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michael-ibk

Into the Heart of Madness - This is Gabon!

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kittykat23uk

Shades of some of my experiences in Madagascar and China here. Good that you took it all in your stride! :)

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wilddog

Oh the drama of it all! You certainly had an adventure. I can only admire your fortitude. 

 

True Safaritalk pioneers. 

 

 

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kilopascal

You are the coolest STs ever.  Loving every minute of this report.   I really enjoy some of the non-wildlife photos like the pharmacy and the clothing shop with some very interesting fashion. 

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janzin

Each time I read another installment of this report I wonder...what can happen next?? And you always surprise me! This is so suspenseful, I can't wait for the next chapter. :o

 

But I will add that you are all much better troopers than I would have been...I think at this point I would already have been wondering if there was any way I could go home :lol:

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Kitsafari

@janzin the best moments have yet to come.....

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Sangeeta
2 hours ago, kilopascal said:

You are the coolest STs ever.  

 

Very, very cool, @kilopascal. In fact, we're thinking of awarding all 5 of them our Order of the Guinea Pig  for agreeing to be our very first group to Gabon! This will be our Order of Chivalry, rewarding contributions above and beyond the call of duty - and a nice one to hang from the breast pocket along with the ST Order of the Pith :D

 

On further thought, all 5 of them will get 2 OGPs from us (one for being Chalo Tinga /Zakouma guinea pigs too!)

 

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Kitsafari
On 9/22/2019 at 11:09 AM, gatoratlarge said:

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Going through @gatoratlarge 's photos I suddenly realised where we were when this photo was taken. Notice the large log-looking at the background? That was the hide that David and his fellow researchers used to observe the mandrills, and where we stood was where they scattered fruits so that they could sedate and collar a mandrill. the hide was dug into the soil and just large enough to put a mattress in. 

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marg

This is amazing!  I may never do another trip report for fear of being labeled a pansy.

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SafariChick

@marg I've told @Sangeeta that I am really looking forward to a nice "normal" safari next time! I definitely felt i needed a vacation from this vacation. But stay tuned - as @Kitsafari said the 'best' parts are yet to come. Both in terms of wildlife sightings and wacky happenings!

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inyathi

I’m really enjoying this report, it brings back memories of my own safari, I’m very envious of the mandrills, the mandrill tracking I did in the wet season was a waste of time, as was clear afterwards it’s only worth doing in the dry seasons, in February when I was there the mandrills are all off in the main forest, too far away and to track them. I had no reason to think that mandrill tracking shouldn’t work perfectly well in the right season, but I hadn’t really heard anything about it since my trip, so I’m very glad you saw them, as it does show that the mandrill tracking is worth doing if you are there at the right time of year.

 

Great that you had a chance sighting of a chimp, I had very distant chance sighting of chimps out in the open in Loango, it’s great to go and see chimps up close on chimp trek, but there is also something special about just seeing wild chimps by chance, as I’ve also done in Uganda. I think I’ve read previous birding reports where people have seen chimps in the Lope Hotel area of the park, so I think the chances of getting lucky in Lope are reasonably good, but I presume it also depends on the time of year.  

 

Good to see photos of what I affectionately call the Ropey Hotel, I think there’s some unwritten law when it comes to lodges/hotels on wildlife trips, the nicer the view the worse the hotel, it doesn’t seem like it’s improved very much. I’m very glad I didn’t have an incident with the vehicle when I was there, I’ve not heard of anything like that, happening anywhere before, I think I would have pretty seriously annoyed to have my time in Lope slipping away. I can’t understand why they didn’t speak to you and try and find an amicable solution rather than behaving in such an awful way.  

 

I was obviously fortunate that all of my adventures in Gabon were planned, thankfully nothing went really wrong as far as I can recall, except for a delayed flight to Sao Tome at the end, you seem to have had very eventful time.

