To Bima & Back Again: A Journey through the Bush of Bas-Uele

Share your notes and experiences in the field
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Re: To Bima & Back Again: A Journey through the Bush of Bas-Uele

Post by Chuck »

Porters? Bath? Man you’re living the life of luxury! Lemme guess, you have more than two undershorts too.
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Re: To Bima & Back Again: A Journey through the Bush of Bas-Uele

Post by Cabintom »

Chuck wrote: Sat Oct 01, 2022 8:55 pm Porters? Bath? Man you’re living the life of luxury! Lemme guess, you have more than two undershorts too.
If you can afford to, I recommend packing at least 3 pairs of undershorts. :) That way you have a back-up pair for when you inevitably drop a fresh pair in the mud while trying to dress balanced on two lengths of wet bamboo.
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Re: To Bima & Back Again: A Journey through the Bush of Bas-Uele

Post by wolf »

Enjoying this travel report very much. Makes me SO want to travel to exotic places again!
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Re: To Bima & Back Again: A Journey through the Bush of Bas-Uele

Post by Cabintom »

Day 8 - July 12th (Ezabisi - Disolo, Disolo to Bamokandi)

The plan for the day was to complete the 11km hike back to Disolo, have lunch, get back on the road, cross the Uele, arrive at Bamokandi and spend the remainder of the afternoon resting.
But, before we could go, we had to have breakfast and say our farewells.

Grilling the pre-breakfast appetizer peanuts:
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Here I am chatting with Kumboti and enjoying the peanuts:
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You may note the muddy pants ("trousers" for the Brits). Around about day 4 of the trip, I realized that unless we were staying put somewhere for a good part of the day, wearing clean pants was futile: within about 5 minutes of climbing onto the motorcycle they would be filthy. Might as well just start out in dirty pants and save the other 3 pairs for when I need to look respectable. I also note that with this "travel pants" system, having a 4th pair was unnecessary.

Corn followed:
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The ladies making breakfast:
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While breakfast was prepared, this man wove a new basket:
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The basket ended up serving to carry 3 chickens that were given to us during our farewells (1 chicken each for Kumboti, Joseph and myself!). It's hard to explain the value of such a gift in the context of life in a place like Ezabisi. Truly amazing generosity!

Some photos I took while waiting on breakfast:
(Unidentified fruiting plant)
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(Unidentified Braconid wasp)
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(Unidentified millipede & fly... I guess)
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(Cinnyris sp. - Sunbird)
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(Malimbus nitens - Blue-billed Malimbe)
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(Lachnoptera anticlia)
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(Sevenia boisduvali omissa)
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Saying good-bye:
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In addition to the chickens, we received a bag full of limes and a sac of Bunga (manioc/cassava flour).

To be continued...
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Re: To Bima & Back Again: A Journey through the Bush of Bas-Uele

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Day 8 - July 12th (Ezabisi - Disolo, Disolo to Bamokandi) ... Continued

If it's not apparent, breakfast and farewells took a few hours longer than planned. If we wanted to get to Bamokandi before late in the day we'd need to quick march back to Disolo. Painfully, collecting butterflies on the way back now seemed to be out of the question. As such, I handed the nets to Joseph & Kumboti to carry so that, at the very least, I could photograph interesting things as we briskly moved along.

An unidentified mantis:
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Various fungi (I find fungi fascinating):
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I'm not sure what this is:
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A large strangler fig:
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Unidentified Erebidae:
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Following the porters:


Not long into the hike, I spotted this Syrmoptera:
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In 2019, when I had traveled through a northern part of the province, I had collected the first known males of S. mixtura and so I was keeping an eye out for any Syrmoptera I might come across. So I snapped this photo, thanked God Joseph was following behind me, and, when he caught up what felt like a minute later, I asked for the net and success! (Note: the ventral bands on this particular specimen are too dark for mixtura, but (once ID'd) it'll likely be a valuable record for the genus.)
From that point on wards, Joseph and Kumboti both significantly lagged behind the 3 porters and I. We'd march for 10 minutes, realize those 2 were out of earshot and wait for them to catch up. Invariably they'd each netted a couple of butterflies which would need to go into paper triangles. By the time we crossed the creek which roughly marks the half-way point of the hike, to the frustration of our porters, my camera had been put away and all semblance of expediency was abandoned as we stopped every few minutes with a new interesting capture. While continuously moving forward along a trail is not the way I like to collect, given what I was expecting for the day and our need to be somewhere, we had excellent results.

