We were constantly surprised, even charmed, by people's reactions to us. We witnessed
everything from terror to excitement.
While camped along a crocodile-infested stretch of the river, we heard a man trying
frantically to get our attention from the other side. He whistled, yelled, and waved his
arms. We were astonished when he stripped out of his clothes, got on a makeshift float made
from a piece of wood and inflated goatskin, and swam across the river to talk to us. We
expected him to be attacked by a croc at any moment.
The man was a health care worker from quite a distance away, and he had never seen
foreigners before. He wanted to know if we had medicine and to hear our stories. He stayed
up all night with us, listening and asking questions. The next morning after we walked with
him upriver for a distance, he stripped down again, got back into the river on his homemade
paddleboard, and kicked his way safely across the croc waters to the other bank.
|One afternoon we
pulled our rafts in to talk with an old man who had just come down to the river and waved for us to stop.
He was as curious about us as we were about him. He was amazed that we wanted to shake his hand. My
hands are rough, he said. I didn't think foreigners would want to shake hands like mine. My heart
sank. I wondered what he had heard about people like us. What experiences had he had in this
remote region that would make him even think something like that? That was a sad moment for me.
Ginny and I decided to sacrifice a goat at the rivers sacred source, Gishe Abay, but before
the Saturday event we headed out on horseback to visit a seer, Emma Abai, who lived in the
forest and was said to be cared for by monkeys. Shortly after we arrived she said, You
should get rid of the goat. Its going to cause you trouble.
We were stunned. How did she know about the goat? Then, before we could get over our
surprise, she rushed us out and told us to go. So we mounted our horses and headed back,
right into the onset of one of the worst rainstorms Ive ever experienced. We crossed a
river just before it flooded. Did she know about that too?
Ginny and I agreed to give the goat to a local church, and I would sacrifice a cow
instead. But when I went to make the offering, I was not allowed. Suddenly all the goodwill
I had felt at Gishe Abay was gone. Then I learned that the priest told the townspeople
we were there to steal the secret of the rivers source. Of course, I politely explained
our intentions. But I didnt want any trouble, so I left. Emma Abai was right. That goat