Somewhere in Cameroon Equatorial South…
The beginning of the rainy season unleashes the fury of elements. The towering tree tops bend under the rage of the wind. Some gigantic trunks break and fall across the dirt roads. The chainsaws roar and free us from the roadblocks. The storm vanishes just as quickly as it appeared, replaced by the sun. The contrast between lateritic red and the lushness of the green gradients, offers surreal panoramas.
The forest tracks enable to spot recent footprints of the animals living in that large primary forest. Elephants, bongos, dwarf buffaloes, sitatungas, gorillas, chimpanzees, giant forest hogs, red river hogs, duikers, etc. I am delighted by so many signs of their presence. This first day in full vegetal immersion outreaches all expectations.
As we were progressing onto the dirt road, we gauged several bongo footprints when one of them caught our attention. Our Baka Pigmies scan every piece of evidence allowing us to follow our solitary bull. They dissect, flip dead leaves, lie down on the humus to examine the different color tones, rummage like pointing dogs chasing woodcocks. The large footprint leads to believe the bull is mature. He makes us walk according to his desires, crossing a couple of undergrowth and passing through inextricable bushes we deflowered with our machetes. Vegetable strings thwart our efforts. We shake ourselves free, forced to step over, to bend, to belly crawl or to dodge thorny stem backfiring at us.
The last clues of the puzzle testify of the proximity of our quest. The bongo had rested many times in a more open area. He had probably heard us since his pressed tracks show he started running. He is now likely to be found standing still and listening for danger, behind a thick bush. We eliminate the remaining lianas
obstructing our path.
We meticulously swallow up the last meters before contact. Our lead tracker points his finger at a red shape in the light. A wide ear wards off an irritating fly, betraying his location. The antelope stares at us, ready to leap away. I give my host the final signal. He raises is gun in slow motion, while reviewing the posture of the animal to adjust his shot. The bongo was ready to take cover behind a thick shield of leaves when the bullet snatched him. Hornbills shout of fear. White-eyelid mangabeys vociferate. Then, silence reclaims possession of the setting.
Our Baka friends reveal their sharpened teeth, in line with their ancestral traditions. Signs of good omen. Experiencing immeasurable jubilation, we thank the animist Gods for allowing us to sacrifice a splendid creature, only to satisfy our deepest desires.
This article is taken from our latest publication “Maguida, Chronicles of a White Tracker”, now available for purchase !