Friday, January 07, 2005

We arrive at the deepest point of our journey

January 7, 2005
North Camp, Gran Caldera de Luba, Equatorial Guinea
N 3.36528° E 8.50035° Elevation 3,374 feet. Temp: 74° F

Today we’ve reached the end of the trail, the northernmost camp for the Arcadia University expedition to Bioko island.

Our hike today from the main camp in the Gran Caldera de Luba was less than seven kilometers – not even five miles. But we went very slowly on the first half as we were conducting a wildlife census along the way. You walk a census trail like a fashion model walks down a runway, with tall, exaggerated steps to avoid tripping on rocks or kicking up sticks and leaves. It’s like hunting, only you’re armed with pen and paper. One conducts a census by staying very quiet, keeping about 12 feet apart and keeping one’s eyes and ears open. The signs of monkeys in the south end of the caldera are not good, however, as hunters apparently got there before our group. In two miles, we saw one squirrel and heard one female drill.

In less than five miles, we gained about 1,600 feet today and the rainforest changed remarkably. The north end of the caldera gets less rain, so the ground is dryer and grassier -- we're now in a tropical montane forest. More sunlight gets through the forest, and some of the trees are very large compared to the thin, tall trees that dominate at the lower altitudes. There also seems to be more variety to the vegetation.

The hunters do not seem to have gotten in as far as the north camp, so the hope is that we might encounter more primates here, including the drill, the endangered monkey that is unique to Bioko and a small piece of mainland Africa.

Before we departed the main camp, some members of the expedition began their journey out of the caldera to the beach camp, where they will stay until next Tuesday when the boat is scheduled to come pick us up.

I am filing a story for the newspaper today, which allows me little time to tell you more stories on this blog. But stay tuned, we are rarely short of words.
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