Day 8 – Difficult terrain, fungus and quicksand

It took us a little longer to get ready this morning because we had to repair two pairs of shoes, Antoine’s and mine. Mine had a gaping hole of 10cm and I had to find a system to repair them. So we did a bit of sewing.

We set off from the camp at around 10.15am, and it was immediately a bit chaotic and then quite calm, so we moved on a bit faster than the other days, we were surprised and happy and we arrived at the confluence of a river coming from the left. So we did 2km in 1h30!

Except that after that, things didn’t work out the way we wanted, it was very complex, tiring and extremely slippery. There’s starting to be a lot of water, so when you cross the river, i.e. every 50m, the water grows, you can’t see the rocks as well, you can’t stand on them as well, so it’s even more slippery than before.

We arrived 600m from the other objective we had, another confluence, towards which I assumed we’d eventually start the packraft. But those 600m were a real nightmare. We had to get out of the river because it was a huge bed of mud, getting higher and higher, rising to around ten metres above the watercourse, between 6 and 8m depending on the place.

We headed back into the forest, carved out a path for a few hundred metres and then descended to a place where it clicked for me because it reminded me of a lot of other passages like that that I’d made in the karsts.

When there’s suddenly a lot of mud, it means that the water is stagnating because it’s arriving en masse and is too big to pass through the holes. The water no longer circulates normally, but penetrates underground and emerges a few hundred metres further on. It’s like when the tap runs harder than the holes at the bottom of the sink, the sink fills up.

It deposits the mud all around it and the water seeps in over a few weeks, a few days, and ends up passing through when the flood diminishes and in the end you end up with a tiny stream and a huge mass of mud. Then the little stream falls into a hole, and then nothing.

We were in the mud, like quicksand, and then we found a small passage that was actually quite simple (what I’d been through before was much tougher), there was still a valley line that we just had to follow. It wasn’t a ‘walk’, but in terms of orientation there was nothing complex about it, there were no rope crossings, you just had to be careful where you walked, and we found ourselves barely 200m further on in the stream, which reappears via a waterfall and continues its course further on.

We’ve arrived at this famous confluence which comes from the right and brings in a little water. I thought it would bring a lot more, but it seems to bring enough for us to be able to attack the packraft tomorrow morning as I thought we would.

It doesn’t get any better when the three of them get mycosis… It’s the principle of mycosis when you’re in the water. Jamyl’s feet are a mess and I think he’s suffering because he wasn’t smiling much this evening.

My shoes held up, Antoine’s shoes too, I’m not sure if they’ll hold up for the whole expedition, but they held up today and it was probably the toughest day, at least I hope so, with this type of shoe.

We didn’t do many miles today, we must have done 3. About the same as yesterday, but we stopped earlier because we hadn’t had lunch yet. By the time we wanted to have lunch it was 3.15pm, and I still had the Ime bag to fetch from the back.

As Ime was still injured, he was left with a tiny one-kilo bag. You have to go back and forth to get his bag. Jamyl helps me now and then, and Antoine was able to help me on one section too, but it’s a pain. It’s an exhausting 3 times trip, so 3 times more chance of falling.

We wanted to cook at 3.15pm, and I thought that given the state of Antoine and Jamyl’s feet, it might be worth setting up camp here. And that’s just as well, because it’s given us a chance to sit back, rest and dry each other’s feet. I took a look at the front and convinced myself that it was possible to start in the packraft tomorrow. A new adventure!

We’re on a great camp because there are no ants or leeches for once. The previous days we had a lot. There aren’t too many bees, but when they are there they are a pain because they stick everywhere, their ears, their feet. It’s a strange colony of bees around here, a much larger species. They even come at night.

We’re starting to think that the batteries are a bit light… We’ve already got two power banks that are dead, we’ve got two left, plus Antoine’s, but it’s a tiny one, it won’t last long. With two power banks, one of which is a very large 50,000 amp hour, we should be able to hold out a little longer, but I think it’s a bit early yet. And then the other thing that’s missing and that’s starting to worry me a bit is gas, even if it’s less serious because you can always make a fire and manage to heat up some water. Batteries are more difficult to produce.

For tomorrow, we’ll be on 4 packrafts, two people on a packraft, one person with two boats on a second double packraft, and the other two people on two single packrafts. We’re going to incorporate Ime’s pack into one of the bags, because every time we have to make portages, get out of the water and get around obstacles, we’ll save ourselves an extra return trip.

See you tomorrow!

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