Category Archives: Places

I Remember Okapi, First Epulu, Next Lomami

On his trip up the Lomami, Ashley found Okapi where no one imagined they could be – as far south as the Luidjo tributary .
Mysterious animals! Solitary, cryptic giants of the forest.
Kim Gjerstad okapi 4
Okapi at the Epulu Station in the Okapi Reserve of the Ituri Forest

In the 1980s neither John nor I (this is Terese writing, John’s wife and Ashley’s collaborator) thought Okapi were west of the Congo/Lualaba. But did we even think about it ? Probably not. We were completely concentrated on the okapi in the Ituri forest. By the third year of study, 1988, we had put radio collars on more than 20 okapi. Based at a remote research camp, we had a team of nearly 30 Mbuti pygmies and Bantu villagers. We followed these okapi daily over a grid of narrow foot paths laid out over a study area of more than 50 sq miles.
John on Afarama trail
Earlier this year, John on the trail out to Afarama camp, the remote base set up for the okapi study in the 1980s

So we just assumed, like everyone else, that okapi were only on the right bank of the Congo – BUT ANCIENT reports from the center of the Congo basin said otherwise:

  1. thongs made of okapi hide were sported by local hunters near Lodja,
  2. a dead okapi was butchered south of Opala

but, hey, that was the colonial era. No photos , no instamatic, let alone digital! And what did a strap of okapi hide mean? It could have been like a cowry shell, a currency of trade that traveled kilometers. Besides, the 1920’s and the 1930’s are a long time ago.

But then again , the 1980’s are a long time ago too – so why remember our okapi study now? — Just reminiscing.
carrying forage to okapi
Pygmies carrying forage to the okapi in captivity at the station just as they have done since the first okapi were captured back in the 1950s

My youngest daughter, Eleanor, now in college, was born in the Ituri at the end of the okapi study. She asks if we will put radio collars on the okapi of the Lomami.
Eleanor on Edoro bridge
Eleanor on the bridge we built across the Edoro on the study area where we collared okapi in the 1980s when she was a baby
eleanor on Edoro bridge
a day later, after a heavy rain

My eldest daughter, Sarah, now in journalism school, and 6 when we started collaring okapi says she will write about the Ituri.
Kim Gjerstad photo- Lenda
Sarah with Eleanor and Gaston preparing tea in the Ituri on a visit a couple years ago
Kim Gjerstad photo - Epulu
Sarah with two friends of many years: Masudi (household manager) and Gaston (playmate)

The middle daughter, Rebekah Sylvia, most Mbuti of them all, born in the village of Epulu on the Epulu river, is not pictured here. She returned to work in the Ituri. Forest nymph, she has her own story.
Eleanor and Sofi
Sofi with Eleanor the youngest of the three Hart girls, all of whom she took care of as infants and youngsters
Sofi
Dancing at Kenge’s camp. Sofi in blue top.

SO WHAT ARE OKAPI?
They are giraffe. They really don’t look like giraffe. Marching through the Ituri in the 1880’s H.M. Stanley wrote about a strange “forest donkey” the Pygmies described. But okapi are giraffe and when you see one up close, you see giraffe in the shape of the head, the short thick horns, and the incredible tongue.
Kim Gjerstand photo -- okapi 3
Okapi cleaning its shoulders or maybe killing a fly

The real mystery of the okapi is the long muscular tongue. It even cleans its ears with its tongue. And to eat, it lassos small branches with its tongue and pulls off all the young leaves. It is the only ruminant eating understory leaves of the forest. The antelope eat fallen fruit, the forest buffalo graze in grassy openings and swampy glades.
Kim Gjerstad photo -- okapi 2
This view of its head shows okapi grace and giraffe lineage (and thanks to Kim Gjerstad for this and the other excellent okapi photos)

Ashley’s discovery adds a new piece to the Okapi story.
We can now pencil in the new findings to the most recent map we have below (from Bodmer and Rabb 1992) .
OKAPI range with new locations
Okapi sign (dung, prints) were found by WWF last year in the Semiliki forest of the Virungas (circle in the east). This year an okapi skin was reported by BCI near Lodja reconfirming the old Belgian sightings that up to now were “uncertain”, and now Ashley has found okapi up the Lomami (central circle).

