The Impenetrable Forest

Trip Start Sep 07, 2004
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Trip End Dec 20, 2005


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Flag of Uganda  ,
Tuesday, May 3, 2005

I'm not sure why but these journeys are never easy.  I
left on Saturday morning from Kampala to go to Bwindi
Impentrable National Park.  Everything was easy
sailing for about 3 hours when we went over a speed
bump and our car got a flat tire.  As we were trying
to fix it we broke 2 of the little screw things (I'm
not a mechanic so sorry I don't know the technical
term).  So once we did get the tire on (after an hour)
we had to go to the shop to get it fixed properly.
What the driver predicted would take 45 minutes took 3
hours.  Plus we found out that our tire had 3 nails in
it so it seems like someone deliberately tried to
cause the trouble so that we would hire them for help
(this is supposedly quite common).  Our tire trouble
caused serious delays and we were still 3 hours away
at night fall so my driver decided to take a
"shortcut".  I really hate that word because it never
really is.  The road was really bad so we couldn't go
faster than 40km/hr and a large section was completely
mud and a bus was stuck so we had to wait to get
around it.  We also missed several of our turn offs so
it took us more than 4 hours to get there, meaning
that we arrived 5 hours after the gates of the park
closed.  The driver had to bribe the guards to let us
in.  Thank goodness they did because I really needed
my bed by that point!

I stayed in a little banda (which is the typical local
house) and it was located right in the park.  It had a
great view of the park and looked right into the
Democratic Republic of Congo.  The next morning I was
up early to start our trek.  A maximum of 6 people per
day can see each group (there are 3 groups so a total
of 18 gorilla permits are available each day and thus
they are really expensive and hard to get).  We
received our instructions and then our guide started
to lead the way through the forest, along with our
armed guards; the army.  In 1999, 9 tourists were
kidnapped from the park by militia from the congo so
now we have to be escorted by the army to ensure our
safety

When they say that this isn't an easy hike, they
weren't kidding (they say there is a reason that they
call it "impenetrable").  It's up through the
mountains and literally you have to cut your way
through the rainforest.  It's wet so you slip very
easily and fall down the mountain (not fun, believe
me) and the safari/army ants really hurt when they
bite (and they get everywhere!).  Luckily, we found a
mother gorilla and her baby quite quickly so we
followed them to the larger group of 18.  It was
spectacular!  I couldn't believe the size of them;
especially the male silverback.  We watched them eat,
play and run.  We even had the rare chance of seeing a
"wild" gorilla.  This is a term the park staff uses
for gorillas that have not been habituated to people.
This silverback was trying to take over the group so
we had to chase first the group away and them him in
the opposite direction.  It was a little scary as you
realize how powerful they are!  I will never forget
that experience!

Since we found the gorillas so quickly, we had plenty
of time to take another tour of the park through the
rainforest.  It is so beautiful! We saw 3 waterfalls
and I can't even tell you the number of butterflies I
saw...it was like you were walking through a sea of
them!

We stayed the night at the park again and left early
in the morning for Kampala.  We decided to take
another route (and stay away from any shortcuts!)
Unfortunately, there was rain and the road had been
washed away in 3 areas so we literally had to cross a
river.  I don't even know how we made it across!!
Luckily we did!  I'm now back in Kampala and ready to
take my bus back to Nairobi for my conference.

Definitely an adventure you'd imagine in Africa!
Love Ames
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