The hotel staff kindly shared with us some starts from their cycad plants.
Restful and full of history. Cape buffalo bulls in among the Borassus palm forest were lovely to see. On Day 5 of our road trip we entered the Murchison Falls Natl. The roads were still terrible, but we had the pleasure of toodling along slowly and carefully, having wonderful elephant encounters where we could just turn off the car and sit with them only a few meters away, eating peacefully, not fussed at all that we were there.
There were several varieties of antelope, lots of warthogs, hippo, herds of buffalo, and dozens of beautiful Rothschild Giraffe. We were on roads that showed no sign of others having traveled that way in days, but for the odd elephant and other wildlife.
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Nice to have the right vehicle for these roads. We had some great close encounters with elephant. We love spending time with these most wonderful of animals. Since I speak their language fluently, we were allowed to be right up in their space. This old gentleman had sadly been shot in the left front leg, his ear caught in a snare and cartilage ripped, leaving him with a drooping ear and big sore cut. His trunk had also been sliced by a snare. Still remarkably friendly.
Notice the Piapiac birds on him. Men fishing in the Nile close to the papyrus and not far from Lake Albert. We had been in contact with multiple security sources and they confirmed to us that it is unwise to travel on the next stretch of road on weekend days because that seems to be the time the militia steps up their attacks. So the morning of Day 6 we used the rest of our 24 hr. I think we had to pass through FOUR customs gates on the Congo side before we could get on the road to Mahagi, the nearest town.
It was nice that we had a few hours to rest so we found a local guest house we had heard was simple but OK and booked a room there. I stayed to rest while Jon went out walking in the busy streets and local market to get us a few supplies and try to find us some food for the evening. He came back with enough snack food and toothpaste to get us home the next day. He had arranged for some supper to be delivered to the guest house later that evening. Another wounded elephant in Murchison. This one shot just off the spine. If it had been a few inches to the left he would have been paralyzed in his back legs.
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We had been keeping in touch with our team in Nyankunde and with our chaplain friend, Bisoke, in Bunia for advice and information on our proposed route from Mahagi to our home the next day. We had planned to leave in the early morning since we knew the road was bad and, with the current rains, could be very muddy and slow, but we were told NOT to depart before 8 AM.
After that time there would be other cars and lots of big trucks on the road and we would not be an isolated target. What a way to plan a trip; on which route and at which hour are we least likely to be robbed, or worse. The worst dirt and mud main road yet was so poorly signposted that we had to stop more than once to ask people for directions on how to get to Bunia, the provincial capital and town nearest to Nyankunde. We were now driving through Djugu and Fataki in the area the refugees in the camp MAF is helping in Bunia had fled from earlier this year.
Sudden and extensive violence between tribes had ignited a storm of fear there and caused the flight of tens of thousands of people south to Bunia and as far as across Lake Albert into Uganda. We saw 4 refugee camps along the road that day. The look of terror on her face before she turned and ran up the steep bank and fled into the tall grass told a powerful story, the details of which we will never know. Since Jon has been going to the camp almost every Tuesday since then it has made this whole situation more personal to him. On this road we were traveling 16 people had been killed in the previous week while we were driving north on the other side of the border.
We arrived back home to Nyankunde in the early evening of Day 7 and emerged from the rough road onto the MAF airstrip, mown and smooth, green and beautiful, with our hangar and planes at the top. Tired and beaten up by the roads, now more than ever we can understand what normal life and travel here are like for the Congolese people.
Our road trip was a seven day, fifteen hundred kilometer journey. If not for the increasing violence on the Congo route between Goma and Nyankunde, we would have had to drive only four hundred. It is a joy to be part of this MAF ministry to make their lives and circumstances better, to be able to show them the love of Jesus in the way we work and live our everyday lives, and to help them do their work a bit easier in this challenging place.
An hour and fifteen in an airplane vs. You decide. Nice big fresh warm pile of elephant dung. Butterflies and Dung Beetles and crazy mzungus in it. Garamba National Park celebrates 80 years as a National Park with the burning of some of the ivory they have collected from poachers. Last month, Cher and I thought we should take an opportunity to get on one of our flights up to Garamba National Park before friends left at the end of their job contract there, so we went up for a couple nights. To our surprise, we were greeted by a company of fully kitted out Parks Game Scouts on parade to welcome our passengers.
We also did not realize it was the 80th anniversary of the park and there was a big celebration planned with the governor and even more VIPs to come. So much for our quiet getaway in the bush! Our digs at Garamba, East Africa style. We are always falling with our bums in the butter.
But it was very cool. We got to celebrate with our friends. The last of the northern white rhino have disappeared in the time we have been living in Congo and the elephants have suffered greatly. In the first 6 months of this year they have lost none!
That is a remarkable change and shows the amount of work that has gone into protecting the elephants here. Part of the celebration was the graduation of 50 new game scouts from their rigorous training program. They are putting the poachers on notice that they will not tolerate poaching in their park. Fifty new Game Rangers trained and ready to protect the park. Another part of the ceremony was the burning of some ivory. I have mixed feelings about the viability of this. There are millions of Chinese desiring to buy at this point, and that needs to somehow be the focus of effort on the market in my humble opinion.
Things are not as simple as some would like them to be. The efforts of the team at Garamba are seriously commendable. A big show that Ivory is not going to end up in China if the Rangers have anything to say about it. The solution will be in the total changing of mindsets. Young men and women of Congo ready to take a stand to protect wildlife. Especially at feet with the door off.
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Cher, my lovely wife, holds the door while we get ready to fly around the park on a multi mission flight to drop some supplies to out-stations, do a flight review, check for poachers, and game view. It was beautiful and we saw herds of buffalo, big pods of hippo, elephant, hartebeest, and warthogs. Alain gave us a great time with fantastic food, friendship and fun flights. Chad greets missionaries at Amadi after his first landing there. They had done a lot of work and cut grass after much rain. I recently had a great opportunity to fly with one of our pilots to check him out at Amadi, an airstrip he was unfamiliar with.
Having the GPS programmed with the 9 closest airships to your present position, and the heading and distance to each, is a wonderful advancement in technology from the early days of flying here.
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Happy to help unload food, some of these guys were carrying 3 X 25 kg sacks at a time on their heads. My neck was sore just watching. I made them stop and do just two. So much has happened since we l wrote. Dave Jacobsson looks over all the supplies we brought this week. All these people in one little tarp tent. Can you see the ones inside? Very cozy! We gave them another tarp. Overwhelmed is a good word. Everyone I have taken to the camp comes away with different feelings, but usually they involve a sense of being overwhelmed by what needs to be done.
He has shown the film three times now in the Bunia area refugee camps and will again this Sunday. As people responded and he heard some of the stories of people there, many girls and some were telling of being raped. Bisoke has a real heart for this ministry and he and his wife, Furaha, have run a school in Bunia for orphans from the Congo war days. Rachel, a little girl hacked across the face and side of her head with a machete has scars that are healing now. Who knows what is going on in her mind. The man behind us was also hacked.
Who does these kinds of things? He suggested that we start a sewing class with these women ad use it as a platform for ministry and healing of their traumatic experiences.
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This involves a teacher who knows sewing and can counsel as well, materials like needles and thread, scissors, and cloth. We already have ladies who want to be involved. Not all have been raped, but many tell stories of not being able to survive without their husbands when they get in the camp, and feeling that they need to sell their bodies just to stay alive.