DAY 7 - July 11th
(Hike to Ezabisi)
After a large breakfast we headed off for Ezabisi, a small Kango village on the bank of the Uele River. Unlike the Zande (the majority tribe) or Barambo, who are primarily agriculturalists and hunters, the Kango are unique in making their livelihoods primarily from fishing. Many of their small villages, which dot the shores of the Uele, are inaccessible except by water, and so are isolated from the rest of the world. To get to Ezabisi we hiked 11km from Disolo, following a practically invisible, winding trail, mostly through pristine primary forest. Without our porters I'm certain we would have lost the way.
Since we had a schedule to keep to and we needed to keep moving, it wasn't ideal for collecting. Even so, I managed to snag some interesting specimens and, more importantly, really captured the interest of my traveling companions.
Once arrived in Ezabisi, began by meeting with the village chief and the elders of our small church congregation. I'll admit that the Charaxes, Papilio, Graphium, Neptis
, etc. flying about were quite distracting, but it wasn't an appropriate time for collecting and my colleagues rightfully judged that it would have negatively impacted our work and the relationships we had come to establish. So, the nets had been tucked away into the tent and remained there until our departure the following morning. Our meeting went well and soon we were swapping fishing and hunting stories.
Here the chief (on the left) is describing a design for a wild boar trap:
They're laughing because, when I pulled out my camera, I had jokingly told them I had come to steal their hunting secrets. An important thing to know about culture in this part of the country is that at a baseline people are suspicious or your motives if you are an outsider, and even more so, if you are a foreigner. There's a long history of exploitation at the expense of Congolese and, I think rightfully, people are wary of being taken advantage.
Our meeting drew to close when the mamas approached saying our bath was ready. It being midday, this was a bit of a surprise to me (usually a bath is offered at the end of the day), but one simply can't refuse hospitality, especially after a long hike through the humid rainforest. I was led to a small 3-walled screen in which was placed a practically boiling bucket of milky water and two lengths of bamboo on which I would have to balance so that I wouldn't be standing in the mud. I very quickly rinsed off and still finished feeling more like a sandy boiled lobster than I imagined possible. Well, I guess, it's the thought and consideration that counts.
The village mamas:
As evening began to fall, I was pleasantly surprised that the elders agreed to let me do some fishing! I had brought a couple of fishing poles and tackle with me just in case the opportunity presented itself.
Here's me & one of my young fishing guides:
The Kango use these long, hand-carved, round-bottomed, dug-out canoes, which are notoriously unstable, and yet they all seem as comfortable standing in a canoe as they do standing on land. Incredible!
Unfortunately, I didn't catch anything (though I definitely had a bite), but my time out on the river, in the dug-out canoe, casting my line, and enjoying just how adept the young Kango men are in their boats, is one I won’t soon forget. It was one of those moments when you feel that you are just where you ought to be. It’s hard to convey how “foreign” or “exotic” it is compared to where I grew up in northern Ontario, Canada, and yet I felt at home, like being at camp with the men of the family : drinking coffee while sitting around a fire, talking about the big one that got away, and comparing notes on how to best trap a monkey.
Fishing nets are a common sight in the village:
I ended up giving away about half of my tackle:
I grew up fishing on lakes from motor boats and so I feel I have a good sense of what lures work well... in Ontario. No telling if anything I brought with me would perform in the silty flowing water of the Uele, or attract the local fish species. I asked the guys to keep notes and give me a report the next time I visit. Amusingly, the pastor who received the treble-hook spoon (above) plans on fishing for crocodiles. I had inherited that spoon from my grandfather, who I'm sure would be pleased to know how it's now being re-purposed.