There are in our collective imagination a few images that capture the essence of specific places.
Kilicha River is an example, exactly matching the idea of what we imagine a forest to look like. We arrive in the late afternoon, after a vertical descent of 600m. The paths here have no half measures: need to go downwards? Then you do, in a straight line, without a bend in the path. Trekking here has a different meaning. We are in the heart of the forest, lost in one of the deep folds that divide the thousands of peeks of the Kabobo Massif. Again we have been swallowed by the vegetation, yet again deprived of any spatial references.
“This is an ancient forest. To all appearances a primary forest, a place never even touched by humans, a rare sight on our planet”, says Michele as we proceed, “such large trees at this high altitude reveal an undisturbed secular history”. Trunks 30 or 40 metres high, with creases and spurs in which two people could easily hide, accompany our descent and like immense columns they appear to be supporting the whole weight of this irreverent vegetation. Life crawls into every space, layer upon layer. Moss and lichens lie like veils from the branches of thickets of epiphytes, too high up to be identified, that allow us to glimpse their elegant silhouette. Our camp at the shores of the Kilicha is a privileged spot to observe the chaotic and harmonious flowing of life.
Seductive, silent and as beautiful as a jewel, a Atheris nitschei lies in wait on a branch in the river, awaiting frogs, small birds or micro-mammals to come close, made bold by its perfect immobility. High up in the foliage, the calls of the colorful forest pigeons lighten up the damp atmosphere, undisturbed by the loud, repetitive and powerful calls of the Ruwenzori turaco.
The coming and going of sunbirds bring life to the branches where a group of Cercopitecus ascanius jump in search of leaves and fruit. I lose myself in the sight of this chaotic and hectic existence. It brings to my mind the words of John Muir, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness”. How immensely breathtaking is the complexity of our world.