Birding Without Borders

Day 185: Putting the Brakes On

Sometimes you just need a log truck to happen by, even in Africa.

July 4, 2015: Near Douala, Cameroon — Benji, Oliver, and I were birding along a dirt road in Campo Ma’an National Park this morning when, for no apparent reason, the rear brakes locked up on our Mitsubishi Pajero. (Gunnar Engblom, if you read this, yesthat really is the name of the car! Everyone else, all you need to know is that “pajero” means something else in Peru…) Oliver drove slowly forward and backward, trying to get the brakes to let go, but they screeched and smoked, and we were stuck.

What to do? We were miles from any people, and the only traffic on the road was an occasional log truck. I had been cursing the trucks all morning, which covered us with fine red dust and were removing some very large trees, but now became a little bit grateful for their presence.

At least we were in a good birding spot; Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills flew overhead and a Sooty Flycatcher perched nearby. After half an hour, another truck came along and its driver helped us remove one of the Mitsubishi’s rear wheels and pry loose the brake. That seemed to work, and we were on our way againthough Oliver understandably tried not to hit the brakes too hard for a while, and we bounced over some serious bumps before regaining pavement.

Today we retraced yesterday’s route from Campo Ma’an to the other side of Douala, again burning most of the day in the car with just a couple hours to look for birds in the morning.

These long transit days are tough, especially near the beginning of a trip when so many birds remain unlooked-for, but it was good to get the Red-headed Picathartesmaybe Cameroon’s top birdout of the way last night. On to the mountains tomorrow.

Meanwhile, happy Fourth to everyone at home!

New birds today: 7

Year list: 3369

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