The long road to Cullaville

Stories from my travels to every country in the world

Chapter 13
[Cameroon&Central African Republic, 2015]

A topless Pygmy woman watches me while my fingers claw with all their might at the slippery, wet net to find a hold and prevent me from sliding further down. There, a metre below me, lies the head of a cow slaughtered less than two hours before. Its skin lies spread out on the bed of the pickup truck, next to it are two pale plastic bags in which most of the meat is packed. Flies have found this delicacy and are hitching a ride with us. The smell of death reminds me of the carcass, even if I can hardly see it anymore: the tropical night is about to squeeze the last bit of twilight out of the sky. Almost all the light that remains comes from the headlights of the car dragging us through the jungle. Every pothole in the road makes me slide towards the cow, after which I try to pull myself up by the net to hang on as high as possible before the next rut pushes me down again. I don't want to end this long day in the lukewarm remains of the dead animal.

After hanging on to the net for a couple of hours, we reach Bayanga. My feet have stayed dry but I am not yet at my destination. I still have to travel another ten kilometres on the back of a boda-boda. Why not, after four days of continuous travelling. The young rider of the motorbike finally drops me off at a branch of the Sangha River, where the track ends. A floating wooden platform brings me to the other side by pulling the rope that attaches it to a tree I can't see. Total darkness. This is the entrance to Sangha Lodge where I planned to sleep for a few days. I sent a text message before, but did it arrive? Is there anyone here at all? Illuminated by the faint glow of my phone, I walk to the entrance. I put my bags on the ground and feel a wave of pent-up tiredness surge through the filth that sticks all over my body.

Then, I see a feeble light moving my way from afar. When it comes closer, the head of a white-bearded man appears in the flicker above it. He puts down his oil lamp, holds out his hand and says: 'Boris Kester, I presume?’