Trekking Mountain Gorillas
Ruhengeri Travel Blog› entry 7 of 36 › view all entries
Ok, so we are now visiting ELEVEN countries, because we have just travelled through Uganda into Rwanda, as there are no more Gorillas in the Ugandan forest. This has meant constant travel (3 1/2 days) sitting on the back of the truck (its not a bus!) since Monday morning.
Such long travel tends to cause pain to two main areas of the body:
1) Backside (lots of sitting)
2) Arms (lots of waving at small children in passing villages)
We have been through a variety of "residential areas" from cities and towns to slums and shanty towns. It is an eye-opening experience to see how a major town here can consist of just a few clay / mud buildings with the odd shop here and there. The Africans have everything here - supermarkets, garages, car washes and pubs - but they tend to be made of natural materials (rather than bricks and mortar) and are very small and infrequent.
Due to the truck being "slower than normal", we didn't make our target destination the first night, so had to leave at 0600 on Tuesday morning. This in itself made us see how society operates in this vast continent - even at 0630, before the Sun has even risen, streams of small children are already walking miles to get to school, many of whom have no shoes. The early start (with school finishing at lunchtime) is so that the children can work in the afternoons.
So, three days later, and two border crossings, we arrived in Rwanda to see Mountain Gorillas. We were up at 0500 today (Friday) to make our 0600 transport to the rainforest and, after a briefing by Fidel (our guide), we were trekking by 0815. Apparently there are less than 800 Mountain Gorillas left on the planet, around half of which are in these forests.
We trekked for around 45 minutes (in the company of two armed soldiers and a local porter with a machete), to be greeted by a 10-foot-high 350kg Silverback Gorilla (the Alpha Male of the <insert collective noun for Gorillas here>).
We spend just over one hour with the Gorillas and were able to see a complete family group interacting and moving, from the Alpha Male to a 4-month baby. At one point, we were just 2 feet away from the Silverback, and boy, does he roar!!!
Whilst this was an amazing, never-to-be-forgotten experience, it was tainted with thoughts of how we were imposing on their land. The mothers turned their backs and shielded their young, whilst the males frequently grunted and beat their chests, possibly to show their discomfort at the regular (daily) exposure to, and intrusion by, tourists.
We are now back at our campsite, are waiting for the water to heat up for a well-earned shower, and are eating out in the local town this evening. Tomorrow, we set off back to Uganda and will stop over at Lake Bunyoni, before moving onto Kampala and Jinja, where we have the chance to White Water Raft on the River Nile, along with quad biking or horse riding through local villages.
So, until the next installment, farewell!!!