The next morning we drag ourselves out of our bunks at 5.00 am for a walk into the forest with Frankie to see if we can find the elusive birds of paradise. We walk in the dark through the slumbering village, through the cemetery and into the bush. An up hill and down dale hike through the forest above the village tests my stamina.
For the most part the path is well defined and navigable, only occasionally a machete comes out to deal with a bit of overgrowth. In addition I have on long sleeves and trousers to ward off pesky malaria-infested mosquitoes, so my heat quotient is very high. The sweat drips off me, and the humidity off the vegetation, so in no time at all I am soaked. Our hike culminates in a ‘hide’: a spot among trees with a ramshackle plank seat for us to perch on. The trees will hide us from the BoP’s who are known to do their courting in the trees hereabouts. We all peer hopefully into the canopy, faces uplifted to the grey skies. Even if I spot one, the conditions are not favourable for photography. One of our party is convinced she can see a bird – and as I peer in the direction she is pointing, I can indeed see a lump of something that might be a bird. The thing that puzzles me is that it never moves, and eventually we all agree that it’s just a rather large seed pod.
So much time passes that we start taking photos of each other and the odd leaf or two,
before Frankie says that the birds are not coming, and the time is getting too late to expect them.
On the hike back down the hill, we do see several females BoP’s; but they are so A.D.D. that one second they’re there and then they are gone – they are so quick it’s impossible to train a lens on them, and the only one I photograph could be a blurry orange leaf for all I can tell.
But we do see the most amazing mushroom. On balance, I prefer mushrooms as subjects, because they don’t move….
By the time we’re down again, the village is awake, and the locals are up and going about their business. The people from yesterday recognise the idiot that was jumping in the water with their kids, and we are treated to big smiles and curiosity.
Frankie accompanies us on our journey onward – as we discover as we travel with him, he has a wicked sense of fun, and is tireless with his help for us.