It is our hope – all of ours– that these findings are not the marking of a range just before it contracts and disappears but rather a staking out for real conservation. And we know – all of us – that we have to make it happen.
sunset over Epulu
A magical moment over the Epulu River — may there be many in many Okapi forests

Kisangani, Can It Bring Law to Out-Law Lomami?

There is no question, our main message to the governor, the general, and all provincial authorities in Kisangani: COLONEL TOM MUST BE STOPPED. He is master of elephant poaching and dominates bushmeat trade. Colonel Tom himself told Ashley, with a wave of his hand, “the forest is mine”.

Mai Mai chief in foreground with leopard skin
Colonel Tom, maimai leader, holding court near Opala

Pockets of anarchy in DRCongo are of two types:

  1. In the east, bandits like Nkunda head armies of guerillas, are backed by bank accounts in Rwanda, combat ethnic rivals, and threaten the last populations of Congo’s gorillas.
  2. Dead center, bandits like Colonel Tom are on their own turf, terrorize neighbors, poach for ivory and turn wildlife to bushmeat in Congo’s unprotected forest core.

Of the latter type of bandit, Colonel Tom is top of the wanted list.

LL forest angolan pied colobus
Barter for Bushmeat is the main currency of exchange south of Opala.

Ashley came to Kisangani by dugout. He shot the last 270 kilometers down the Lomami from Opala and then pushed the last 120 km up the Congo to the same small port he left two and half months earlier. I flew Bravo airlines from Kinshasa to Kisangani.

Incredible frontier town. In its backyard markets, Kisangani handles diamonds, bushmeat and any other natural resource pulled from the forest or dug from the earth. This is where Ashley and I conferred and this is where we worked with a first-rate collaborator, DP Malengani of Congo’s conservation institute (ICCN).

terese and Ashley in Kisangani
Terese and Ashley. Happy to see each other again.
Ashley and Terese
Hours later and deep into it

Malingane described the new government. “Will we be heard “, we asked?

The old general ,Malingane explained, was a Maimai during the rebellion, like Colonel Tom himself. “That General has just been ousted”, he told us. The new General, J-C KIFWA, must now control a third of the country.

We saw General Kifwa the first day. He did not mince words. “First the government will try dialogue.” But, the General stated flatly, pinning us with an unwavering stare, “whether Colonel Tom listens or not, Colonel Tom will be removed.”

general Kifwa
The General met us on our first full day in Kisangani.

The new administration was equally committed. All are young: the new governor, vice-governor, the provincial environmental officer, the woman who is territorial administrator of Opala. This junior government takes authority over an enormous province where schools don’t function and hospitals are without medicine and doctors.

charge de l'environnement provinciale
DP Malingane (on left) and Terese with the Provincial Environmental Officer
Ashley with Madame the Administrateur de Territoire Opala
Madame the Territorial Administrator from Opala meeting with Ashley and the two Team leaders, Maurice (glasses) and Bernard

They have heard us. What remains to be seen is action. Malingane remains in Kisangani. He will update us, and we will update this blog.

Dancing on the Dugout, Crying in the Forest

Porters dancing at end of trip
On the return trip the dugout turned into a disco as it approached Opala, home of the porters. That’s Maga on the pot turned tomtom on the right.

This note is from Terese. Ashley is closing down our little depot in Kisangani where we have stored all of our tents, outboards, cooking pots, and remaining fuel. He’ll follow me today to Kinshasa.

This past week in Kisangani was very successful, but that is not what I am going to write about here. Next post.

Here I want to underline the urgency that Ashley and I both feel about this “forgotten landscape” to the south of Kisangani.

