Wednesday, September 1, 2010

27 - Monkey Business

Local chemist shop
Today we are visiting our closest cousins. Old Passepartout from the hotel has arranged a taxi for me for the incredibly low price of $20 for the 50 kilometres to Jane Goodall`s chimpanzee sanctuary at Tchimpounga. Here orphaned chimps and those rescued from villagers and poachers are nursed back to health for eventual release into the wild. We set off down sand-dune streets to avoid the morning traffic jams, then hit the main route north, passing a large green and white roadside cupboard inscribed `M K Theo Pharma Inch Allah,` the neighbourhood chemists. Inch Allah (God willing) indeed!

On a hill overlooking the sea a huge mansion sits proud - the prefecture; this is sure a great country for those that have. We turn inland; Passepartout has truly fouled up, getting me to the wrong place at a nowhere lake. Enquiries at a neighbouring village reveal that what we want is the Bois des Singes (the monkey wood); now the driver wants $60 for the return trip - still pretty good considering the distance. We're stopped at several police check points, at one of which the driver has to pay a $3 bribe. The grinning cop reads my passport as though it's the bible. I`m beginning to wonder who comes first in the cousindom realm.
Pointe Noire's Cote Sauvage

At last we arrive at a barrier closing off the track. Verboten, says the guard. The guidebook says just turn up and they let you in to see those chimps that have not yet been released back into nature, quoths I. I`d even sent an e-mail to the Jane Goodall foundation a few weeks back and got no reply. I plead with him, try my `but His Excellency, your UN ambassador told me...` schpiel, all to no avail. The chimps have become too big, aggressive and dangerous, quoths he; they are no longer cute little playful children. They really are our clones. Images of that 250 pound chimp ripping that woman`s face off in Connecticut flash vividly on my mental YouTube. The guard may have a point.

I return to Pointe Noire un-chimped. Let`s see whether I have better luck with the bonobos near Kinshasa. At least they make love, not war, all the time - especially when under stress or pressure.

Going for a walk along Pointe Noire's Cote Sauvage beach front I’m waylaid by the World Cup at the equally beach front luxury Twiga hotel, where lunch costs no more than at my not-so-cheap el cheapo hotel. All the locals, of course, are cheering on any African side, but I must say Ivory Coast puts on a good show in holding Portugal to a draw, much to the locals` fortunately vuvuzela-less delight. And it's certainly an improvement on watching the England-US game back in Luanda on the Angolan satellite TV, where there were 44 players, two refs and two balls on the field.
Paintings for sale on Avenue du General de Gaulle
 Meanwhile there's plenty of brilliantly coloured paintings for sale both on the main Avenue du General de Gaulle drag and at an artists' village 'souvenir alley' a few hundred feet from the ocean. At the latter my camera and I get bawled out by an irate painter who screams that I'm a spy making images of his fine handiwork for others to copy.  

Atrists' village paintings

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