Stephen Quinn's blog

Lake Elementaita

Artists for Conservation

Dec 3rd Upon waking and arriving at the breakfast table on the veranda, in the morning sunlight, the reality of being on the African plains struck home. Standing on the veranda, a view of overwhelming beauty stretched on forever with gleaming Lake Elementiata in the distance. I felt like I was back in New York standing before the "Plains" diorama. A Pleistocene landscape lay spread out before me in which herds of big mammals grazed and wandered.


Artists for Conservation

Dec 2nd - After an early breakfast and some shopping for food and supplies for the week, we drove out of town and started our descent into East Africa's Great Rift Valley, vast valley plain and volcanic region created by the slow spreading of plates in the earth's crust over millions of years . This was the same route that Akeley would have taken in 1926, during his last trip to, what was then, British East Africa. He writes in his journal how disturbed he was with the dissapearance of game during his visit way back then.

Flame Trees of Thika

Dec 1st - - Flying from Kigali to Kenya impressed upon us the environmental change we had traveled through. Rwanda was higher in elevation and green with heavier rainfall. Kenya lower in elevation, drier and gold and ochre with savanna grass. We were met at the airport by Guy Combes, fellow Artists for Conservation member and native to Kenya. His cousin, also born in Kenya, Murray Combes was to be his teammate and, with Guy, our guides while in Kenya.

Farewell to DRC

Artists for Conservation

November 30 - Morning, once again, dawned clear and cold, so we broke camp and packed all our gear in preparation for meeting our porters who were hiking up from the nearest village to help me get my painting equipment off Mt. Mekeno. If it wasn't for these guys I would not have been able to pack my gear up to camp myself, as my altitude sickness became more pronounced when I was hiking with a heavy pack and I had three! Our porters were supermen who could carry great weight at these high elevations, often with bare feet.

Painting with the Turacos

Artists for Conservation

November 29 - The next morning dawned clear and FREEZING! Though I had lent my long johns to Julie and my polar fleece vest to Molly, they still were cold through the night and didn't sleep well. They were both sleeping singly in larger tents, while Jeff and I were in my smaller tent with down bags. Plus, in celebrating our finding the diorama site last night, we were all crammed into Julies tent while it rained and spilled an entire bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon on the floor of her tent. Her tent floor, sleeping mattress was a bit damp and muddy by the time we all retired.

Lost in Paradise

Artists for Conservation

November 28th - The dawn was clear and VERY cold. Molly and Julie slept little as they were so cold during the night, but Jeff and I used my little backpacking tent and had down sleeping bags that served us well. After breakfast (sardines, peanut butter, and crackers) we set out to find the site of the Mountain Gorilla diorama at AMNH. I had brought images of the sketch William R. Leigh had done of the scene while here with Akeley in 1926, and showed them to the two trackers who knew the forest and were going to help us find the site.

The Climb to Akeley's Grave

Artists for Conservation

November 27,2010 - After a night with little sleep, we headed out for Virunga National Park and our climb up Mount Mikeno. We met Jaques Iyanya, MGVP staff veterinarian, who assisted us in acquiring the food and water and other basic supplies (like toilet paper) for our one night of camping at Kabara (Akeley's old gorilla camp). We rendezvoued with the team who had facilitated our visit to the Park with ICCN, (the DRC National Park Service) Director Emmanuel de Merode. They were Senior Park Wardens Innocent,  and Park Wardens Sekibibi Bareke Desiree, and Sebahame NzaRubara.

DRC - Democratic Republic of Congo

Artists for Conservation

November 26, 2010 - We all were a bit apprehensive in crossing the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but the MGVP staff Dr. Jaques Iyanya, Molly Feltner and Julie Grist facilitated our crossing. Though the border immigration official demanded a crossing payment, our MGVP friends convinced them otherwise.


Artists for Conservation

11/25 -  Hello all... Well, I need to give you an update on the baby Mountain Gorilla in Uganda.  He's (it's a little male) still has the snare around its neck. Mike Cranfield came back from Uganda late last night and gave us the full story. If you recall, Mike had darted the baby's mother and when she went down, the baby's father became alarmed, charged and grabbed his son to carry him to safety. He then led his troupe as far away as he could. Mike and the park trackers were able to revive the mother and catch her up to the retreating silverback.

Golden Monkeys

Artists for Conservation

Golden Monkeys - Wednesday - 11/24 - Today was a phenomenal day! After an early rise we set out across vast open agricultural fields with morning sunlight raking the high peaks of all the Virunga volcanoes surrounding us. Sabinyo's jagged peaks were glorious in the morning sun. We hired a driver, Pascal, who picked us up in a nice Toyota Landcruiser and chauffeured us in search of an animal endemic to the Virunga massif.

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