Up Von Stockem Berg

I woke up this morning to nothing but the sound of the forest dawn. Birds and insets, and of couse the sound of the distant howler monkeys. During the night the rain had fallen lightly on the tarpaulin roof of the camp, a reassuring patter, lulling me back to sleep in my hang-mat (Sarantonga for hammock). A hot cup of coffee and we were off to the top of Von Stockhom, but not before Raymond, our head guide had taken us to make an offering to the forest spirits of this place.

I had noticed yesterday, with disbelief and some naive amusement, that despite the fact that we were totally overloaded with our equipment Raymond had a couple of bottle of beer stashed into his pack. I assumed these were an obligatory nightcap that he simply couldn't do without. Needless to say I could not have been more wrong. These, along with some sweet rum, were the offerings that we made this morning to the spirits of Von Stockholm. Finding a suitable tree Raymond led Gordon and Pistol, his Kwinti underlings in a prayer. He placed the beer bottles on a leaf between two roots and poured the rum onto the leaf, asking for the spirits' blessings on our new camp, on the work of Stinasu and our safe return to Voltsberg this afternoon. And then we were off up the mountain.

The climb, like the one on Voltsberg, was short and hot. It was amazing to poke up through the canopy and suddenly to be able to see the forest like a vast green sea down below. Raymond told us that the first time he came here, a few weeks ago when he cut the trail, he was sitting on top of the rock and he saw a panther further on the other side off the mountain about a hundred yards away. He said that the panther smiled before slowly moving away. Sadly we were not treated to such a magnificent sight, but the view was more than enough. It was hard to leave the top of the mountain, with its cool breeze and majestic views, particularly since we all knew that the long and hard treck back to Voltsberg was all we had to look forward to.

The return was no joke. We were all a bit parched when we set off, as there had been no fresh water at the camp and all we had was what we could carry, which hadn't gone quite far enough. When we reached the first stream on the way back we all dropped everything and guzzled as fast as we could. I think that must be the reason I'm feeling so sick and bloated right now. A little voice was telling me not to drink so much, but I just couldn't resist! We stumbled on, tip-toeing past the bee's nest, and then we ran into a Turtle. The guides all shouted in Unison "Soup, Soup!!". As I sit here now after a plate piled high with rice and soggy peas I can't quite work out why we disuaded them. The Voltsberg camp, basic though it is, feels like a 4-star hotel. Goodnight!.................



An Offering to the Forest Spirits