At the end of the 1960s, Ernie Tanner was interested in southern Cameroon’s vast rain forest area near the equator. Here, on the outskirts of civilization, it was suspected that some Pygmy villages existed: In reality however, many more isolated and unrecognized people actually lived there.
Ernie Tanner and his colleague Marcel planned a 7-day hike across the deep, still unexplored jungle from Yokudouma to Lomie. During his first trip to Africa, Ernie had visited a former fellow student in Congo-Brazzaville, from whom he heard about the small Pygmy people for the first time. Joe told him how years ago he had first come up the Oubangui river by boat, lived in a tent on its banks, and slowly initiated a relationship with the bushmen. Since then, he had won over a small crowd of pygmies who enjoyed having fellowship with him. Ernie could only marvel at this. He learned that the government had only recently recognized the Pygmies as human beings with the rights of citizens. Prior to that, these natives, who made their living hunting and fishing, had been regarded as animals. In the few days of his visit, he watched them carry out their competitions in canoeing and crossbow shooting. He looked on as they built «kitchens» and attended their open-air services. Ernie soon came to know and love these people, who only came up to his shoulder. This people group lived hidden in the jungle of the northern part of Congo and in the southern swamps of the Cameroonian jungle. It was this very area Ernie was focusing on now. It was an unknown spot on the map of Cameroon. Here, he wanted to look for Pygmies and bring them the “Good News” of the Gospel.
He and Marcel had prepared themselves carefully for this journey. They had bought all the necessities for surviving in the jungle. The train ride in Cameroon was in overcrowded wagons, the truck ride was over roads and bridges that didn’t deserve the name. They arrived in Yokudouma and finally got out to stretch their legs and look for a place to stay. The next day they had to find Africans willing to serve as carriers for the long march with whom Ernie made out a written contract. At the same time he learned of a bush trail already in existence which led to Lomie, the “Gorilla Trail”. Aggressive gorillas had given it this unforgettable name.