So with the delays Ian was already thinking we were well behind schedule – but there was much worse to come. The road to the west comes off at Monze very near to the hotel. One of those wide gravelly untarred roads that ploughs remorselessly through the countryside. Like other vehicles, ours threw up a cloud of dust and chippings as we flew down long straight stretches, cutting through farms and splitting up villages. Sporadically, we had to negotiate a single track concrete bridge, timing our speed right to avoid any traffic coming in the opposite direction.
After about half an hour, we had to look out for a rather obscure turning – barely signposted to Lochinvar- that was a narrow track passing through several more villages. The last of these was substantial, the local chief’s seat, and had several concrete buildings including a store as well as the more ubiquitous clay brick and mud houses. At the end of the village the road turned through a gate marking the border of Lochinvar Park, but there was no gatehouse or ranger at the entrance. Instead we drove down a straight track through a much more forested landscape. Here and there we dropped down to a ford where the swollen water was still flooding off the land, despite the wet seasons having drawn to a halt and the weather having turned hot and sunny for more than the past couple of weeks.
Eventually we caught a glimpse of the park centre. A rather glorious title for what was a bunch of run down chalets, ranger houses and some offices. We drove past the tourist accommodation where a small crowd of young travellers were staying; being Sunday they seemed to be taking the day easy and hanging their washing on a line that extended out to one of the larger ranger houses. This house was occupied by a member of the Fisheries Department – an extension officer who reaches out to the villagers in the swamps. A long meeting ensued with Ian finding out about this extension officer’s perceptions of the state of the fishery. The meeting again took longer than expected and we were due down by a lagoon to pick up our boat to the village. The convoy getting longer – the local fisheries guy and a park warden came in a third vehicle stationed at some nearby houses and offices, we headed from the national park compound north towards the river itself.