Access to the internet creates some of the strangest juxtapositions. This morning once I could log on—a three-hour hit and miss ordeal—an email from WWF-US was waiting. It announced, “The number of gorillas and chimpanzees in Central Africa continues to decline due to poaching, habitat loss and disease according to a new plan published by WWF, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Wildlife Conservation Society and partners.
Limbe, Cameroon — From what little of Cameroon I have seen in less than 24 hours, Douala is to be flown into and exited shortly there after. Limbe, on the other hand, eases up naturally on the senses. Nothing about the equatorial hot, humid confusion of Douala is inviting, nor the industrial confusion of the Bonabéri, the suburb lining the western side of the port. But 30 odd kilometers later, the minute you veer left at the split in the rural town of Mutengene (a town you apparently pass through and never stop — based on the diversity of thieves and their ways — trust me Ivo (Ivo Ngome, my driver and shadow for the next 30 days) gave me a running monologue about the dangers of this place including how the local thieves can hypnotize you and steal you blind, “even the police here are frightened, very frightened”) the thin tarmac road begins a gentle roller-coaster ride through green hills rowed in palm oil or banana. Between plantations tattered islands of remnant rainforest crest small hills and ravines, hints of what once was. Much of it is second growth forest, still, it reminds me there was once a lush rainforest sweeping over this landscape. Ivo, who grew up here, says it was always this way, always oil palms and rubber and bananas, “even from British times.” He is in his mid thirties, before him there was a different time.
Douala, Cameroon — I laid my head back on the hard pillow and felt the cool air of the conditioner evaporate the sweat from my chest. Before I could wonder if the catholic congregation singing below or the pounding tropical rain above would keep me awake I crashed. The 28 hours of travel from Portland, Oregon to Douala, Cameroon had caught up with me. A groggy jetlag was weighting my eyelids. It was just a few minutes past eight on a Saturday evening, but my clock was ticking soundly in another time zone, definitely not here. Friday night had been all but lost in terminal M between flights in Paris.
You would think after 30 plus years of working freelance (no, in this case that is not code for I don’t have a job) I would have figured out that projects, especially big gnarly ones like Great Apes 2020 are a roller-coaster — and one in every manner imaginable: economic, logistic and especially emotional. The past couple weeks have definitely been a microcosm of the whole adventure.