 

@SafariChick

You’ve got me a bit worried now as to what else could have happened, I hope none of these misadventures put people off, as I think @michael-ibk's  photos in post 1 are an excellent advert for Gabon and ought to tempt a few people to look into going there, I hope by the end they won't think you have to be stark staring mad to visit Gabon. :lol:  

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offshorebirder

Too late @inyathi - at this point I wouldn't dream of spending time and money to go to Gabon!

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SafariChick

@inyathi you know what, despite all the things that happened, by the end I was thinking I would like to go back again - I think we all were but we can revisit that question at the end of the report!

Edited by SafariChick

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michael-ibk

Absolutely - Loango Green Season, here I come. And Mkalabadoudou or whatever it is spelt, I have to go there just because of the cool name. B)

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Galago

One of the great things about this TR is that you're in varous time zones. This means I wake up with the Heart of Madness and I go to bed with it too. It's such a cliff hanger, I have to read everything as soon as I can #DailyScheduleScrewed :D  So looking forwards next episodes over morning tea. This is such fun!

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SafariChick
5 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Absolutely - Loango Green Season, here I come. And Mkalabadoudou or whatever it is spelt, I have to go there just because of the cool name. B)

 

Ah yes, good old Mkalabdoudou - the name gave us many laughs! 

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Atravelynn
23 hours ago, Alexander33 said:

 

Michael, I feel your pain. It is never easy to photograph primates, especially in these conditions. I think you did quite well under the circumstances. At the very least, this deserves an “Honorable Mention” in the “Show Us Your Bums” topic in the Photography forum.  

 

That  @AndMic was still smiling in the photo at the end of the trek says a lot.   What a trip. We’re continuing to follow. 

I thought you were being very esoteric and symbolic on many levels with the intro shot.

1.  The butt looks kind of like a heart-shape as in I heart Gabon or...

2.  ...as in the "Heart" of Madness.

3.  The mandrill is surrounded dark vegetation and seems to emerge from it.  I took that as an allusion to the Joseph Conrad novel and the heart (again, kind of the shape of his butt) of "darkness."

4. The mandrill is looking right at the viewer, inviting us into your report and experiences, as in "come along for the ride."

5.  The mandrill's intense expression could indicate he knew what the verb you have coined, "Gaboning," means.

 

Or maybe a butt pic is just a butt pic.

 

I'll second the Honorable Mention!

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Atravelynn
2 hours ago, SafariChick said:

 

Ah yes, good old Mkalabdoudou - the name gave us many laughs! 

Anyone care to try a phonetic spelling?

 

Noticing your guide looks terrified in the forest is not what you want to see.  Oh dear!

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SafariChick
5 minutes ago, Atravelynn said:

Anyone care to try a phonetic spelling?

 

 The way Viannet prounounced it was Moo-kah-lah-bah-doo-doo with an emphasis on the second to last "doo" I'd say!  Here's how to spell it: Moukalaba-Doudou (I looked it up).

Edited by SafariChick

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kilopascal

What the .........I start my day and there is no new episode :(

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Kitsafari

@kilopascal I'm supposed to continue but I'm out to dinner.  

 

Service will resume asap.

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kilopascal

Thanks @Kitsafari I will save some coffee!

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Atravelynn
21 minutes ago, Kitsafari said:

@kilopascal I'm supposed to continue but I'm out to dinner.  

 

Service will resume asap.

No dessert for you.  Put down the fork and pick up the keyboard.

 

Meant to mention what a  beautiful sunbird on the yellow flowers.

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janzin

yeah I expected the next installment! Quit slacking folks :lol::lol::lol:

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Galago

Ah but this is the team offering us a taster of their Gabon experience - waiting! 🤣

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Kitsafari

Pringles, anyone?

 

Service has resumed....beep.

 

Woohoo, we are at Booue - the town that never sleeps. Where happy and sexy ladies gather at the train station, where officials have happy hours with easy access to the bar that is just opposite the station, where booze flows and music plays in the wee hours of the night. The only problem was that we were just too exhausted to join in the fun. And too exhausted to even wonder why they put us up at a guest house that didn’t have running water in the toilet where the flush didn’t seem to work and had no toilet seat, nor was the air-conditioning working but at least the fan was - so just as bad as the hotel they didn’t want to put us up at . But we are tough intrepid adventurers, we can live with anything, just get us to the Bai as soon as possible. 

