Three days spent outside of Bunia was going to be great. Nyankunde is only 14 miles by air but everything changes. It is a village and not a town. Dirt roads actually belong there. It has always amazed me that we need to 4X4 here in the provincial capital of Bunia during rainy season because the roads are so bad. You kind of think your taxes would do something in the way of services. But a bush life is really great. John Woodberry and I are still scoping out the security situation to see if it is a good time to move some people back to our base there.
Because we have 2 hangars and a bunch of houses in Nyankunde it could be so useful for us to have at least a limited use of those facilities for maintenance, if nothing else. So we drove all over the area, talked to people from different groups and tried to see the difference between all the rumors and the reality.
With the headquarters of one of the many militia groups right over the hill around 15 miles away, there have been incidences of violence in the past. But for the last year it has been pretty peaceful. With our local MAF worker Kazi and the chief of the village area, Gaston, we took the Land Cruiser up one dirt road out of the village until we were very close to the “front lines” of rebel area. The road got so bad we could go no further so after talking to people from this village we came back and switched to motorcycles to see if we could get further afield. The Nyankunde hospital had 3 Yamaha 125cc bikes that they use to visit clinics. Dr. Mike kindly allowed us to borrow them and for the next couple of days we went all over the mountains scouting the area and talking to people. How exhilarating.
We were hill climbing up very steep mountains over rutted areas with stones as large as basketballs and over cut thatching grass that is amazingly slippery, right at the limit of what the bikes could do. Or maybe it was the drivers limitations, but in any case, we got a real workout and I fell at least 3 times in that climb. We crossed broken down bridges and thru areas of mud or dust. All the while, kids cheered and waved at us as if we were the stars in a parade. Not a lot of “mzungus”, white people, had been that way for years. We talked with soldiers, a veterinarian, people in markets, chiefs, kids, doctors. It was a wonderful time.
On the drive home we stopped and walked a few kilometers back in to a beautiful series of waterfalls I had seen from the air on a recent flight. Jean Luc “dared” me to go under the water, so of course I did. Very invigorating and a nice end to the trip.