Day 10 – Meeting with hunters and crossing through tall grass

We left the camp and floated along peacefully, arriving at 10am at the confluence with another large tributary.

There were little passages where you had to get out of the boats, cross a log, or pull a little on the rocks because they rubbed a bit too much, but nothing very complicated.

So uncomplicated that Antoine’s feet hurt so much he just wanted to take off his shoes and be left alone. Two rapids further on, there was a little problem with his itinerary. He found himself in the current, which was taking him towards a tree trunk that was too low, 20 cm above the water. He managed to catch himself without hurting his feet and we managed to recover the boat. When we removed the boat, the rear zip opened completely at once, the boat was emptied of air, and this enabled us to get it under the tree trunk, because there was too much water force to get it over the top.

I had to repair my boat a second time because Kendari’s repair didn’t hold. Yesterday morning’s didn’t hold up very well either, the floor was full of sand and mud, so the surface I put the patch on wasn’t smooth and clean.

We continued our cruise and saw a babi, a Sulawesi eagre, several hydrosaurs and a varan, a very beautiful bird with a small bump on its head, not very big, brown and deep green.

A little further on we got the drone out because we were nearing the end of the navigation section, and we stumbled across a small hut, a small pile of wood that showed there had been a recent human passage, and 1km further on we came across a small hut, a bamboo structure with blue covers.

There were 4 very friendly guys underneath, who welcomed us with a big smile, were very happy to see us and gave us some cooked fish.

They were in fact hunting deer. There were 5-6 of them in paddocks. They stay here for a month, they collect it, they put more than a hundred traps in the forest. Every morning they make a round to collect the animals.

Normally they can have up to 14. They make their own paddocks from bamboo. We asked them how they got there. It takes them 5 days and 4 nights to get there on foot, then one night and two days on a bamboo raft, on which they put the pens with the deer, and then they descend on a route that’s not easy, as there are rapids. It must be pretty impressive to see them on their raft.

They sell an animal for 8 million rupees. The fish they gave us were caught by electrofishing. It’s probably illegal here, as it is in many parts of the world, as is poaching deer.

Local deer in hunters’ paddocks

Imé really wanted to stay there because it was nice, there were fish, but our path didn’t end there, we walked another 1 or 2 km to reach the edge of the huge open area in the shape of a triangle on the map, a large meadow. We dried our gear, had a quick lunch, and then packed all our things to set off across this savannah to the Lasolo river where we plan to make camp for several days because we all have fungus that has developed everywhere, mainly on our feet. Antoine also has some on his knees.

As it takes a long time to heal, we’re going to have to stay calm for a few days at the next camp.

I’d hoped it would be a nice meadow with not very tall grass and that we’d be able to walk at normal speed, but that wasn’t the case. The grass was taller than we were, very dense, and it was very exhausting to move through it. You have to lift your legs very high, lower them, lose your balance and manage to get your front foot out of the grass. It’s a bit like being in a big powder snow.

We moved forward in sixths, following the natural contours, because there were small streams dotting the path. The first of the sixths went relatively well, but we realised that Ime was very slow.

The second was quicker, as a section of grass had been burnt.

We stopped on a small hill and waited for Ime for a long, long time, so long that we lost hope that we’d make it to the end that very day. So we took off the boat and a double bag of food to take 10kg off his weight so that he could move forward a little faster.

But we weighed ourselves down and the next section was absolutely infamous, with really tall grass almost the whole way and more and more as we went through the forest. The only real forest we go through.

We arrived at the edge of this forest exhausted, and by 6pm it was almost dark. Fortunately, we heard water, so we headed straight down the slope to reach the water. We found a lovely little terrace under some bamboo. We’re on the water’s edge, very happy to be able to pitch our tents.

The only thing that’s making us a little desperate is that we’re only halfway across this meadow, and tomorrow the journey is likely to be just as long.

Our feet are pretty sore, especially Jamil’s, who’s having trouble sleeping as far as we can tell.

For those unfamiliar with mycosis, it’s a fungus that grows on the surface of the skin, eating away at the first layers of epidermis. It starts out as little craters and then they connect to each other and end up as a sort of open wound that’s not deep but it’s burning. It’s like being skinned, and it gets everywhere, on the tops and bottoms of your feet, on everything that’s wet and warm and where there’s friction, so as soon as you put your shoes back on it’s hell.

This morning we’re going to try some small bandages to prevent rubbing. Maybe that’ll make the two-hour walk a bit easier.

Ime’s foot is better, and yesterday he was able to walk almost normally. The two days of packraft no doubt did him good.

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