 

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Our home away from home

 

While @Michael-ibk found his room in perfect working condition, I found running water - in the kitchen! So I washed my face there, glad that I could wash it at all and felt refreshed after that!  It was early still, so I took the opportunity to explore the place, having heard lots of chirping outside the door. There were mannikins in the garden, and exploring the roads outside yielded orange-cheeked waxbills, lesser striped swallows, red-eyed dove, a coucal a pin-tailed whydah, a pretty domesticated rooster and a few feral dogs - i could grow to like this place, or maybe not. 

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We were supposed to set off early in the morning as it was at least a five-hour journey to the Rock camp. We were relieved when Vianet turned up with our passports, that neither he nor our passports had been locked up.  We had to repack our stuff into smaller duffels as the camp staff would have loads of stuff to carry - much of it for our meals when we were in Ivindo National Park as there would be no town within driving distance. 

We soon found out that the camp staff weren’t as efficient as they should be as we made a few stops in Booue to do marketing and picking up other stuff. So we finally set off well after 9.40am and I knew that because it was at that time I took the photo of the pretty lady vegetable seller.

 

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A more sober morning life in Booue 

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We were split into two vehicles, and our driver was raring to go. And boy did he speed, playing african songs that got us going for a short while before it got a little too painfully loud. I was quite happy he was ahead of the other car since we wouldn’t get a lot of dust in our faces. 

 

The itinerary had this to say: “Early breakfast and at 7:00 we will take a 30 min taxi ride, followed by a 1-hour motorized canoe ride in the Ivindo river. “ Halfway through the journey, we were told that was at least a couple of years’ old and that it was a road journey all the way through, which suited me fine. Michael-ibk was disappointed as he had been looking forward to a river ride but, since I can’t swim, I have a bit of phobia being on a small boat in deep waters and I get motion sickness,I had been dreading spending too much time on a boat. and boy, was I not ready for too much life on the boat but that was much later. 

 

The Ivindo River runs through the national park and as the most important tributary to the Ogooue River, brings important nutrients to the rest of Gabon. 

 

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A group shot of three of the many camp staff and the guests

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We reached the Ivindo River edge and the car ferry immediately came over - which impressed me a lot - it seemed to be the only thing that was finally on time. Famous last thoughts as the return journey would show me. 

 

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Another 40 mins on the road and we were at the Ivindo train station and the village that is located there. We stopped there, and I was aghast at the never-ending piles and piles and piles of logs. Logging looks like a huge industry here - logs with such wide girths which only primary forests can generate. My heart ached to see these fallen giant trees.

In fact, there is a logging concession run by a French-Gabonese JV, I think, just at the edge of the national park . Along the road as we drove further in, you can see some logs abandon along the road. And I wondered how easy it was for anyone to go far into the forest, off the road to cut down virgin giant trees and no one would be the wiser. 

 

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But back to the village. The camp staff was still marketing - meat and eggs, although we didn’t get much eggs in the end because most of the eggs were smashed during the bumpy ride. We bought cokes and Pringles and some cookies to sustain us, and glad we were as it dawned on us very soon that that was our only lunch.

 

Our most favourite shop in the whole of Gabon which helped sustained me and us. 

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Back into the trucks and back on the dusty roads before we reached the Ivindo NP office where we registered ourselves, and finally we were on the last stretch on the roads to the forest.

Mid-way, the driver suddenly stopped and said Panther, I think. Ahead in the middle of the road stood a leopard frozen in its tracks at the sound of the vehicle. In the shadows, with the unmistakable curve of its sinewy tail, the dark leopard looked like a panther. For a few seconds, it stood while we rushed to get our phones and cameras, but before we could get ready, it melted back into the bushes. What a buzz we had!

 

Edited by Kitsafari

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