Day 9 – First day on a packraft to reach the Lasolo river

As planned, today was the first day of packraft. The first day means a lot of preparation time, to explain how we inflate, how we set up the boats, how we put the equipment inside the boats, and so on. And then a quick safety briefing.

We left at about 10.30am, not very early, but for a first day where everything has to be redesigned to adapt to this new discipline, it was OK. At the start, there were quite a few small obstacles, but they went through quite well.

Then, around 12.30pm, there were just under 100m of big obstacles with large blocks, trapped trunks and rapids that were difficult to negotiate. So we had to fold up the boats, put everything back on our backs and cut the road through the forest. We had to climb a bit, find a path, and it wasn’t easy because it was full of bamboo and rattan, difficult to cut and full of prickles, blocking the way.

It took a little time. We passed on the bags, re-inflated the boats and reinstalled everything. We were back on the water by 3pm.

We paddled for another 45 minutes and then got caught in a heavy downpour, so we took shelter under the trees for a while, but it was short-lived as the rain soon washed through the trees. We stood there for 1 hour, and it was very cold, so some of us got out our gore tex and others got out tarpaulins.

When the rain eased off, we thought it might be worth setting off again. We navigated a river that had risen 5cm with the rain and was all brown, we could see nothing of the shallows, the boulders on which we found ourselves stopped dead in the middle of a rapid.

We made quite a bit of progress, until we looked at the map and realised that we were very close to a passage where the water was likely to go underground, as the level lines showed that there was a mountain in the path of the river. I suggested to the team that we go that far, so that the next morning we’d have to do the portage and then the boat.

In the end, we made it 300m and realised that we’d crossed the famous little mountain on the map, without having to get out of the boats, without a hitch, which is pretty cool.

We set up camp just beyond this little knoll, in the rain, so it’s not necessarily the most pleasant bivouac, but we’re on fairly flat ground, so it was easy to set up camp.

There are no more bees on this camp. They really bugged us this morning, three different species, and we were stung several times. My arm has been swelling since this morning and it’s really painful.

As far as the injuries are concerned, Ime is doing better, he’s been putting less strain on his foot since he was on the packraft. Antoine, Jamyl and Bagus have fungal infections that are progressing quite well, and I’ve got them too.

I’ve been eaten by ants, there’s always one thing that makes life a bit more complicated, you always have to zip everything up, put your trousers in your socks, put your T-shirt in your belt and so on. What a classy way to show off in France! But here it’s a means of survival.

We saw our first varan and dozens of hydrosaurs that appeared in the middle of the trail. Now there are some jumping around every 50m.

Ideally, the weather should be fine tomorrow because we’ll be joining the main tributary of the Lasolo fairly quickly and once we’re in this torrent there will be more water, so we won’t be scraping the bottom as much, because today we’ve been rubbing the boats a lot. Incidentally, I have a hole in my boat, but it was there before. We repaired it in Kendari, but it’s badly positioned, it pulls every time and I lose a lot of air.

Once we’re on this big tributary, we’ll go downstream for at least 3 hours, and then we’ll stop on a bank with what looks like a nice little beach, a few trees and the meadow on the other side. The idea, if all goes well and we make good progress tomorrow morning, is that tomorrow afternoon we trace our route across the prairie to reach the Lasolo river, and the confluence of another small river with the Lasolo, where we’ll make camp and probably rest for at least a day.

Keep reading

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

seventeen − 16 =