Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Even forest people make an impact

The only vehicles that travel these routes into the forest are Toyota pick ups adapted by having their suspension jacked right up.  They are distinctive by this along with their battered body work and the number of passengers hanging onto the rear bar and open pick up.  The cab has a double row of seats designed for 3 behind and 2 in front, but they carry one more in each row and as many as 15 behind.  Since they only travel intermittently and only in the dry season, if a vehicle is known to be coming through people take the opportunity to travel.

We got seriously stuck a number of times in the sandy mud produced by the laterite tropical soils when it rains and all the men would jump down to push and rock the vehicle through the mud wearing only flip flops.  Sometimes fallen trees blocked our way in the forest sections and everyone got out their machetes and cut through considerable trees and branches in a matter of minutes.

The van seemed to rock along often at less than a walking pace and groaned and creaked under the strain of being pulled and tipped in different directions.  Just occasionally we found a few hundred meters of open road and sped along with the wind in our faces and the vegetation slapping at our sides and we had to keep avoiding branches that nearly hit us when they came in the windows, but the heat prevented us from shutting them.  This relief only lasted a few moments until we were stopped again by another rut or obstacle.

We always knew when we were approaching a settlement as the land at the road side was being farmed with areas of agroforestry cut into the forest itself. All too often cleared areas were still smoldering from being burned to clear the weeds
once cleared the remaining vegetation and undergrowth is burned which releases nutrients and reduces pests

but more often once the agricultural trees had established and the undergrowth regrown, the secondary forest looked lush.

Only on the steep hillsides in the distance could we see the layers of the primary forest clearly towering high.  Some remnant emergent trees are left in the farmland to act as a reminder of how much has been lost.  They stand tall and alone amongst the new cultivated vegetation that looks like undergrowth stretching below, but is so often made up of fully grown cocoa or oil palm trees.

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