Ever since we went to the Lope National Park I've wanted to write a post on the jungle. It's so much more than just a forest - it's a living organism and it deserves a great deal of respect. Because if left alone in the jungle, let's face it, we die.
Although it sounds kind of dramatic, it's simply true. During one of our outings in Mikongo, I imagined the following situation: our perfectly camouflaged guides suddenly disappear. We start looking around but they are nowhere to be found. What do we do? Which way to go? No sir!, there is no way we can get back to the camp, the jungle is full of little paths made by animals, we can't tell one from another. Yes, we die.
The trips are made in small groups, four people maximum. There are two guides, one leading the group, the other one behind the tourists. They are our ears and eyes, as we truly are blind and deaf in the jungle. They can see the most invisible things: a frog that looks like a leaf or a gorilla's nest. Every few metres they stop and listen - which path should we take? They can hear gorillas banging on their chests, they can hear an ape moving behind a curtain of green. And they themselves are completely invisible (see picture on the right). Very carefully they led us into the forest, walking slowly and silently, talking in whisper. Impressive.
Even though we saw very few animals (dry season!), the jungle experience compensated for that fully: the plants were simply awesome. Tree of adultery with ants living inside. In the old days women were punished for adultery by being tied to that very tree (see picture on the left). The healing tree, its resin red as blood. Desinfects wounds, helps the healing process. Lianas strangling trees. Grass that cuts your skin. Enormous trees.
Our guides turned out to be gentlemen, too. They informed Jandro that I should walk in front of him in case we spotted animals (like this I would've seen them first). They also asked my boyfriend if he wanted to accompany me behind a tree so that I could pee. And when I decided to do it (on my own, mind you!), they, sitting on a fallen tree trunk, turned round and, very determined, looked up, so that they would see nothing. They wouldn't turn back until they were absolutely sure I was fully dressed (why would I emerge from behind the tree anything but fully dressed I don't know).
We thus walked and walked and tracked gorillas, thinking how far away we were from everything. And even though we looked and felt quite out of place in this forest of which we know and understand so little, we loved the experience and are determined to come back; in the end it's not difficult: I can see the forest out of the living-room window...