Street Cred x 9 in a Boat

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Hey Michelle! I’ve put together a group of ladies to take a trip up the Kouilou river to see the chimpanzee island. There’s one spot left. Do you want to join us?

And with an unsure nod of my head, I got pulled along for an adventure with 8 of the ladies of the Africa Mercy crew with shall we say greater “street cred” than myself.

Being skeptical by nature, I wondered just how adventurous this little excursion would actually turn out to be? You see, these ladies could be my aunts or older sisters. So of course, I was thinking of my mom and her sisters.

My mom is somewhat adventurous. I would say the same of my Aunt Linda too. But the rest? I’d have to classify them as being pretty pleased with their own neighborhoods, accept for the occasional vacation to the Jersey shore or to visit children and grandchildren in other states. I don’t come from a long line of pioneers, campers, or trekkers.

It’s the people of the second and third generations of the Sager family who have really branched out, spread their wings, flown the coop. I believe, thanks to us, the aunts and mother have really gotten to leave their neighborhoods to see a little more of the world and/or the USA. Again I say this with the exception of mainly my mom and Aunt Linda. Adventure seems to have skipped a generation.

That being said, we left the ship at 0830am. Nine ladies with backpacks filled with cameras, water, sunscreen, bug repellant, first aid kits, snacks, and lunches in a Landrover bound for Basa Kouilou to meet Boris, the boat rental guy.

The roads here in Congo are not perfect, but they aren’t too terrible either. There’s one toll booth on the way out of the city of Pointe Noire. The toll is $2. Funny, the road doesn’t change. There is no highway to speak of, just more of the same roadway as in the city.
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Basa Kouilou is only about an hour outside of the city. Deb drove the Landrover at Sunday drive speed. We arrived in the village around 0945. Then we waited. Joanne from Canada, who speaks pretty good French, called Boris to inquire his whereabouts. He said he was on his way. We were supposed to meet him at 1000am. I never did see who this Boris person was.
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While we waited, we watched as 10 men struggled to put our ride into the river. This beauty is a canoe dugout of some type of tree trunk, very heavy, very leaky.
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After some effort, our ride was successfully in the water on its way to receive its passengers.
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After waiting around for almost an hour, we finally set off for the 4 hour river excursion.
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We were greeted by an expansive river, lush green terrain, and storm clouds. Not to worry, it always looks like rain, but it never seems to rain. Ever. As we made our way up the river, we were greeted by people from tiny little hamlets along the river bed. We quickly stopped taking photos when we learned these more primitive folks believe photos steal their souls.

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After an hour in the boat, we stopped for a mysterious break. All we could find out is we had to wait for a third boat? But there were no boats to be seen on the river beside ours and the other boat holding another group of Mercy Shippers.

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Since we had an unexpected pit stop, we might as well have a small trek into the rainforest of Congo, right? I’m happy to report I didn’t forget the bush latrine skills I acquired in Uganda in 2011. Ahem.

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This beautiful ant hill was part of the bush latrine decor.

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After lunch, some of the older ladies disappeared into the rainforest. Turns out these girls are fearless! On a scale of 1-10 for adventure, I would rate myself at a 7. But these ladies? Easily a 9. They make me look like a total amateur. These aren’t ordinary women. They’re tough cookies, dames, broads. Any one of them could have played Katherine Hepburn’s role in The African Queen. These are definitely not old ladies. In the words of the incomparable Catherine Clark Murphy, these ladies have street cred and I’ve got a lot to learn from them.

After another 30 minutes of waiting for the elusive third boat, we were off again to find the “chimpanzee island”. We just had to sail up the river one more hour.

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Looking into “chimpanzee island”, one cannot help but think of Jurassic Park, all hype, no animals. Ha! But there is a sign, so it must be true, right?

Our next stop came when the elusive third boat finally showed up. That group wanted to negotiate if we could watch the park rangers feed the chimpanzees. But the timing was all wrong. So our pilots turned the boats south or west or southwest to return to Basa Kouilou.

As we made our way back to the village, I found myself thinking, is this really my life God?

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He’s blessed me with more than I could have ever dreamed of myself. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

His… Michelle
Philippians 1:20

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