Day 7 – First packraft passage

Log – Evrard

Up as usual around 6am. Breakfast was moderately popular, as usual since we started eating freeze-dried food. Our Indonesian companions don’t taste much of our food, which we had carefully selected for them to enjoy. But it doesn’t work, apart from rice and noodles…

We had to pack our bags all over again and, as you may have realised, packing in the morning takes an enormous amount of time because it’s a matter of millimetres, we have so many things to fit in that it takes a lot of time. It takes just under 2h30 to prepare everything, which is a really long time.

We started the day thinking that we were going to reach a confluence and that we could potentially have climbed onto the boats at that point, but we’re still a long way from that…

Today we did a total of 2.5km, which is quite normal. The first reason is that the terrain is really complex. It’s a big torrent that goes downhill, we lost 200m of ascent today, there are waterfalls, rapids, it’s very uneven, it rumbles, you always have to cross the river and it’s very slippery. We fall very often, some more than others. Every time we fall it’s scary, because we could fall badly and break a leg. It’s clear that we’re a long way from any living soul who might come looking for us. We try to be careful but that doesn’t stop us from falling.

This morning, Ime slipped on a rock and seems to have a sharp pain in the back of his calf, rather downwards, I’m assuming it’s something to do with his Achilles tendon, and he’s finding it very difficult to move forward. At first he carried on with his bag and then we started to take away one boat, then another bag, and then we realised that he was really suffering too much, so we decided to make two return trips each time, one with his own bag and the other with Ime’s bag.

It’s so rough that at one point we covered 500m in 3 hours. It’s a lot like canyoning, except that you do it with very heavy bags. Bagus and Antoine are wearing helmets, which is a good idea given the risk of falling.

We had an absolutely magical passage at around 2pm, we’d just had a break, I went ahead and saw that the water was going underground. I saw a little glow at the bottom, and I wanted to try it, so I inflated a boat, made my first crossing, and it went just fine! So we made a sort of shuttle for bags and men, with a small packraft, and continued our little way through the same ultra-moist and slippery canyon.

We saw two macaques late in the day. This morning we saw a babyrousa, a wild pig 5m from our camp. A few birds take to the air, including one that flies along the river. We saw him in 2014, and we see him regularly by the river, but I can’t remember his name. We also saw a very large aquatic spider, which lives both on the water and on the seabed. She’s really beautiful. We always see lots of frogs, including some very large ones, as well as tiny ones the size of a fingernail.

Our bodies are beginning to feel the effects of a succession of hard, painful days. Three members of the team, Bagus, Jamil and Antoine, already have large mycoses. And I’ve got a big problem, because I’ve got a shoe that’s totally torn over 10cm and it’s really bothering me because in this kind of terrain, the more you walk, the more it opens up. I’ll have to find a way of stitching it all up in the morning.

If I don’t get it right, it could be the end of my mission personally. The same goes for Ime’s Achilles tendon, which could spell the end of his mission. We’ll see once we’re in a safer area, if he decides to settle down and wait for us for a week, or if we decide to go back because he’s in too much pain and things aren’t going well, or even if one of us goes with him to the village, and the others stay up top, although I don’t think that’s a great option.

We’re going to wait until we’re out of this rather chaotic zone to know what we’re going to do next.

Antoine “What’s special about tonight’s camp is that we’re on an anthill, it’s infested with ants that hurt like hell, we’re all screaming at each other because they come up to our feet every time you step on them, they burn, I’ve never felt anything like it in my life. I wonder how a little insect can hurt so much.”

It’s clear that this is very hostile terrain and not particularly welcoming. For the moment, we’re avoiding floods and heavy rain, so that’s good!

The other great thing is that tonight we can wash up!

See you tomorrow !

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