Wednesday, August 8, 2018

That's more like it

Monday started out much better than yesterday did.  Our transport vehicles were only a half hour late, and after loading up, we were on our way to one of the most remote lodges we've ever visited, situated on the fringe of Loango National Park - often called "Africa's Eden" because much of the habitat is virtually untouched by humans.  Along the way, we endured nearly 6 hours of dirt road mayhem that threatened to knock our fillings loose. It's as if Gabon had a contest to see who could build the worst road possible.  Congratulations!

In all fairness, the government hired a Chinese firm to build a highway and bridge system, which ran alongside our dirt road, but when funds disappeared the work stopped.  So if that project is ever completed, it will be another story.  It is also not the worst road we've ever traveled on.  That distinction belongs to a mountain pass in Rwanda, on the other side of Africa, near the headwaters of the Nile river.  If you take the dirt road in Gabon and add giant boulders to it . . . you get the idea.

But the peaceful setting at the end of our trek made it all worthwhile.  The Loango Lodge features about a dozen simple, clean bungalows and suites that all face the Iguela Lagoon, a huge brackish body of water that is home to a thriving, diverse ecosystem, featuring chimpanzee, elephant, buffalo, leopard, hippo, gorilla, crocodile, small monkeys and many species of birds and fish.

We settled in for a quick orientation and then had a late lunch - baracuda, cooked vegetables and Ragab, a local beer - all very tasty!  Later, we went on a water safari, which led us to the inlet where the lagoon meets the Atlantic Ocean.  This is a prime area for wildlife viewing, from whale watching, to forest elephants walking on the beach, and even to "surfing" hippos!

Tomorrow we are literally going into uncharted territory to visit a habituated lowland gorilla group. The official map says we will reach the "edge of reliable relief information" as we venture into the dense jungle terrain, led by local pygmy trackers.  Wish us luck!