Obenge, little village four days by motorized dugout south of Opala (about 300 river km), is THE hunting outpost for two big, bustling commercial centers : both Kisangani, much farther to the north, and Kindu to the southeast. Although they seem on the map to be a mere 200 to 300 km away, this is by winding river and forever meandering footpath.

Neither Ashley nor I is opposed to locally controlled hunting of small antelope, even primates, but that is not what is being staged from Obenge. Hunting with weapons of war and hunting that targets rare species such as the rapidly disappearing forest elephant and the endemic bonobo, our closest animal relative, is something else. Bonobo live ONLY in the forests south and west of the Congo/Lualaba River, they are social, curious, communicative and vulnerable.

Ashley did not send me the two pictures below of a freshly killed pregnant bonobo. He found them too depressing, but I did appreciate seeing them. It helps me understand what we are up against. And for that reason, I am posting them.

August 07 Obenge
Female bonobo, just killed and brought into Obenge by the dugout in the background.

bonobo female August 07 Obenge
She was pregnant, they later removed a nearly grown fetus.

I want to emphasize that there is no sadism in the hunting of these animals. Greed of the few that really profit – yes. But these few are not the ones who handle the guns and “own” the forest. What is needed: community outreach, information and alternative sources of income.

We will keep you posted.

Three Hundred Bonobo Nests Where Forest and Savanna Intermix

A Bongo taking one last look before fleeing rapidly
A bongo in the fore ground and forest in the background

Twelve days walking through forest and savanna and more forest and more savanna. It is a circuit I will never forget. I have always read that forest/savanna borders are particularly rich with species because you get both forest and savanna animals coming together.
Team 2 arrives at savannah
First time on the savanna for many of the porters

This circuit certainly was my best ever for observing animals. In the savannah we saw buffalo, bongo, a jackal, and quite possible a black fronted duiker. Lots of buffalo.

In the forest we saw a dead fully grown male sitatunga (pictured here). It had only recently died. No gun shot wounds so we think it was a snake bite. Blood coming out of its mouth and ears was the only clue. A beautiful huge magnificent beast.

A dead Sitatunga in the Lomami-Lualaba forest

A few monkeys were seen but not many. A few snakes also that caused the usual panic by everybody. But the best by far was Bonobo nests. Over 300!! Four locations were exceptional. One had about 100 in just a few kilometres and another had about 80 over four kms. Never seen places like this before. Salonga national park has no corner of forest this rich with bonobo.
A beautiful old bonobo nest
One of many bonobo nests that we found. This one was old.

Sadly no sign of elephants or okapi. Hunted out?

The downside, this was physically very demanding. Marching 5 hours in burning sunshine across savanna is a killer and then to arrive at the other end into forest and find no water is demoralizing. It is the dry season and most of the rivers have dried up. We ended up drinking red stagnant water from the few pools we found for 4 days and one day of no water! Luckily no one got sick from this. Not sure how. Back in UK, I’m definitely going to visit the doctor! A much needed drink for team 2
A much needed and much appreciated drink on the savanna.

Pigeen pouring out some water from a liane
Getting “water” from a liana for a much needed drink in the forest.

We are all back at the base camp along the Lomami now and it is sort of like a Red Cross camp. A lot of walking wounded, me included. One of my feet is a little swollen with a patch of bites from I think some insect that had a field day when I fell asleep one night in my forest chair (see below).
A forest chair, all the mod cons
Right after this great supper I fell asleep and some creature made his supper of my foot

One of the porters got a cut on his leg, from a liana, just above his foot. His foot has swollen up like a balloon. He has started on an anti-biotic and we are hoping to see a change soon. He probably cannot carry on but his village is 300km away. What do you do?
Team 2 relaxing at the end of the circuit
Weary team at the end of the 12-day forest-savanna exploration circuit

Have just heard from a few locals of a location a few days march from here where there are Bonobo and Okapi. Going to have to go there and check it out. It will also mean that we can check out a bit further south of the rapids where the locals say there are hippos and crocs.

Better put those shoes back on, swollen feet or not…

In the Dugout, South on the Lomami to the Rapids.

