Captain’s Log – July 28 2018 – Garamba Celebrates 80 Years as National Park

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Garamba National Park celebrates 80 years as a National Park with the burning of some of the ivory they have collected from poachers. 

Last month, Cher and I thought we should take an opportunity to get on one of our flights up to Garamba National Park before friends left at the end of their job contract there, so we went up for a couple nights.  Our friend Erik, the warden, asked us to call as we were took off from Nyankunde, but I couldn’t get through till we were about 10 minutes from the park.  To our surprise, we were greeted by a company of fully kitted out Parks Game Scouts on parade to welcome our passengers.  We hadn’t realized it, but we were carrying the EU Ambassador to Congo, the head of USAID to Congo, the head of ICCN, Congo’s National Parks, and the plane full of other dignitaries.  We also did not realize it was the 80th anniversary of the park and there was a big celebration planned with the governor and even more VIPs to come.  So much for our quiet getaway in the bush!

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Our digs at Garamba, East Africa style. We are always falling with our bums in the butter.

But it was very cool. We got to celebrate with our friends. The park has been under harassment from the LRA and South Sudanese poachers, as well as “unknown people” shooting from helicopters, and local poachers. The last of the northern white rhino have disappeared in the time we have been living in Congo and the elephants have suffered greatly. Erik, (who has been shot in the process of protecting the park’s wildlife), was telling us that in the first weeks he was at the park they lost 25 elephants to poachers. In the first 6 months of this year they have lost none!  That is a remarkable change and shows the amount of work that has gone into protecting the elephants here. Part of the celebration was the graduation of 50 new game scouts from their rigorous training program. To be a parks ranger in Congo’s parks is to be a soldier, and these men have been trained by the best; everyone from ex-Mossad, British SAS, Green berets, and French and Belgian special forces. They are putting the poachers on notice that they will not tolerate poaching in their park.

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Fifty new Game Rangers trained and ready to protect the park., putting poachers on notice that this is not a place for them.

Another part of the ceremony was the burning of some ivory.  I have mixed feelings about the viability of this. I am glad it will not benefit the poaching of elephants at all, but I’m not really sure how the law of supply and demand is affected. There are millions of Chinese desiring to buy at this point, and that needs to somehow be the focus of effort on the market in my humble opinion.  Ivory sales in Zimbabwe paid for their elephant conservation program, and it wasn’t until they were stopped that elephant poaching went crazy and elephant population numbers dropped radically, with container loads of ivory going out as “diplomatic pouch” with the government’s full knowledge. Things are not as simple as some would like them to be.  The efforts of the team at Garamba are seriously commendable.

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A big show that Ivory is not going to end up in China if the Rangers have anything to say about it. The “law of supply and demand”, coupled with millions of people with centuries of tradition that Ivory brings status, fight with the burning of Ivory.  The solution will be in the total changing of mindsets.

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Young men and women of Congo ready to take a stand to protect wildlife.

I got to give the Garamba pilot his bi-annual Proficiency Flight Review, so after the celebrations we went out to the airstrip, took the door off the plane, and went out to fly and drop some supplies to the park’s remote outposts from the air. Game viewing from a plane is a wonderful way to see the park and it’s beautiful rolling grasslands.  Especially at 500 feet with the door off.

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Cher, my lovely wife, holds the door while we get ready to fly around the park on a multi mission flight to drop some supplies to out-stations, do a flight review, check for poachers, and game view. It was beautiful and we saw herds of buffalo, big pods of hippo, elephant, hartebeest, and warthogs.

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Alain gave us a great time with fantastic food, friendship and fun flights.

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Captain’s Log – 21 July 2018 – Runways, Refugees and Rehab

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Chad greets missionaries at Amadi after his first landing there. They had done a lot of work and cut grass after much rain. Still a few puddles and quite a few motorcycles, and the strip is in a different place than the coordinates said it was, but hey, “garbage in garbage out!’

