Different river, different source
Last night we received coordinates to a spot on the map around 3 kms from base camp. According to Google Earth it is approximately where the Cuiva river starts and is more vibrantly colored than anything in the area. In fact nothing on the map looks like it, but we don’t know what is there. Today the 13 people who stepped out of the Land Cruisers and started into the bush were truly explorers.
Every step of our walk seemed as if it was set in a movie. 200 meters of grassy plain into the thick woods. The tree branches seemingly writhe, twisting in all directions. The ground was covered in thick bubbles of electric green moss that reflected brightly as your feet sank into them. On a steep decline to our coordinates we passed an undetonated cone shaped mortar fuse, a reminder of just how dangerous so much of Angola’s wilderness still is. Our GPS left us at the edge of a thick damp grassy circle surrounded by Miambo. So we walked along the edge hoping we would know what we were looking for when we found it. First we heard the running water, when we arrived we knew it. A carved out chunk of Miambo fell almost as steep as a cliff face. The trees and plants grew much thicker and brighter. There the water seeped up from the ground and flowed crystal clear over exposed roots. Our feet sunk into the seepage , a natural spring gurgled loudly from beneath the plain feeding into the 5 meter+ wide stretch of the ground covered in moving water. Vines hang from the trees, bright moss covers everything. We stood in awe.
Our researchers were able to enjoy more than just a change of location. This is the beginning of the Cuiva river that eventually feeds into the Kwanza river system. Namesake of Angolan currency, the Kwanza originates and flows over Angolan soil West to the Atlantic ocean. Meanwhile a mere 3 km away is the birthplace of the Cuito river which flows southeast through Namibia into the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
We stood in the water where the physical beginning of the river is, but as we followed it over ground it falls beneath the grass. To be clear, it doesn’t go underground. You may look out to a field of grass, but every step is at least ankle deep into the water. It flows through millions of roots of the grasses and trees which are constantly filtering it. We were able to find samples of the eel like catfish which was surprising to see in a different river system. Werner was also able to find many samples of the mystery tadpole we have been so excited about. He plans to raise a few of them in hopes of finding out if the frog is currently known to science. The dragonfly and butterfly selection was much different and generous amount of aquatic insects were collected.
Tonight we sat around the fire 18 strong, our biggest group so far. We were re-energized remembering why we chose this path.
“This just reminds us why we need to protect this place”- Goetz Neef