Carl Akeley: Africa's Collector, Africa's Savior

Carl Akeley: Africa's Collector, Africa's Savior

Carl Akeley: Africa's Collector, Africa's Savior

Carl Akeley: Africa's Collector, Africa's Savior

Excerpt

I felt as if my heart had just blown a hole in my chest. A split second before, a blinding light had cut through my brain and I was nauseated by the pain. Sweat seeped into my eyes as self pity and exhaustion flooded over me. I felt weak and stupid.

I was climbing Mt.Mikeno in Zaire, on the last leg of a bizarre pilgrimage at an enormous personal expense to a grave that I knew was empty; and at that moment it seemed, even to me, like real folly. My eleven-year-old son, Kipling, was scrambling up the mountain ahead of me, looking back occasionally at the "hell of cockle he clamored through, " but always pausing to help me over an obscured root or fallen tree that crossed the buffalo trail we were following. Comfort and ease had long since ebbed, drained away along with the splendid romance of our journey. Now it was just hard work.

Laurence Bajeneza, our Rwandan guide, led us up higher and higher into the rarified air. I had to stop for another slug of water from my canteen and felt the throbbing vessels in my cheeks. I tried to catch my breath with some semblance of nonchalance as he explained exactly where we were—Kabarozi, "Poisoner's Ridge," a place where local murderers were dangled over the edge to extract their confessions. Poisoning was the popular method of murder in these parts. I slipped again in very black, very wet buffalo dung and felt like sobbing. Laurence asked if I was all right. "Oh yes," I lied. Night was falling . . .

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