John says the accent is on the “go” in Balengola.
Here are some of his other notes:
“Finally sorting some of the mysteries of this northeastern corner of the forgotten landscape! And picking up new ones too!
For one, I found out that those pinkish polygons on the Google map west of Ubundu are NOT artisanal mining operations like we feared; they are grassy riverside prairies. They are seriously flooded now, like a lot of this region during the rainy season, but according to informants, they burn during the dry season. Natural grassy openings are frequent through this forest along the Ruiki River.
Rainy season means flooded crossings for bicycle-riding merchants or ba-toleka
The Lengola forest covers most of the TL2 landscape south of Kisangani and west, southwest of Ubundu, from nearly the Lomami to the Lualaba. A vast region which, before independence 50 years ago, was one of the country’s major centers for production of rice, coffee and rubber.
An abandoned rice-hulling plant in an empty forest clearing
We traveled west from Ubundu along forest foot paths that were once major roads emerging incongruously on looming complexes of abandoned brick building (rizeries and coffee plantations) standing in old forest clearings. Even the Belgian King Baudouin came along this road in 1957. Now it’s forgotten land. The villagers that remain eke out a meager living selling local rice and dried fish (the flooded forests are the preferred habitat of clarid catfish) to bicycle riding merchants from Kisangani.
Motorcycle and bicycle are the only vehicles down the overgrown roads
We have had wonderful hospitality from Ernest Klaibundji, the spry 60 year old Chief of Walengola-Wabira at Bagwasi, who put us up in his house and spent much of the day before yesterday helping us fill out our map of his 40,000 km2 chefferie. His stories of the remarkable economic rise and collapse are poignant. Now he has offered to guide us himself personally into his forest.
Dino explains our survey work, then Ernest explains the reality of today’s Balengola
We have opted for two circuits on each side of the middle Ruiki River .
Dino and Ernest left yesterday for Munionge where Ernest will take supplies in two pirogues and paddle three days up the Ruiki to Batitobeka village. I will join Dino tomorrow at Batibakungu village.
Crossing the Ruiki River with our motorcycle in the dugout
According to Ernest, both okapi and the “giant” chimpanzee, (as opposed to the bonobo) occur. We will see. So far, we have not been overwhelmed with evidence of wildlife.”