Fisherman on priogue on the Lomami River
Fisherman appearing in the Lomami’s morning mist

Here are a few notes from five days of pushing up-river in our massive motorized dugout.

11 July
Second day out of Obenge, on the “pirogue” and heading south. I am sitting on the prow swatting flies. These “mouches” are nasty; as I hit one, another stabs. Saw a fisherman today. That was unexpected. The fisherman had hiked across from the Lualaba River (at least 60 km). He said that there were too many fishermen on the Lualaba. It must be fished out.
Thousands of millions of tiny insects were swarming over the river this morning and millions more dead in the water. Very odd. Couldn’t get a good photo, too misty.

The Lomami is changing a little. Sometimes narrower and occasionally it develops a strong current and we slow right down. Normally we are going 8km/hr, but then we slow to 3km/hr. Just tried to take a picture of all these dead insects in the water but no luck. You cannot see anything. They are white and really tiny.

12 July
A couple hunters we met along the river explained that there is a path across the forest to the Lualaba and it is clear enough for a bicycle. That means bushmeat from here is feeding the big markets on the other side. You can carry a lot more on a bicycle than on your back.

Just went past a patch of rapids. Not difficult to pass but the first we’ve seen so far. About 5 people have diarrhea at the moment, which is making the boat trip interesting! The fisherman we brought along from Opala shat his pants. Poor guy! Not sure what has caused it but think it is probably bad water. When we are in the forest there are streams or even springs – it is much healthier.

13 July
There’s a little village, we can just see it up river. This is the first for a couple of days. The few people we have seen (mainly hunters) are just here briefly and live at least a day’s walk to the east.
Developing a good team now. We got the camp ready in 30 minutes last night. That is from bush to tents up and fire going. Not bad!

Every night we play a CD of all the monkey calls. Most of the guys knew a lot of calls but not all that we might hear. Apart from Chryso who has done animal inventories in the eastern parks, all the Congolese guys freak out when they hear the gorillas on the CD. Chryso and I tell them they are actually very gentle animals but they don’t believe us.

14 July
We are staying in a hunting camp. The hunters said that there are patches of savanna an hour or so walk from here. But, so far, the forest looks and sounds the same. They also said that a bit further downriver is a waterfall. They probably mean rapids.

Mainly they hunt with snares here but also some use caliber-12. They get the shotgun shells from Kindu.
Today we went past a couple tiny villages and a few old hunting camps.

15 July
The rapids are really beautiful. Katopa is the village we are staying at just downriver from the rapids. The settlement is real small, probably twenty houses at most but it is on the google earth map. Maybe once, it was bigger?

During the night we came to within a few kilometers of Katopa. They heard the outboard motor coming up river and fled into the forest. How odd! Anyway we came on in the morning and all is calm now. When we arrived and they realized we were “safe” the women broke into song. Apparently they were singing “papa has arrived the famine is over”. Expectations are a bit high, I’d say.

Some Obengi locals first pic
The villagers were eventually brave enough to try a photo

No school here or medical. The nearest village is 15km away, and it doesn’t have a school or dispensary either. Savanna is only 4 km from here. The chief explained that he has seen Bonobo right out in the grass. Like all the villages, they hunt bushmeat and hardly fish at all. And, like in Obenge, traders arrive with goods and depart with bushmeat. I’ve seen one transaction already today!

Lots of hunting dogs here and lots of children. I always forget, in these isolated places there are hardly any old people. People die young.

Have to add this: Just turned on the generator and all the children ran away. They looked really scared. They are still nervous about the lightbulb that came on. Katopa has been isolated for a long time!
What a pair of showoffs!
The Lomami River rapids are pretty impressive

Another look to the North, Diamonds Raze a Reserve.

diamond mining in RT_DinoRT
Diamond miners inside the Rubi-Tele Reserve

While Ashley was just starting to negotiate the Lomami River to the south of Kisangani, two exploration teams (simlar to Ashley’s teams) finished their two-week inventories in the Rubi Tele Reserve to the north of Kisangani.

