Gorillas in the Mist

Trip Start Apr 04, 2006
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37
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Trip End Oct 23, 2006


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Flag of Rwanda  ,
Tuesday, May 23, 2006

This is it ... the long awaited day to see gorillas. We left the hotel @ 6:15 to be sure not to be late for the 7:00 rendezvous at Le Parc Nationale des Volcans. There are 4 groups of gorillas to visit; 8 persons/group + guide & trackers. Georgina & I were lucky to be assigned to the Susa group of 38 gorillas that live on Volcan Karisimbi which is 4507m high.

Greater forces walked with us today including the spirit of Dian Fossey. You know this was the mountain in this country that she dedicated her life to understanding these animals.
- The mountains looked smoky in the mist
- Our trekking companions were fantastic. In addition to Georgina & me, there were Thomas & Flavio from Swizerland, Mario from Italy, Dave from Ottawa, Canada, and Nicole & Charlie from Australia.
- Our trek, though brutal to my unfit legs, was dry & interesting through a bamboo forest. Do you know how cool it is to hear the wind rustling through the tops of the bamboo; to see all the trees swaying simultaneously, which is then followed by the echoing clack-clack sound as they hit each other? Ok, so I claimed to be in pain with the steepness, but maybe I was just enjoying the ambiance :-)
- And, the best part ... bless their hearts, the gorillas shortened our trek by coming further down the mountain. We trekked for less than 2 hrs (instead of 6).

From here onward, the words will not do justice to the experience, but maybe the photos will ...

Where the bamboo forest ends & the regular forest starts ... stumbling through brush of stinging nettles' plants (thank goodness for my gloves) ... we dropped our packs with the trackers (who were marking the spot ahead) ... and entered a clearing. A young male gorilla peeked through the brush on my left & suddenly there were 2 more on my right. Young is just in age, not small in size. I could not hold back the 1st gasp, but held the rest.

The guide held my hand & led me into the clearing ... 25m to my left is the dominant male silverback walking on all-fours ... directly above my left shoulder (about 2m up) is a baby gorilla swinging down a bamboo tree. Before we knew it, there were 20 gorillas all around us. There was nothing between them & us. It was as though we were invisible as they moved around to eat the fauna and laid down to sleep while the babies played. The Queen Mother suckled & cuddled her baby ... there were twin babies who celebrated their birthday 3 days prior - I stood as close as 3' from them and sat 5' across from their mother. I definitely took fewer photos than my companions. I just sat on the forest floor & looked at them all. For me, it was the longest hour of the day (my companions would disagree). I honestly believe (& we'll soon see if I'm right) that even my East Africa safaris across Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia & Botswana will not bring me so intimately into the animals' environment. I will never forget this experience!

We pretty much floated through the rest of the day ... overwhelmed ... it was worth every cent of the $380 USD for the permits.
A few reference notes:

- "Susa" is the largest group; the next largest is 12 or 13 & the smallest is 4
- Permits are going up to $500 USD per person as of Jul 1, 2006
- All permits are currently sold out from now until Oct 2006
- During the dry season, the gorillas move higher (on the mountain) so trekking will be longer
- The groups are on different mountains
- Children under 15 or 17 are not allowed to trek
- Gorilla trekking can be done in Uganda, Rwanda, & the Congo; in the region where there borders meet.

If you ever have the inclination, don't pass up the opportunity to do this. Train your legs hard (break the stairmaster) as the slopes are really steep.
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Comments

eleow
eleow on

Speechless.....
Lara, indeed this is the most amazing set of pictures this far...so close to those gorillas. With permission I would like to print some of the pictures you posted especially the ones with the animals and nature. As I told you before, when reading your notes, I am travelling with you. You need to write a book after your tour. Thank God for you and your friends safety, our prayers are with you all. Deb, myself and Eliana are in San Antiono, Texas for a few days....business and pleasure. Keep in touch.

Bountiful Joy and best regards, Elmo.

artveer
artveer on

A BIG WoW
The chip did not fall far from the tree, in this case the bamboo. Kudos for the photographer in you - the superb shots and excellent choice of equipment. The storyline and photos tell the whole story. Waiting for more breathlessly...

msting
msting on

Re: Speechless.....
Hi Elmo,

You are welcome to print photos as you like, just mention my name if anyone asks :-)

I may pass on the opportunity to write a book. You have no idea how many such types of books are in existance. It's mind boggling.

Take care in San Antonio and beyond ... Lara

carbnqun
carbnqun on

Fabulous
You must think of writing the travel guide to lesser known places, you'll do it justice. You make me so proud, descriptions and photos all great.
Much love,
Dawn

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