Image
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To be continued...
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Re: To Bima & Back Again: A Journey through the Bush of Bas-Uele

Post by Cabintom »

Day 8 - July 12th (Ezabisi - Disolo, Disolo to Bamokandi) ... Continued Again

We eventually arrived back in Disolo around about mid-afternoon. While the others rested and lunch was being prepared, I needed to take down the 2 traps I'd set-up 2 days earlier. The first trap had served as restaurant for a rather large Mantis. Disappointing. While the second trap did well, capturing several (albeit common) species of Charaxes. Unfortunately, there'd been a storm during the previous night so most of the specimens were beat-up. It seems that during rainy season, traps should ideally be emptied everyday. I've far from mastered trapping though, and find my results are more often disappointing than not. More practice needed.

After the late lunch, which put us even further behind schedule (I'm not complaining), we loaded up the bikes and set off for the river crossing ~7km south.

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Ah, yes, the road:


The Uele River:
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Notice our two motorcycles:
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At one point in the past, a barge would ferry people & vehicles across, but like many things in the country, it has fallen into disrepair. Now, the only way across is in these pirogues and so, you're obliged to put a lot of trust in the guy paddling your motorcycle across the water. Yikes!

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Kumboti and Augu both crossed first so as to negotiate the fare before the white guy showed up. $5.00 US to get us, the bikes and all our stuff across. I timed the crossing at almost 6 minutes flat.

By the time we got across, we were treated to this lovely sunset:
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Note the old barge.

Fortunately, Bamokandi is only 2kms from the crossing and so we arrived only shortly after nightfall.
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Re: To Bima & Back Again: A Journey through the Bush of Bas-Uele

Post by Chuck »

Hi Tom,

A few questions:

1. Don't you get a day off to go afield?

2. I don't recall you using the word "chief." In rural areas which are rather devoid (thankfully) of politicians, there tend to be two authorities: chiefs and churches. Granted you are associated with the latter, but I'm surprised you'd not mentioned anything about the local chiefs.

3. Where are the moths? I find moths everywhere, even as a matter of circumstance. In areas with little light polution, even a 65W incandescent will draw moths. Don't you grab them or photograph them?
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Re: To Bima & Back Again: A Journey through the Bush of Bas-Uele

Post by Cabintom »

Chuck wrote: Sun Oct 09, 2022 1:34 pm 1. Don't you get a day off to go afield?
Day 9, in Bamokandi, which I'll write a post about next, was a planned "rest" day, but that rainy morning back in Manonga messed up our schedule and we were never really able to recover, so it functionally became a rest half-day as we needed to do some work in the afternoon. I'll stress again that butterflying wasn't the goal of the trip.
Chuck wrote: Sun Oct 09, 2022 1:34 pm 2. I don't recall you using the word "chief." In rural areas which are rather devoid (thankfully) of politicians, there tend to be two authorities: chiefs and churches. Granted you are associated with the latter, but I'm surprised you'd not mentioned anything about the local chiefs.
If you look back at my post for Day 7, you'll see that we met with the village chief in Ezabisi (in truth, he hung around with us almost the whole time we were there). Everywhere else... well, there wasn't really a need to because of my association with the church. I believe it was in Disolo, that the village chief came to visit us and ate a meal with us, but if I'm not mistaken he's a member of our church, so the hierarchy of things becomes a bit fuzzy in those circumstances. If I wasn't on official church business, then meeting with the chiefs, even briefly, would be a lot more important.
Chuck wrote: Sun Oct 09, 2022 1:34 pm 3. Where are the moths? I find moths everywhere, even as a matter of circumstance. In areas with little light polution, even a 65W incandescent will draw moths. Don't you grab them or photograph them
There are 2 things at play here.
1st: There's no electricity and so no lights. Some fortunate people have a small solar panel they'll usually use to power a single LED light bulb for indoor lighting. Gasoline is incredibly scarce throughout the region and costs between$5 and $10/L depending on the location. So, generators are not feasible and are very difficult to find. If I wanted to do some serious mothing, I think I'd need to bring my own generator and extra fuel, which would require an extra motorcycle and driver and which would significantly add to the cost and logistical complexity of such a trip. I've wondered if lighting up a sheet with a motorcycle headlight would work, but I'm wary about running down the battery and honestly, we can't waste fuel. I don't know. Not sure how it could work.
2nd: I've made a conscious decision to focus on butterflies. Moths, beetles, dragonflies, et al. are really interesting, but I don't have enough time at this stage in life to deal with more than just butterflies. (I've got 2 kids, ages 4 & 9 months) I mean, I do collect interesting moths I happen to find (especially day-flyers) but more than 3/4 of the species I've collected over these past 9 years have gone unidentified and I'm not really into collecting just for the sake of having a collection. I want my efforts to mean something, to provide useful data, to be able to contribute to papers and revisions, etc. With butterflies I've been able to do that, with moths (and beetles, etc.) I don't have contact with anyone who may be scientifically interested in what I find. Does that make sense?
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Re: To Bima & Back Again: A Journey through the Bush of Bas-Uele

Post by Chuck »

Wow, Tom, you didn't have to spend that much time on a reply!

