Ghana # 10

Posted on January 3rd, 2011 in MAPA expeditions by Administrator

Travel journalist Mark Eveleigh is volunteering for MAPA in Ghana and this is his latest post…..

MAPA Blog 10
Yesterday afternoon we arrived back at Bia National Park HQ after a successful mission to reopen the track to Bongo Camp. It took us 2 days (working with 6 rangers and a chainsaw) to cover just 10 miles of very dense jungle-driving to Bongo.
There were in fact six other points where elephants had pulled trees down over the road but the first blockage was by far the worst. This was almost certainly storm damage and several big trees had fallen together over a section of fifteen metres of road. First we had to clear with ‘cutlasses’ (as machetes are known here), and then cut the trunks with the chainsaw so that we had small enough sections that could be manhandled to one side of the track. Soon we had come to the point where we had no more room to stack the huge logs and it was necessary to haul them back to clear ground with a tow rope and the Landcruiser. By the end of the first afternoon, after 4 hours working at the jam, we still had what looked like the worst section to clear. Worse, the chainsaw was now completely blunt and the rangers were not sure if there would be cash back at HQ to buy a new chain for the next day’s work.
We took the rangers back to the park gate (Camp 15) and spent the night ourselves camped at the research centre right at the beginning of the now dreaded Bongo Track, wondering if we would be able to get to work again the next morning. By 7am we were already up at Camp 15 where a cellphone call came in to say that some of the guys, specifically Vincent the chainsaw operator (a chainsaw whizz-kid in fact), were stuck on the main road without transport and we had to go and pick them up.
By 8:30 we were all back at the ‘treeline’…with a new chain tearing into the last huge logs. It took us 3 more hours to get through. In the end we actually had to build a timber bridge (or rather a series of log stepping stones) leading up to a point where the vehicle could be guided, extremely cautiously, along a sort of double tightrope of two big logs. Then we managed to lay deadwood to make steps leading down to the open trail again.
The work was doubly painstaking because we knew that having got into Bongo Camp we would also have to get back and our ‘bridge’ was even more of a technically difficult drive in the opposite direction.
After this clearing there were six more fallen trees separating us from Bongo Camp and with fuel for the chainsaw running low it was tough and go whether we would get through. Signs of elephant passage were everywhere and the rangers claimed that chimpanzees are often seen too. Once a cobra raced out from under our feet, causing panic in all directions and sadly we hit a pangolin on the drive through thick brush. It was a young animal that seemed to have been sick and dying already (it was covered with red ants though still alive). This is only the second pangolin I have ever seen and I wonder if I am perhaps ‘bad ju-ju’ for these fascinating animals (the last time I saw one my guide, in Borneo, had hacked it to death with his parang before I could shout to stop him. The meat was good though and we needed it after several weeks in the jungle).
It was late afternoon when we made it, tired, scratched and aching, to Bongo Camp. We celebrated with cold fruit juice and a team photo. The rangers had all worked well and with the good cheer, laughter and sense of humour that we have come to expect from Ghanaians.
It had been a great experience and we were proud to be able to report back to Ophelia, the head ranger at Bia, that thanks to MAPA Bongo Camp is once again ready for service!

MAPA Blog 10

Yesterday afternoon we arrived back at Bia National Park HQ after a successful mission to reopen the track to Bongo Camp. It took us 2 days (working with 6 rangers and a chainsaw) to cover just 10 miles of very dense jungle-driving to Bongo.

There were in fact six other points where elephants had pulled trees down over the road but the first blockage was by far the worst. This was almost certainly storm damage and several big trees had fallen together over a section of fifteen metres of road. First we had to clear with ‘cutlasses’ (as machetes are known here), and then cut the trunks with the chainsaw so that we had small enough sections that could be manhandled to one side of the track. Soon we had come to the point where we had no more room to stack the huge logs and it was necessary to haul them back to clear ground with a tow rope and the Landcruiser. By the end of the first afternoon, after 4 hours working at the jam, we still had what looked like the worst section to clear. Worse, the chainsaw was now completely blunt and the rangers were not sure if there would be cash back at HQ to buy a new chain for the next day’s work.

We took the rangers back to the park gate (Camp 15) and spent the night ourselves camped at the research centre right at the beginning of the now dreaded Bongo Track, wondering if we would be able to get to work again the next morning. By 7am we were already up at Camp 15 where a cellphone call came in to say that some of the guys, specifically Vincent the chainsaw operator (a chainsaw whizz-kid in fact), were stuck on the main road without transport and we had to go and pick them up.

By 8:30 we were all back at the ‘treeline’…with a new chain tearing into the last huge logs. It took us 3 more hours to get through. In the end we actually had to build a timber bridge (or rather a series of log stepping stones) leading up to a point where the vehicle could be guided, extremely cautiously, along a sort of double tightrope of two big logs. Then we managed to lay deadwood to make steps leading down to the open trail again.

The work was doubly painstaking because we knew that having got into Bongo Camp we would also have to get back and our ‘bridge’ was even more of a technically difficult drive in the opposite direction.

After this clearing there were six more fallen trees separating us from Bongo Camp and with fuel for the chainsaw running low it was tough and go whether we would get through. Signs of elephant passage were everywhere and the rangers claimed that chimpanzees are often seen too. Once a cobra raced out from under our feet, causing panic in all directions and sadly we hit a pangolin on the drive through thick brush. It was a young animal that seemed to have been sick and dying already (it was covered with red ants though still alive). This is only the second pangolin I have ever seen and I wonder if I am perhaps ‘bad ju-ju’ for these fascinating animals (the last time I saw one my guide, in Borneo, had hacked it to death with his parang before I could shout to stop him. The meat was good though and we needed it after several weeks in the jungle).

It was late afternoon when we made it, tired, scratched and aching, to Bongo Camp. We celebrated with cold fruit juice and a team photo. The rangers had all worked well and with the good cheer, laughter and sense of humour that we have come to expect from Ghanaians.

It had been a great experience and we were proud to be able to report back to Ophelia, the head ranger at Bia, that thanks to MAPA Bongo Camp is once again ready for service!

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