I recently had a great opportunity to fly with one of our pilots to check him out at Amadi, an airstrip he was unfamiliar with. It is on a road and there is always the odd motorcycle on the “runway” that you have to watch out for. We got a chance to practice a few aborts as well, and had a wonderful time of “working with weather” all the way back. The concept of ALWAYS having an “out”, a place to go when you can’t go forward, will keep you alive. Having the GPS programmed with the 9 closest airships to your present position, and the heading and distance to each, is a wonderful advancement in technology from the early days of flying here.

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Happy to help unload food, some of these guys were carrying 3 X 25 kg sacks at a time on their heads. My neck was sore just watching. I made them stop and do just two.

So much has happened since we l wrote.  We are still working at the IDP camp (Internally Displaced  People camp), and through a fund that MAF set up we have been able to distribute thousands of pounds of rice, beans, soya, and other foods, soap, clothes, firewood, and other essentials to keep people alive, as well as hundreds of tarps for tent houses.

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Dave Jacobsson looks over all the supplies we brought this week.

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All these people in one little tarp tent. Can you see the ones inside? Very cozy! We gave them another tarp.

Overwhelmed is a good word. Everyone I have taken to the camp comes away with different feelings, but usually they involve a sense of being overwhelmed by what needs to be done.  Compassion. Hopelessness. Frustrating. Sad. “What can I possibly do with so much need?” These are some of the words I have heard, but they all express the overwhelming nature of the task. It has been a privilege to work with the Christian volunteers from Bunia who are distributing what is being donated to the people at the Hospital IDP’s camp.

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Deo, Dave and others unload our supplies for the IDP’s.

Bisoke is our national staff chaplain sho shows the “JESUS” film for us and has a great ministry. He has shown the film three times now in the Bunia area refugee camps and will again this Sunday. As people responded and he heard some of the stories of people there, many girls and some were telling of being raped. Bisoke has a real heart for this ministry and he and his wife, Furaha, have run a school in Bunia for orphans from the Congo war days.

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Rachel, a little girl hacked across the face and side of her head with a machete has scars that are healing now. Who knows what is going on in her mind. The man behind us was also hacked.        Who does these kinds of things?

He suggested that we start a sewing class with these women ad use it as a platform for ministry and healing of their traumatic experiences. My heart also goes out to these girls and women and I was more than happy to use $1000 of the refugee camp funds to start a class. This involves a teacher who knows sewing and can counsel as well, materials like needles and thread, scissors, and cloth. I budgeted for three sewing machines as well,  but they want to start with the basics as the ladies have no training any all. We already have 157 ladies who want to be involved. Not all have been raped, but many tell stories of not being able to survive without their husbands when they get in the camp, and feeling that they need to sell their bodies just to stay alive.  There are so many needs and we are only touching a portion of them.

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Some of the women who are really excited to come and learn a new skill for life that the come to practice even when no class is going on.

When I visited yesterday, although there was no class in session, there were 10 women there sewing on squares of cloth, practicing various stitching and embroidery techniques.  When I left the classroom, I noticed many women throughout the camp with their pieces of cloth, practicing what they had learned so far.

All of this is a way outside of MAF’s usual focus of ministry, but it is in our back yard and hard to ignore and we must do what we can to help.  I want to thank each of you who have given toward this.

Early this year Cher, my lovely wife, fell while gathering grass for her guinea pig. Injuring her right shoulder. It continued to get worse and worse until, at the end of June, we had to go to Nairobi, Kenya to get it operated on. There is a great specialist there who operated on her and repaired torn tendons and muscles, cleaned out the joint, and cut some bone away.  It was a big deal and has been very painful for a long time. She is just coming out of the worst of that now, but we would appreciate your continuing prayers for her recovery.  While in Kenya, I took the opportunity to get my FAA flight physical renewed.

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Cher’s new scar. Doesn’t look quite so much like a centipede now that I took out the stitches. Still painful, so you can pray for a full recovery.