It's quite fortunate you get the field time you do. I too had the same problem; it was horribly flying into Guadalcanal for two days, and collecting nothing. But work and family didn't always leave the time I had prior to that.

Do you bring an obligatory gift for the chief or church leaders? Is it expected? I contrast it with the South Pacific, where you're expected to deliver a gift, you MUST bring a gift, though the gift is often common Kava which you can get anywhere or dig up. Or Egypt, where they want you to bring a Mercedes Benz, but that's Egypt, the armpit of the world. Even in USA one should bring a small gift.
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Re: To Bima & Back Again: A Journey through the Bush of Bas-Uele

Post by Cabintom »

Chuck wrote: Sun Oct 09, 2022 11:25 pm Do you bring an obligatory gift for the chief or church leaders?
Not really. We'll give $10USD to the pastor to contribute to the cost of feeding us. If there's an obvious need and we can help in the moment, we'll do that too (we left behind a few tarps, I gave away some fishing lures and gave a pastor one of my shirts, etc.), but that's done without drawing attention and usually just before leaving (or even after leaving). None of it is obligatory or expected... perhaps hoped for though. This is the approach we take among the Zande, Kango, and Barambo. In other parts of DRC, the approach needs to be modified a bit, but in my experience it hasn't been very different from what I've described.

That said, I don't know what would be expected of a visitor with no prior connection to the community. I can see it being a lot more complicated.
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Re: To Bima & Back Again: A Journey through the Bush of Bas-Uele

Post by Cabintom »

Day 9 - July 13th (Bamokandi)

By this point of the trip, honestly, I was exhausted, so it was a good thing we planned for only minimal work activities in the late afternoon. In spite of the exhaustion, I had figured I'd get an early start and spend most of the morning leisurely strolling forest paths. Instead, we woke to a blanket of low lying and drizzly clouds and I was forced to spend a few hours resting (probably for the best) while waiting for the rain to stop. Around 10:30 or so, the drizzle subsided and together with Augu (my driver) I headed out to see what could be found even with the grey clouds blocking the sun.
It's far from great weather for butterflying, with much much fewer species being active, but at the same time the "poor" conditions sometimes mean you'll come across species (crepuscular, shade-loving, etc.) that you wouldn't normally encounter. Further, since there are significantly fewer butterflies flying about, you tend to catch everything you see, including specimens/species you normally would purposefully ignore. This may not seem like a positive point but it can be, especially in localities where there are several hundreds of species present because, as I've found on more than one occasion, I end up collecting cryptic species I had assumed were something I knew well.
We were out collecting for about 3.5hrs before we called it a day. I don't recall collecting anything all that interesting, except perhaps a female Euriphene or two.

I also now realize that I didn't take any pictures... oh well, just imagine a dark, damp, grey, forest disturbed by agricultural fields and composed largely of secondary growth.

I do have a picture of the largest Custard-Apple I've ever seen:
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Delicious!

EDIT (I can't believe I'd initially forgotten to include this):

So, in the morning, despite the rain I had set-up my two traps. I figured that maybe the sun would come out at some point, so what could it hurt?

At the end of the day, I went back to check on the traps and to take them down. I was surprised (and initially frustrated) to find that someone had already lowered the first trap. On closer inspection, they had very neatly lowered it. In fact, they had very neatly lowered it, emptied the bait, and set the bait cup down next to the trap. I could tell it had been deliberate and not, say, the wind, because of the way the trap was folded and the the way the bait cup was set right-side up on the ground with no bait in sight. Strange. No signs of the bait anywhere and the cup was practically clean.
I moved on to the second trap. Same situation.

At that point I was worried that perhaps one of our church members had mistaken the traps for some sort of fetish and had taken it upon themselves to, albeit respectfully, undue my magic (this would be an entirely plausible scenario given the local culture/worldview). So, wanting to make sure there hadn't been some sort of gross misunderstanding, I brought it up with the pastor. "No need to worry!" he told me, "It was the « fou»." Apparently, there's a young mentally ill man, well known in the village, who'd been hanging around the church most of the day. At some point he got hungry and, I guess, my 9-day-old banana bait hit the spot!
What a strange way to lose all of your bait! Stranger still, it's the second time in my 9 years here that this has happened to me.
Last edited by Cabintom on Wed Oct 19, 2022 2:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: To Bima & Back Again: A Journey through the Bush of Bas-Uele

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Day 10 - July 14th (Bamokandi - Bima)

Bima was the last congregation we planned to visit before turning around and heading back to Manonga to catch the plane (Day 15). From Bamokandi we needed to travel 16km: 8km along the main road and then veering north towards the river, 8km more through the forest. Fortunately(?), this second leg of the drive is traveled often enough that dead-falls don't block the path and motorcycles can ridden all the way to Bima. Part of the reason we were visiting the congregation was to help address a personnel issue, which obliged the supervising pastor to accompany us. With no additional motorcycles available, he squeezed in between Augu and I... I'll remind you all that 18km is a long drive in these parts.

