Opala, The Last Big Village Before The Forest

On the way to Opala, the forest reclaims old colonial buildings. The roof is partly gone but people still live here.

Ashley is on his last big stop before his research work starts. In Opala, he meets chiefs and others, gets extra groceries. After this, it’s the unknown. Do diamond diggers meet chimps, bonobos and okapis south of the Opala? We’ll find out in the next coming weeks. See where Opala is on Google Maps.

To our knowledge, very few videos and images exists of wild bonobos. But here’s an amateur video from San Diego zoo on youtube to give you an idea. Also, see the strange okapi in this video on youtube, also taken in a zoo.

This is a strange village.

Being the last major village on the river you would think it might have a frontier feel about it, but it does not. It has a feel of desperation about it.

There is no work and things are difficult for the local people. Although there is some business here the village does not seem to profit from it, or maybe it is just not enough. Apparently there are diamonds in the surrounding forest and they are being exploited. There is also a lot of upland rice grown around the village.

To explain how difficult life is here: a person who is willing to take a pirogue from here to Kisangani with 5 people and merchandise, that is a person who will use an oar and slowly pull the pirogue all the way, will get paid 20,000FC. That is equivalent to about $40. It will take him a month!! This is 12 hours per day of very hard physical labor in rain or burning sunshine. Hmmm, makes me wonder how many people in the UK or USA would be willing to do that if (or when) temperate prosperity lessened.

Every chief of village or group of villages has got word that we are here. They are all arriving hoping for a little something, and to say hello and see who these new people are. However they seem very disappointed when we tell them that we are only going farther into the forest and a very long way away. Only one chief here is important for us. The chief is a she which is a first for me. She arrives today apparently which will be interesting. The more females in charge in DRC the better, I believe.

In fact I believe that all around the world.

There are many old buildings built when the Belgium’s were here. Now, nearly all these buildings are in disrepair. Some are used for administrative offices, but they really need an injection of TLC — or just plain cash for upkeep. They were once wonderful and still be could be again. Hope springs eternal!

Opala, the final stop before commencing the real voyage…

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