You don’t know the meaning of the word excitement unless you’ve ridden on the back of a dirt bike for six hours through a rough forest path in a remote area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo—and you can’t know terror until you’ve done the last hour and a half in the dark. But the reward for this sliding, bouncing, spine-crushing experience was the opportunity to witness a community-wide outburst of pure joy. In this case, the reason for the exultation was the grand opening of the AWF sponsored school in the isolated village of Ilima.
It’s hard to overstate the ecological value of the Congo Basin. The second-largest tropical rainforest in the world after the Amazon, the Basin is sometimes referred to as the world’s second lung for its ability to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. It’s also a treasure trove of endemic species.
There’s more than one way to make a sandwich, especially if you like the crusts cut off and the finale triangle-shaped—ask any 5- to 7-year-old! Similarly, there’s more than one way to enter AWF’s Congo landscape in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), particularly if you’re up for a real expedition-style adventure with rudimentary living conditions, long distances to cover each day, and modest means of transportation.
After a three-hour ride on the back of a 125cc motorcycle from Djolu, a small town in AWF’s Congo landscape in northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we came across a boisterous group of boys rushing up a trail through the dense woods carrying machetes and full of banter. They were without adult supervision, bare-chested, barefoot and barely bigger than the sharp, threatening instruments they carry.