We knew there were diamonds north of Kisangani and I was not surprised to find that up the road to Buta there were many small-time miners digging and wading in the forests and rivers searching for the brilliant stones, looking for a brilliant exit from poverty. BUT we have learned two new things:

  • North of Kisangani, in the Rubi Tele Reserve, Dino and his teams found that the wildlife has been plundered to feed the miners on the diamond frontier. More about that below.
  • South of Kisangani, Ashley has found that there are diamond miners. We don’t yet know how far they have gone into the forest or south of Opala. Ashley will find out and post that later.

After finishing the inventory of the Rubi Tele Reserve, Dino sent the following news from the one and only Cyber Café in Buta with its second hand antique Dells:

We will work up our data during the next week but already we can tell you that the animals in Rubi Tele Reserve are under threat, particularly on the west side of the road. The good news is that deep in the forest on the east side of the road we still found signs of forest elephant, okapi, forest hogs and chimpanzees. On some of our transects there were even 11-12 chimpanzee nest groups!

Unfortunately, other monkeys are very threatened everywhere and shotgun shells litter the forest floor. The hunting is heaviest around each of the camps at diamond mining operations. Bows and arrows, spears and various guns including AKs from the rebellion are used. Hunters even go out with lamps and shotguns at night to paralyze their game in the bright light, then shoot them.
pangolin from snare_dinoRT
Rubi-Tele pangolin caught and killed in snare trap

Now we are looking for gasoline so that the little hotel where we are staying in Buta will be able to run the generator and we can work on our computers to enter data. We will be in touch again very soon.

The next update from Dino’s teams will be in one to two weeks.
Bon courage, Dino, Kahindo, Crispin and Paka. Good work!
in carriere_DinoRT
Shotgun shells being sold in Rubi-Tele diamond mining camp

Terese

Opala, The Last Big Village Before The Forest

IMG_0404
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…

First impressions of the Lomami River

IMG_0399

The Lomami river is huge. We have gone over 250km along it already and it is still over 300m wide. We have another 600km to go!

It is a dark river full of detritus. I swim in it and cannot see more than couple of feet in front. No crocs yet! It also has a strong flow. You cannot tread water and stay in one place. You quickly float down the river. It is also remarkably warm for such a huge river.

There are many villages along its bank over the first 200km. They are mainly small villages with just a few mud huts but some are much larger containing hundreds of mud huts. Although they all look similar they do, in fact, all have slightly different characteristics. Some will have a church or seem to have some sort of organization.

It will take us three days traveling down the Lomami before we get to the final large village, Opala.

Some villages come across as friendly with everybody waving and smiling whilst other villages seem to glower; people stare at me and demand things (food etc). Not sure why the villages are different but it might have to do with the prosperity of the village.

With all the villages along the edge, at first the forest was quite degraded but now it has changed and I’m getting a real buzz out of what might be in those trees….

Terese Hart, my colleague (boss) in the city, wrote an earlier article on why we are here.

Kisangani At the Bend in the River


On the shores on the Congo River in Kinsangani. Photo taken by Judith Rose on Flickr.

Kisangani is DR Congo’s 5th city with less than a million people according to fr.wikipedia.

It is situated on the fleuve Congo (river Congo) and is surrounded by forest. It gets very hot and humid here, with incredible storms. I seem to be permanently covered in sweat. You do get used to it but it is also rather uncomfortable.

Personally I prefer it to Kinshasa though, which is huge, very busy, noisy and filthy. This city suffered heavily during the civil wars of 1996-2004. A lot of people were killed here and I’m sure the people could tell a few stories about this. Very sad.

It is classic Congolese from what I have seen. Everything is run down, falling to pieces but has a look that in colonial time it would have been quite spectacular. What a shame that transition couldn’t have gone smoother.

For a white person it is nice here because you can walk the streets without people giving you too much hassle and I even walk home at night and don’t feel bothered, unlike say some parts of London.

