Day 1

Five years later and we are back at Rochambeau airport ready for a second expedition. Two helicopter trips take our team of six adventurers and two guides to Mont Chauve. From the sky we quickly spot that what used to be virgin forest a few years ago now looks like a Swiss cheese with illegal gold mines and great trails cut into it. But already our longed-for destination appears. After an easy landing we are relieved to see that the mountain at least is intact. The atmosphere does not disappoint with the stunning silence and oppressive heat. At the summit the new expedition members are having a hard time of it setting up camp as they don’t know all their knots. Then everyone goes off exploring a bit and after a splendid sunset we meet up for a good Swiss fondue (well, out of the 8 of us 7 are Swiss after all). With our bellies pleasantly full we spend a calm night, almost too hot even.

Day 2

Sunup is at six in the morning, and we rise with it. The immensity of the forest does not fail to impress us. Today, after a fairly steep descent from the top of the inselberg where we have been camping, we arrive at the edge of a little creek known as “Snaky Beach”. We spend the day appreciating the cool air and swimming in 10cm of water. On our way back up in the late afternoon we come across wasps, the first of many such experiences. Night falls. Our menu for the evening is wine, ti-punch, and pizza cooked directly on the rock.

Days 3 and 4

This is when the serious stuff starts. There are steep climbs, and steep descents, not to mention the counanas (thorny palms), as well as some muddy patches and creeks to cross. After altering course it is a moment of glory and the sought-after waterfall is there before our eyes. It is such a wonderful spot that we decide to spend our spare day there and head off exploring on our own, put our equipment in order, and doze mainly in our hammocks due to a violent storm in the afternoon.

Day 5

We set off once again, this time accompanied by a little water snake captured the day before. The forest environment is variable, with blown over trees, easy sections, mud, and the “vicious” counanas. We are drenched all afternoon, first by the storm and then by torrential rain. We can’t pick up any satellite signal and head in the wrong direction. After a few hours of “electric” atmosphere we find our good spirits once again thanks to the evening ti-punch, that we enjoy in a sort of lounge made up of palm leaves strewn on the ground

Day 6

The very long walk of the sixth day is suddenly interrupted. Ant alert! They attack in such numbers that some of us even have to strip off. A shower beneath the waterfall one of us has just spotted soothes everyone in body and spirit.

Day 7

The hilly terrain results in quite a bit of sliding, losing balance, and falling on occasions, which makes progress more complicated. Another waterfall in the distance. One of us goes of scouting ahead. Apart from a “warm” welcome he receives from a little pitviper and a wasp nest it’s fine! We rest there for the night.

Day 8

We can hear the outboard of a pirogue in the distance, a sign that we are nearing the Approuague though we will not reach it today. Our animal encounters continue with a doe, a paca, and two bats.

Day 9

We are awoken by a wren* singing. Our final day of walking is made up of slippery tree trunks and dense patches of vegetation that we have to cut our way through. Despite the ever-present wasps we appreciate the beauty of the forest, and then our senses are assailed by the Approuague. The dream rapidly collapses. The ground is strewn with waste and jerry cans. The smell of benzene floats in the air, and the yellowy brown colour of the river indicates gold mining is going on upstream.

Days 10 to 12

The trip back to Régina is by pirogue. A bus takes us all back to Cayenne after a two-day halt in Saut-Athanase. But we shall return!