 

Posted in IDP Camp Bunia, Medical, Pilot stuff, Pilot Technique | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Captain’s Log- 10 April 2018- Bush Pilots HQ interview.

Got interviewed for Bush Pilot HQ blog site, which is a very cool place to get info on getting started in the business and tips on everything from staying alive to how to write a CV for your first job .  If you want to visit the site it is:    http://bushpilothq.com/bush-pilot-interview-jon-cadd/
BUSH PILOT INTERVIEW – JON CADD

Quick Introduction

This Bush Pilot interview is about a man who has seen the most remote places in Africa. From Zimbabwe for 22 years to Congo for 10. Jon Cadd has seen it all. Jon Cadd is another example of a westerner falling in love with Africa and never leaving.

He has flown mainly for Mission Aviation Fellowship in Africa, the Pacific and the States. Here’s what you really want to know, the 5 questions we ask all our Bush Pilots.

Jon Cadd Bush Pilot StatsWhat would be your number one piece of advice for an aspiring bush pilot starting out in the industry?

Enjoy the process.  You never stop learning and it is all good.  Know your limitations and let them grow with great training.

Rookies teach rookies how to be rookies.

There are techniques that will keep you alive. I am continually grateful for superb training in MAF and own a long accident free career to that and the grace of God.  Slowing down gives you a chance to make the best decision.  80/20.  80 miles an hour and 20 of flaps for tight situations in terrain.

What was the route you took to becoming the bush pilot you are today?

I grew up in the Philippines and watched great bush pilots from Mission Aviation Fellowship at work and wanted to be like them.  All my focus was on that. MAF requirements are harsh and I am not the most technical person in the world, but if you are really committed to something, there is usually a way to make it happen.  I did a lot of flying jobs from Flying parachute jumpers to traffic watch over Portland and flew in Micronesia before finally getting to fly with MAF.

Jon Cadd QuoteWhat would you say is the hardest thing about being a bush pilot?

Lots of change.  If you like the same thing all the time get a different job.  Combined challenges of the flying environment of bad airstrips, unusual obstructions, terrain, weather variations and even politics and violence all conspire to distract you from your mission and a safe outcome. But that is also the great fun of it.  I have never been bored in this job.

How did you manage to get the job you’re currently at?

After a few years in Micronesia flying Evangel, Dorniers and Beech 18’s and a few more on the Rogue River in Oregon flying Super Cub and 206’s, I applied with MAF.  I when through their long evaluation and orientation process, (which has saved my bacon more times than I can say).  For the last  35 years I have been flying Africa. Based in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Uganda, Congo.   It has been a blast.

Jon Cadd with KidsWhat has been your number one memory about flying?

To compress a lifetime into a single memory is a difficult thing.  A Rush of strong images flash in at once so it is more of a tapestry memory.  Bullets hitting the side of the plane hitting one of my passengers, elephants stepping in front of the plane as I was taking off, flying into a wall of weather and riding the up and downdrafts of a typhoon for an hour before popping out in the center of it with the destination little island right in the middle of the storm. A pod full of goats or turkeys or a body.  Fuel gauge knocking on empty and no idea where some land is over the Pacific with no such thing as GPS.  The joy of bringing the food that is keeping refugee kids alive or a medic flight that saves someones life.  Sorry, can’t choose one.

 

 

Posted in Life in Africa, Pilot stuff, Pilot Technique, Pilot-Aircraft | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Captain’s Log-16 March 2018-Rejoicing Refugees

It has been an interesting week with the IDP camp, organizing supplies and seeing what is most important day by day.   MAF Disaster Response had given us funds to continue helping.  Although we can’t do everything that is needed, we can make a significant difference in the lives of many.

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A touch says we are all people together.  Welcoming these folks to Bunia.   Ashley took all the pix with me in them.

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Greeting people in the African way. Asking after their family, finding out where they have come from and if they are well helps to make people feel more at ease.

