The sting

With what strength will I leave this jungle if the road is bad? - I wonder sceptically the day I leave Libongo. I have eaten a lot in the last 4 days and good quality food. I have slept in a comfortable bed many hours every day and rested all my muscles, but still, I feel weak. I can no longer ignore the obvious loss of weight and energy that I experience, but being here there is not much I can do about it. I still have no alternative but to move forward.

So I jump on the bicycle once again, with a little bit of reluctance, almost as if letting the very weight of my body put pressure on the pedals by inertia rather than the exhausted muscles of my legs. Less than a kilometre out of time goes by until I find myself pedalling again in this tunnel of impenetrable vegetation. A part of me knows that I should get out of here, but the other recognizes that the intensity of the experience is so overwhelming that I would never leave.

It's a long 100 kilometres ride across the jungle what separates me from the next village on the detour to Yokadouma. Here, the traffic is not of vehicles or people, but of fauna. Dozens of monkeys, of many different species, dance through the air above me, flying between the tops of the trees. I love looking at the sky and seeing them suspended in the air like floating sculptures when they jump from one tree to another. They watch me from above when they see me pass by and they shout at each other. I suspect they comment on me, probably about how much I stink.

Meanwhile, down here on the firm ground, from the interior of the vegetation, I hear gorillas again. That beating of their chests makes my body shake and reminds me of that legendary day a month ago in the Congo. I'm looking forward to see them face to face once again but I'm not lucky this time, so I'm happy to listen to their sounds and smile, knowing that for the rest of my life I'll take this precious gift with me.

The hours go by. Until now the road is in good condition but the intense heat and humidity tighten. I reach my limit of fatigue much faster than usual and that forces me to go very slow and stop throughout most of the day. A huge cobra like the one on that hellish night that I spent trapped in the mud, slithers in front of me, but unlike that night, now I can see it in daylight and let it continue its way peacefully. What I cannot avoid are the thick strips of those diabolical legionary ants that I have been suffering since Gabon. They stretch all the way along and every time I cycle on them, they stick to the wheels and land on my legs, to which they cling to by biting me with those painful fangs they have.

It's been 6 hours since I left Libongo, no vehicles have passed me, nor I've seen any pygmies. Today, the animals share their forest only with me, and even though I should not ask permission to go to the bathroom or worry about someone showing up, I try to do it outside the margins of the road. When you get used to a particular environment, you stop paying the same attention you paid when that environment used to be an unknown world in which to move around with caution. That is why I move with confidence among the bushes, looking for a suitable place to do my thing as I usually do when suddenly, a piercing twinge penetrates me on the side of my right foot and makes me scream in pain until I can see the stars on this radiant tropical day. As I hold on to my foot with one hand and stand on the other leg, I see an immense scorpion sneak into the undergrowth. It's not his fault, it's my fault for meddling in his house.

I get back to the road limping as I feel my entire foot throb like a bomb about to explode. I lie down for a while on the ground until I wait for the pain to pass and try to stay still, something very important in any type of bite. Many terrible things are said about scorpions but there are only one or two species in the world that can kill an unhealthy adult human being and this is certainly not one of them. I have nothing serious to worry about other than when the pain will go away and how hard it'll be to pedal in the days that follow. The pain becomes very intense at times, it is like the sting of a wasp, but it has an anaesthetic effect at the same time.

I let an hour go by while the pain continues to subside before I get back on the bicycle. At this point, I do not feel my foot and it is completely swollen, but it only hurts when I step hard on the pedal. A few hours later, when the day is coming to an end, I find a solitary man who offers me a place to hang my mosquito net on the deck of his small cabin. I am only 7km away from the first village on the detour to Yokadouma where I will get back in touch with civilisation.

Lying in the absolute darkness, exhausted, lacking in energy, with the foot still anaesthetized and wounds in the legs that never heal, I listen to the sweet symphony of the jungle of every night. A strong tropical downpour breaks loose, the lightning light the trees, the wind makes the leaves rustle. Frogs, toads and millions of insects are now singing drunk by this overdose of water. 

Although I know I need to get out of here, I can already feel how much I'm going to miss these incredible nights of darkness and unparalleled melodies.