

Not that any of the meat braai'd apparently is identifiable! Nice....

RB said...

Hey! We have banks here on nearly every street. Only difference between now and 21 days ago is that they are devoid of customers!

And if like me you have your mortgage with Northern Rock - hey life is just swell! As the 1st bank to go tits up and then get nationalised bt Mr Brown's government, I am now happy that my home has been nationalised.

And in my nationalised home, I can decide which othe soon to be nationalised financial institution I can go to to offer some mentoring gained from being the first government customers who might someday buy back my home from the government. But what if UK Limited goes bust.....? Who'll own my home then?

Oh no, not the frigging Liberal Democrats......!