This week Ashley Petersen and my niece Megan went with me to the camp.  Ashley is a good photographer and was able to capture many of the needs of people there. We quickly found out what the local Christian volunteers who are cooking and distributing food lacked.  They were out of rice and were in desperate need of a larger cooking pot as the size of the one they had required cooking many times and pouring the contents into buckets for distribution, again and again.

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Megan and Deogratias check out the situation of people as we walk through the camp.

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Many women wanted to tell Ashley of their plight. Two of them still didn’t have tarps. Ashley was able to come back and give them both a new tarp by the end of the day.

Ashley interviewed ladies who were in need of many things, including a tarp to keep them out of the rain while they slept.  We visited with people as we walked through the camp, shaking hands and greeting, asking names and making them welcome after their long ordeal.  Many had walked for 4-5 days to get to the camp on little or no food.  We also visited the tent for the wounded.  It was harsh, hot and humid.  Not a healthy place at all.  People of all ages had machete wounds in various places; their backs, sides, arms, or heads.  One 8 or 9 year old girl had a deep wound on her neck, and a little 1 year old had machete wounds across her face and head.  Some said they had not eaten for 4 days.   I felt we had to get some things for them straight away.

We headed off to the market in town and got 30 bags of rice and a huge 300 liter pot for the cooking team.  Then we got plates and cups for the wounded, little local cooking stoves, pots, and some tarps so they could have their own tents.

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The women who cook the meals were celebrating over the huge pot we brought. It was fun.

As we unloaded the rice and pot at the supply tent a whoop went up and they started drumming on the pot and dancing.  I went in to join the celebration. People were holding bags of rice over their heads and dancing, while the cooking ladies drummed on the pot and people were shouting “MAF, MAF, MAF”. It was pretty cool.  We really did spread some joy and it was fun to see the first smiles out of wounded people when they received their gifts…in the name of Jesus.   What a privilege to be here for a time like this.

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It was good to watch the faces of the wounded change as we handed out plates, cups, cooking stoves and pots. Here I am giving a cup to the little girl who had been cut across the face weeks earlier.

Ashley took tarps to the ladies she had talked to and it made their day.

In spite of all the suffering, people found joy in small things.  We were encouraged, which might seem strange.  Leaving many people without basic needs, it would be easy to be frustrated.  But we did change some lives.

I came home very thankful for the many blessings I so easily take for granted.  A good hot meal, a warm shower, a warm dry bed.   It rained during the night and I couldn’t help thinking of all the people getting wet at the camp.  But then I remembered that there were at least 10 more families that were sleeping dry under tarps. It was good.

If you want to help, MAF has a fund you can give to: https://www.maf.org/donate?fid=Ee2WbLNojFo%3d&fdesc=uKeV1c8DiYtfwi%2bHQ870QpFpmHseKHRS0O252ZCh%2b1c%3d

Two days later, a provincial government minister and his retinue went to visit the camp.  The people were very frustrated and didn’t respond well to his speech. Stones were thrown, police weapons were shot into the air, children were trampled, and one was burned when tear gas was fired. Sadly, a policeman was killed when struck on the forehead by a rock.

Posted in IDP Camp Bunia, Mission | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Captain’s Log-March 11, 2018 – Violence In Our Province.

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Thousands come to the IDP camp by the hospital in Bunia. MAF brings food to help. Every day the camp grows. Last week it was 7000, By Friday it was 82,000 and more coming.

As I write it is raining and, after the dry season, it is so wonderful to see the whole area turning green again.  Then I remember the refugee camp in Bunia, only 14 miles away, and know that there thousands of people are sleeping under tarp tents and more in the rain with no cover.  This has been an interesting week.  The news of violence escalating in Djugu, tens of thousands of IDP’s (Internally Displaced People) coming into Bunia, and a rapidly growing refugee camp sparked us into immediate action.  On visiting the camp and seeing the need for myself, we requested Disaster Response funds from MAF Headquarters and were able to bring food in within a few days.

