Today we took a pirogue (canoe) out on the Sangha River. Three people from the lodge -William, (our ever constant and helpful translator, guide, administrator and arranger of all things unusual), August (naturalist, guide, and medicinal plant specialist-he even knows what types of wood will keep sorcerers away!) and a youngster sat up front. Add the three of us to the back and our pirogue was within an inch of swamping. They paddled us about 200 yards and realized how difficult it was going to be to keep us upright and dry, so we pulled up and let August and the youngster into another boat. We all breathed a slight sigh of relief, but Pete kept repeating that every canoe trip he'd ever been on someone went in. OK. Enough already.
The river is a muddy brown, surrounded by thick forest on both sides broken by small villages or fishing camps every so often. We stopped to take some footage of a hippo trail on a small island. I was hoping to see at least one in the flesh. Eventually, Pete was right about someone always going over in a canoe-but luckily it wasn't us. It was our expert, August, and the young boy. We all had a good laugh at that-even August joined in although he was a bit embarrassed.
The scenery was beautiful but the seats of the pirogue were hard! After
four hours we were ready to walk. We never saw any hippos.
At Dzanga-Bai we ate lunch and spent the afternoon shooting some of our segments for Shamu TV, and a couple conservation videos. Jim, Pete and I have spent a lot of time together by now, but not as a film crew. I was nervous for the first segment, which was also the longest and most difficult. Bad move. We also had all the guides and helpers staring, trying to figure out what the heck we were doing, which made me even more nervous. After many takes, with Pete still figuring out how to best use the back-up camera (the primary one wasn't working-could it be too much humidity?) and Jim trying to keep my hair as well as my lines in place, we finally got some good stuff. It was a rough start but it did get better after that (I calmed down a bit - but we have a great blooper tape) and we banged out a few segments without going very far down the trail.
Came back to a great dinner (although I couldn't tell you what it was) and the boys carried on most of the conversation. We retired to the open air lounge, (patio chairs next to the table actually), for great discussion and a tropical, multisensory rain storm. The air is a perfect 77 degrees or so, we have those green, snake-like mosquito coils all around to control the bugs, the rain thumps softly on the thatched roof and a beautiful landscape is periodically illuminated by lightening. It was a relaxing and cozy place as darkness fell and conversation took up the space between strikes.
Pete our camera man is a great guy. He's been filming the animals and people of Africa for more than 20 years. He's also a committed environmental activist. And he has a ton of stories to tell-all of them full of danger and adventure and many of them for a cause, like preventing the hunting of harp seals or gray whales. We've had some great discussions. He also promised me 12 helpful on-camera tips by the end of the trip and I'm going to hold him to it.
Jim has virtually all the responsibility-for money and payments, logistics, transportation and communication. I wouldn't have wanted his job for anything. It's been frustrating and difficult, yet to him it's a great challenge.
My job comes down to organizing and setting up the shots (with help from the guys), modifying scripts where necessary (since we are now concentrating on elephants instead of gorillas) and being the "talent." That got a bit easier after the first day, but still not consistently good. The worst part has been trying to keep my clothes relatively clean while traipsing through mud, water and jungle. I'll really want to see what the tapes come out like after we get back.
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