For me personally it is also nice being here. When I was a little boy I read a book about sailing up the Congo River from Kinshasa to Kisangani and the kind of adventure it was.

All the strange people on the boat, the animals on the boat and the huge forest all around. All the comings and goings of these boats.

Like for example, other small boats attach themselves to these big boats and over time more and more attach themselves. Finally the captain has had enough and he just drives into the side of the river and basically knocks them all off!

Not sure if that still happens — though nothing seems to have changed on this river in the last 20 years. The story then talks a little bit about Kisangani as well. So maybe in one of these weird subconscious ways that is why I have ended up here.

Or it could just be that I drew the short straw…

Ashley Vosper–

Photos: check out Flickr photo results for Kisangani. Google has yet to put high res images of Kisangani. Take a look anyway and realize that it’s in the middle of the jungle.

Books: V.S. Naipaul wrote a A Bend in the River (on Amazon, not in Congo!) which is set in early post independance in Kisangani. Very popular book among expats here. Kurtz was also near Kisangani in Conrad’s famous Heart of Darkness which inspired Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.

Videos: Here’s a short video on a typical “dancing on the pirogue” on YouTube. Only in Congo. Still on YouTube, someone made a clip of driving near Kisangani. It’s not downtown, but gives you an idea of the surroundings.

Readings: Of course, there’s always Wikipedia to tell us more on the city. MONUC, the peacekeeping mission, has a city description in detail in French only.

Why the Lomami River?

Google Earth image
Lomami River, DR Congo, from space

Why take a dug-out 650 kilometers through DR Congo’s forest emptiness? Those four tiny openings we see on the satellite image might not even be villages. All those endless river meanders between the town of Opala and the southern savanna with nothing to look at but the same equatorial snapshot : dark trees draped in lianas, why do it?

I could say Ashley, the leader, is pushing off for adventure. I could say the appeal is that huge blank (about 60,000 km2) on the map. All true enough, and I could leave it at that. But it is not the whole picture. Far from it.

The rest of the picture: forest conservation. And it is urgent.

The truth is governments only protect places they know about, because conservation costs money, lots of money.

In Africa, the big conservation organizations have their priorities. Those priority places were explored long ago, they are places with relatively easy access, easy research, easy infrastructure. There is information. How many large mammals are there? You can read about it in articles. How many birds, how many hills, and what you can see from the tops of those hills: it is known. Not so the Lomami.

In their priority areas, the big conservation organizations can justify saving special monkeys, and endemic salamanders and certain important mineral licks for elephants. Not so the Lomami. There is no information.

In this information age there are still information holes where, although the satellites beam down, nothing beams up – no correlated reference – no pictures, no recorded sounds, no list of animals or plants, no census even of human presence.

All that we know about the Lomami is that south, below Kisangani and below Opala, the satellite gives back a nearly unbroken roof of forest leaves. Beneath those leafy shingles are bonobo –a great ape that is not a chimpanzee but as much our cousin as any chimp.

There are also okapi, a giraffe the size of a horse that eats only forest leaves and lives a solitary, secretive existence. We know this because of the bushmeat that arrives far north in the outdoor food markets of Kisangani; that is not the same as knowing where the okapi and the bonobo occur on the ground, how many there are and what other monkeys, antelope, snakes, birds also occur in these forests.

So Ashley’s mission is a first step into the unknown. His initiative will orient a second step: forest teams counting and recording animal sign they will spread across the whole 60,000 km2 forest expanse on either side of the Lomami, west into the Tshuapa river basin and east up to the Lualaba River.

These two steps will give the understanding needed to build support for a national park.

WHY is it URGENT?

Because north of Kisangani the first roads are being re-opened and surfaced. Big money is moving down those roads. The long ten-year Congo wars are over, and the 30 years of Congo corruption are promising to give way to investment that will transform forests with logging, with mining and with trade.

We can fight to protect a park, but not 60,000 km2 of unknown, un-inhabited wilderness that reflects on the distant lens of a satellite as a carpet of leaves, with only a raveling of rivers breaking through.

Terese Hart