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First loads of rice for the camp. Lary Strietzel and I flew for supplies. Our MAF ground crew loaded and unloaded, purchased and trucked it, and generally made it all work.

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A load of cooking oil for the many meals to be prepared by hard working volunteers from the Bunia Christian community.

By that time the local Christian groups of volunteers who were trying to supply food were down to their last bag of rice, a few bags of beans, and only had 6  bags of Maize meal for porridge for young kids.  We were able to fly in 50 bags of rice, 760 kgs of beans, 40 x 20 liter containers of oil and 30 more bags of maize meal.  We also got 1200 plates and cups so people would have something to eat out of.

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Eight family members in this little tarp tent with all their worldly belongings. Asked when they plan to go back, they said,”to what? Our homes are burnt”.

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Supplies are short. Even though some of the big humanitarian groups have helped with water, sanitation, and shelter, as you can see there are not enough tarps to cover the frames and keep the rain and sun off. The rains have come and people are suffering.

Even though it is a drop in the bucket compared to the great need, the people were incredibly grateful and we felt like we were able to tide them over till more supplies could come.

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This man I talked to was putting his tent together for his family of 8. But there were no more tarps. There are many stories of the violence, and people had machete and bullet wounds to prove it.

It seems violence all up and down the eastern part of Congo is on the rise.  We appreciate your prayers for safety but, even more, we want to be able to help in the community.

Posted in Gunshot wounds, IDP Camp Bunia, Life in Africa | Tagged | 13 Comments

Captain’s Log-January 1 2018-Burnt Little Girl

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Happy is her name, but she was not very happy the day I prepared to spread the Aloe gel all over her burnt leg.  But it was cool and she seemed to feel comforted that something good might come of this.

One morning at our prayer time before we start work Muno told us that his young daughter had spilled boiling water all over her leg the night before as she was helping her mother cook supper.  This is one of the most common accidents around the home in an African village, as the women cook over an open fire and there are always children around and helping with chores.  I often walk up the mountain behind our house and Muno’s was on the way, so I stopped by.  I met Happy, his little girl of about 10 years old, and I could immediately see that she had 1st to 3rd degree burns up and down her leg.  The surgeons were all gone and no one could do anything for her at the hospital at this time, so they had given her some Panadol (paracetemol) for pain and sent her home.  The leg looked terrible!  There were two spots especially where the meat of her leg was showing through, looking like what we see hanging on a hook at the local open market, and I was really concerned that it would get infected and there would be complications.

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You can see how deep the burn is here, and other burns down the side and on the back were also bad. No bandage or medicine had been put on it and it was just raw flesh.  Anyone ID the type of Aloe Gel?

I know Aloe Vera is good for burns and we have some growing outside our kitchen door, so I went to get some.  When I returned to the house Cher said that we had a bottle of Aloe gel from the States that one of the visiting teams of volunteers had left for us.  She brought it out and I took it down to Muno’s house.  I spread the aloe liberally on the burns and told them to keep doing this each day till the gel was gone. Then we all gathered around and prayed for Happy’s healing.  We showed the pictures I took of her burns to Warren, the missionary surgeon here, and he said she would need a couple of skin graft operations.

But that’s not what transpired. Look how it turned out, without another visit to a doctor, in the before and after pictures. It is quite amazing.

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Almost a month later I was passing by and was amazed to see how great the healing process had gone. Way better than I would have thought possible.

I have been thinking about this for a while now and have wondered what category to put it into. Happy’s speedy healing was a truly miraculous thing.  But was it the prayers to a healing God, or the aloe, or what?

Here is what I have been thinking.  My man, Matt Chandler, often talks about the “common graces” of God that are available to everyone, whether you believe in God or not.  A beautiful sunset,  a great steak and Cabernet, doctors and medicines, love and sex, the healing properties of the human body.  They are all gifts from our creator God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights,..” James 1:7.    I put the aloe in that category.