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Such is life in the DRC.



The forest was beautiful though.
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Unsurprisingly, the road less so.


Narthecusa sp.
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Where we stayed in Bima:
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My tent was set-up just out of shot on the left.

We arrived in Bima around 10am. After initial greetings, we set to putting the finishing touches to the new chapel the church members had been building. The work finished, we returned to the payotte to wait for lunch and I pulled out my nets. The village clearing was full of butterfly activity with the usual culprits dominating: Sevenia boisduvali, Sevenia occidentalium, Leptotes, Anthene larydas, Papilio demodocus, Acraea pseudegina, and more. A sort of game developed where we'd sit, relax, chat, with the nets propped up against the outside of the payotte, but when someone spotted something they thought interesting he'd spring up, grab a net and give chase. I was particularly excited by the surprising number of Neptis species flying about and my colleagues soon learned to not pass them up. (Neptis are an interest of mine because of Ian Richardson's ongoing work with the genus. Before this trip, I had 12 undescribed Neptis species in my collection and I found at least 2 more in Bima.)

I spotted this unidentified Hemiptera while building benches for the chapel:
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There's an insect there. I promise.

Leptotes sp.
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The common Neptis melicerta
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At one point I saw the strangest looking insect scurrying past the payotte. My curiosity peaked, I got up from my chair to investigate. Upon closer look, I realized it was not one, but two insects: a wasp seemingly riding a grasshopper as though it were a motorcycle! (that's what it looked like to me, but I had spent a lot of time on the back of a motorcycle so maybe I'm projecting) Suddenly the wasp stopped, and after a moment of indecision dropped its "bike" and took off running at surprising speed. The wasp then spent the next few minutes frantically scurrying to and fro across the freshly swept dirt area between the payotte and the kitchen, all the while the grasshopper laid next to me periodically twitching a leg but otherwise unable to move. Then just as suddenly as it had first stopped, the wasp stopped again, began to dig, and in no time at all had reopened its burrow. It then once again resumed its frantic sprinting to and fro (seriously, the speed at which the wasp could run was incredible). It soon dawned on me that it had misplaced its ride, so helpfully, I tossed the grasshopper in front of the wasp and it immediately hopped on.
Here you can see the wasp bringing his lunch(?) home:

It was a nice point of connection with the folks from Bima that we were all amused by this wasp's antics. Apparently they were joking that the wasp was "burying his brother-in-law"... I'm not sure why that's funny, but find it interesting that most every culture has its humour about the in-laws. Also, it amused me that after all of that frantic work, the grasshopper ended up being to big to fit down into the burrow. Poor wasp.

To be continued...
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Re: To Bima & Back Again: A Journey through the Bush of Bas-Uele

Post by Chuck »

Tent? Doesn’t someone give you their home?
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Re: To Bima & Back Again: A Journey through the Bush of Bas-Uele

Post by Cabintom »

Chuck wrote: Sun Oct 16, 2022 10:36 pm Tent? Doesn’t someone give you their home?
It depended on the location, but yeah that's the usual thing that happens. Guests get the beds/house and the hosts find other sleeping arrangements. The tent helped minimize the inconvenience we caused and, frankly, gave me some measure of control over my sleeping conditions.
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Re: To Bima & Back Again: A Journey through the Bush of Bas-Uele

Post by Cabintom »

Back tracking a little, since I can't believe I had forgotten this...

Day 9 - July 13th (Bamokandi)

So, in the morning, despite the rain I had set-up my two traps. I figured that maybe the sun would come out at some point, so what could it hurt?

At the end of the day, I went back to check on the traps and to take them down. I was surprised (and initially frustrated) to find that someone had already lowered the first trap. On closer inspection, they had very neatly lowered it. In fact, they had very neatly lowered it, emptied the bait, and set the bait cup down next to the trap. I could tell it had been deliberate and not, say, the wind, because of the way the trap was folded and the the way the bait cup was set right-side up on the ground with no bait in sight. Strange. No signs of the bait anywhere and the cup was practically clean.
I moved on to the second trap. Same situation.

At that point I was worried that perhaps one of our church members had mistaken the traps for some sort of fetish and had taken it upon themselves to, albeit respectfully, undue my magic (this would be an entirely plausible scenario given the local culture/worldview). So, wanting to make sure there hadn't been some sort of gross misunderstanding, I brought it up with the pastor. "No need to worry!" he told me, "It was the « fou»." Apparently, there's a young mentally ill man, well known in the village, who'd been hanging around the church most of the day. At some point he got hungry and, I guess, my 9-day-old banana bait hit the spot!
What a strange way to lose all of your bait! Stranger still, it's the second time in my 9 years here that this has happened to me.
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