The 7R Future Leadership Institute is following Belgian Floris Buter from the Virunga National Park on a 12 day field trip in Africa, in order to gather topography data for a hydro-power project. The collected data are to be wired to the Belgian engineering firm TPF. They need the data to make a feasibility study.
Since Floris is out there today, the communication depends on the availability of a working internet line, which results in diary fragments coming through in a rather chaotic way.
Today you will find a report of his fifth day, being blocked on a road, forcing his party to spend the night in the jungle.
Topographical Feasibility Study In Hydro-Power Project
06:00 The power in Ivatsiro jumps on. The light in my room starts to shine. I jump under the cold shower and dry myself with the bedsheets.
06:24 Call from Zébédée. He asks if we’re going to return here this evening and whether he can leave his stuff here.
06:52 We take the breakfast: thee, maracuja’s, bananas, prune, vegetable soup, an omelet with onions and tomatoes. There are two muzungus at the breakfast table. I walk up to them and ask them if they are in the road construction business. They confirm and explain that they are here to construct the main road in Butembo. It’ll be asphalt.
07:47 We leave for the Lukwaliha site. But first we take a photo of the team. Zébédée is missing. Where is this guy?
09:35 We take a right at Kirima and climb up the hill. We drive through eucalyptus plantations and cow farms.
09:37 The 2×4 is not getting us uphill. Papy stops the car and puts on the 4×4.
09:44 Papy gets out of the car and shuts off the 4×4.
10:12 Arrival at Pyipyi. We leave the V08 and go down to the Lukwaliha river. The V08 will pick us up near Itendi. We fill our bags with water, fruits, bread, cheese and sardine cans.
12:16 We hear thunder.
12:27 More thunder, heavier this time and dark clouds fill the sky.
13:02 We find a small peyote just in time to avoid a heavy shower. We eat something: fruits, bread, cheese and sardines.
13:22 We continue our way.
14:46 We arrive where Papy has been waiting for us, close to the village Itendi, a decent climb up of 140m vertical.
15:20 We drop our 2 helpers in Vicho. We take off. There are 3 cows on the road. The road is wet and muddy. I see a blue Mercedes truck on the road. The grass is green. The trees are green and only the sky is blue/grey. The road is red brown. We pass a landslide and another one and another one.
15:45 The road is blocked. In the middle of the road, there is a big green truck that misses several wheels. To its left there is an equally sized truck that tried to pass him but failed. On the right, there is a Mitsubishi canter loaded with banana’s that tried to cross on the right but failed. The flow of humans and goods has been limited to people walking and carrying their stuff and motorbikes that fight their way through the mud.
17:00 I decide to go and check the situation and whether it has already improved. The answer: no. Everything is the same. The 3 trucks are still blocking the road. People are preparing Ndizis, bananas that need to be heated before they are nice to eat. One guy comes out the jungle with a smile on his face and a bag over his shoulder. As soon as his friends see him he is harassed. He has small plastic bags with alcohol in it. That gives him force, he explains to me.
18:23 Back in the car. The situation stays the same: 3 trucks are blocking the road. I eat a Ndizi. Since there are no pans available, they prepared it for me the traditional way: inside the fire.
18:34 As the night falls, there is a small fire lit next to our vehicle. The kid that made the fire is now playing with the flames. He moves his arms covered with cloth through the flames. Papy, Zébédée and the two guards join the little fellow and leave me in the car with Papy’s new loud speaker and Zébédée’s Akon music.
19:01 Zébédée has the brilliant idea to search all the food we have and to divide it between us. I get away with a half can of sardine, a 100 gr piece of cheese, 1/2 l water, 2 slices of bread and a piece of cake (gateau). We all eat immediately.
19:35 We put out the tents. There are no pins to go in the ground anymore. I use stones to put on the sides of my tent. Fortunately the sky clears up and besides the 1000 stars we can see now, it also means that it will be dry tonight. Papy is very certain of this since he puts his stretcher outside to sleep. Inside my tent I put a plastic cover on top of a self-inflatable mattress and on top of my good old Quecha sleeping bag that always stays in the V08. I put all my stuff from the car in my tent. I can’t wait to take off my wet and muddy Nike air max classics.
19:56 Brushing my teeth.
20:25 In my tent, in my sleeping bag, contact lenses removed from my eyes, listening to the loud noises of insects in the jungle around us.
20:27 The sound of the engine of the Mercedes truck fills the air. I hear a lot of people yelling and pushing. This goes on for a while. Hopefully they’ll manage to remove at least one of the trucks so we can go to Butembo tomorrow. If not we’ll have to go to Mangorajipa, 25 km west of Itendi and find a north-south route bringing us to another west-east road allowing us to find our way back to the N2, Butembo, Beni, Mutwanga and Mutsora.
20:56 More engine noise and people laughing and yowling. Zébédée tells me laughingly I can come out of my tent. He jokes it’s already the next morning because we can continue our journey. Apparently, the Mitshubishi Canter managed to get loose, freeing up the road. I return the joke by stating I want to stay here to sleep. Finally that’s what we do.
Notes by Floris Buter
Floris Buter is the Managing Director Commercial Enterprises of the Virunga National Park in Africa. He is responsible for the identification, conceptualization, implementation and operation of all commercial opportunities in and around Virunga National Park.
Virunga is truly the crown jewel of Africa’s national parks. The park contains over 50% of sub-Saharan Africa’s biodiversity and is home to about 200 of the earth’s last 720 critically endangered mountain gorillas. Virunga is the oldest national park in the Africa. Despite this, the forests and amazing animals of the park, most notably the mountain gorilla, are in a desperate fight for their survival.
In June 2015 Floris Buter explores the region of Rumungabo in Goma on a 12 day road trip in order to gather topography data for a hydro-power project.
To read the other diary posts from Floris Buter, click here.
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Categories: Nature Research, Research, Virunga National Park Research
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