But, my goodness, this was truly amazing!  The chance of infection in such a big, deep wound, open to the air and dirt, with no bandage, is so great! And, in our area, the norm would have been for things to go horribly wrong. Why was this case so startlingly different?

What if we had not prayed?  What if some generous friends from the States had not left us the aloe? What if I had not stopped to visit? Believe me, I am not trying to toot my own horn here. I pass up so many opportunities to make a difference, I could feel like a total failure, (if I had any feelings at all).

The thing is, little things do make all the difference. I keep thinking of the boy who had 5 rolls of bread and 2 fish and gave them to Jesus, who turned them into enough food to feed 5000 people and still have leftovers! Did Jesus really need the boy’s stuff? I don’t think so. Yet still Jesus asked for it. And the boy got to be a part of the miracle.

I really want to be more “in the game”, to do the little bit that falls to me whether it is to go visit, or pray, or give the gel, or whatever. I want to be all in.

Posted in Going Deeper, Medical, Mission | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Captain’s Log-Dec. 26, 2017- Okapi Reserve Aerial Survey

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The team of reserve staff and others who will be flying on the survey.  New guys and old.  Kisongo, (second from right) organizes the survey. 

We were recently asked to do the annual aerial survey of The Okapi Reserve and just got it in before the end of the year.  This was a real training time as we changed observer crews each flight to test the guys abilities to see things well and work without throwing up.  I was also checking out Chad Dimon on the subtleties of aerial survey flying.  It is later than we usually do the survey and smoke restricted long range visibility but it was great to get back over the forest low level, and both Chad and I were excited to be there.

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Looking out over the forest for smoke indicating poachers drying meat or illegal miners.  Sick-sack close at hand.  

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Along with all the new people we also used some new technology, ForeFlight, on our iPads. it is a brilliant app that I can highly recommend for an operation like this where finding hard to find things in the forest is made so much easier.

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Helping to fuel up for another circuit with a new crew. It was good to get the next generation of guys ready as they learn their jobs on the team.

We fly the reserve at about 500 feet looking for poachers, mining incursions, illegal cutting of trees, and settlements inside the park.  There are some outstandingly beautiful areas which very few people ever get to see, and it is a privilege to actually start to know the landmarks after the years of flying here.  The forest is so thick, with a triple layer of vegetation, that seeing animals is very rare. But every once in a while there is an opening in the forest, an edo, where animals will come and eat grass and just be in the open for a bit.  They are somethings still out when we fly over early in the day, or at least we can see the elephant “spoor”, or footprints, across the grass.  Sometimes there are also bits of grass along the rivers.  We saw few elephants but quite a bit of spoor, as well as some of the forest buffalo.  They are very reddish brown, unlike the black Cape buffalo I am used to from the savannah.

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Boeya Edo, at the junction of  beautiful  rivers and many cascading water falls, is a place we often see elephant or forest buffalo.  If you look closely you can see some buff in the river.  There were 6 before we startled them. I think they are used to being shot at.  

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The lovely Epulu river as the sun rises.  There is a little falls which make a continual restful white noise that never stops all the time we are at the station.

When I was not flying I tried to spend as much time as I could with my Mbuti pygmy friends.  Although I have about 50 poison arrows, I have given away all my Mbuti bows.  I was glad to be able to get a few more, as well as a spear.  I took a walk in the forest and was able to get some of the huge bean pods called “njamba”.  Most had been eaten by squirrels but I was able to get enough to make Christmas decorations for our friends from the seeds.

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Chad with Mangubo, who sold him his bow and arrows.  He also demonstrated how to shoot.  It is a joy for me to watch the skill of generations of knowledge distilled into the draw of a bow string.  Mangubo is 56.

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Chad Dimon finishes up his first aerial survey doing a great job.  He loved it so much I think I will struggle to hold my place as the survey pilot.  

 

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Joyful reunion for the Dimon family after a week of maintenance in Uganda and then more days in the forest.  The life of a mission bush pilot.

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