And now for the final part of my lovely Mozambique adventure.
Pretty much the entire last week we were in a site known as Coutada 12. I’d heard a lot about this place and was intrigued to go. Michal and Tomasz had placed recorders there last year and so it felt like a bit of a recovery mission! Anyway… we packed up our tents and what not from Chitengo base and picked up the lovely Noreena, a lab technician working with insects! We packed the boot full of all our kit. I’ve never seen a more full boot! We made our way out of Chitengo and started the 9 hour trip to our home for the next 6 days. On the way we obviously picked up supplies, namely beer, bread and avocados! After a very long trip we reached Coutada 12. This place was a former hunting zone and is now a place where anti-poaching training occurs. There is a really basic and small camping place where we were able to pitch our tents. When we arrived lots of rangers were doing some sort of exercise and it all looked very official and almost army like! At this base there was no running water, no electricity, no toilet, no shower and no phone signal. A bit like I was back in Cameroon! A nice break from the real world though. In the evening me and Michal prepared tea. We went for our standard sardine and tomato mix with some sort of carbohydrate. There was a small hut for the kitchen area and a tiny coal stove we could use for cooking. The two women who worked at the camp were intrigued to watch our cooking style!!
The next day we all got up and had some breakfast. Unfortunately, on the journey to Coutada 12, the gasoline from the generator had leaked and a lot of our food now tasted and smelt of gasoline. My dreams of a bread bun with mashed avocado were dashed. I went for a few biscuits and a banana instead… After breakfast all 4 of us loaded into the car and headed to Miombo forest to collect three recorders that had been placed last year. We literally drove completely off of the beaten track. At points there was hugely tall elephant grass surrounding us with desperate tsetse flies trying to get to us! We were swerving around fallen trees and vines. It was so cool, but the little car was probably shattered. After the first three recorders were retrieved we went to a small local village to get more petrol for the car. Michal got us some of these small donut type things. I’ve had them in Cameroon before too. They are just a sweet, flourey, fried ball. But they are nice! We then had more driving after the petrol stop. We went to get the other three recorders that needed to be retrieved. We parked up and walked about 2km along a railway track. We saw a huge eagle right next to us at one point. Honestly, it was so so big, I thought it might have been a dragon! We deduced it was not a dragon, but a gorgeous Martial eagle. We’d leave the railway track to go to each recorder and then rejoin it to find the next one. In the rainforest it was dark and cooler, and there were vines everywhere. I won’t lie, I was a little nervous about snakes, and so I armed myself with the machete! We finished collecting all of the recorders and made our way to the car and then to camp. We saw some gorgeous southern ground-hornbills on the way. They are magnificent birds and so so huge! I’d really wanted to see them so I was very happy. It had been a really long day but a good day. Lots of adventuring!
The next day I headed out early with Michal to go and look for birds and do some recording. Right at the beginning of our walk we saw some lovely arrow-marked babblers which was great. They were duetting together which was nice to hear. I also got to see a beautiful Narina trogon. I have never seen a Trogon before and so I was very excited. It was a gorgeous male and he was just sat peacefully in a tree, munching on the occasional insect. I could have watched him for hours. Along with the birds I was taking in the beautiful surroundings too. There was a lot of dew on all of the tree and grasses, and one species of grass looked so magical covered in dew drops. There was also all sorts of different fungi species which was cool to see. After a nice morning, me and Michal made tea for everyone. He wanted to cook some cabbage and so I followed his lead. For some random reason I decided to check my left hip (as you do) and noticed I had a tick! I freaked out! I got Michal to get it out for me and then I panicked for a while wondering what bloody disease I might catch from it. To lighten the mood, a gecko decided to jump on my neck as we were eating. I made a slight fool of myself with my reaction but it took my mind off of things. I decided to name the gecko Kevin. He was a cutie! In the evening I started preparing bird ringing nets with Michal and Noreena. It was actually really nice to chat with Noreena, she is such a tough cookie. She said she gets malaria at least once a year! Made me feel slightly foolish about my tick dilemma! I think it made her laugh a little bit! We placed four nets and left them closed for the night.
So the next day we tried some bird ringing. Well, we eventually did after it stopped raining. It was extremely slow, be we did catch a handsome brown-crowned tchagra which was very exciting. In between checking the nets I did a little recording of surrounding birds. I also saw some beautiful little bee-eaters, a Burchells coucal and lots of lovely Retz’s helmetshrike. We made another sardine and tomato creation for tea. I was getting pretty sick of sardines!
Woke up and opened up the nets with Michal to try some bird ringing again. My hands were covered in bites from palm flies. So bloody itchy! It was Tomasz’s birthday so I gave him the little birthday card I’d made him. It was another slow bird ringing day I’m afraid. To celebrate Tomasz’s birthday we had a little bit of whiskey which was a nice treat. Me and Michal tried to prepare a nice meal for us all but it ended up tasting a bit weird. We just laughed about it. One good thing was that I’d gotten pretty damn good at making the fire now. I had watched the ladies making it and copied them. As an evening treat we all munched on some pineapple as a sort of birthday cake… it was gorgeous and juicy and sweet. It attracted two lovely moths as well which was a bonus. I also discovered my gecko friend, Kevin, had a lady friend. I called her Carol.
The next day we packed up and headed back to Chitengo. Another 9 hour drive! I could finally have a shower when we got back. I was actually greeted by lots of baby praying mantises when I got to the shower block. They were everywhere, but so cute!
The last day in Gorongosa was spent placing 6 recorders in the jungle. We took a guard with us and headed out. It’s always quite satisfying trekking through the thick vegetation, makes me feel tough! One of my many observations was that some lovely, delicate looking mushrooms like to grow out of elephant poo!! The last evening in the park was a chilled one.
On the 18th we left the park and headed to Beira for a night before the long journey back to Poland. It was a lovely trip and I enjoyed seeing all of the amazing bird species, some of which I’d never seen before. It was also really nice to watch the cheeky vervet monkeys and the baboons. Africa always makes me love adventures, such a magical continent.