Gorillas....So Close You Could Touch Them

Trip Start Nov 03, 2011
Trip End Dec 10, 2011

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What I did

Flag of Uganda  ,
Monday, November 7, 2011

Juliet set the clock for 5:15 or was it 5:30?  I can't remember now, I woke up and saw it was light and got anxious.  I wasn't really ready for our 6:30  gorilla safari departurre.  We went in separate jeeps to the Volcano National Park with our park guide Mr. Francis.  It was an absolutely gorgeous countryside.  Volcanoes in the background, fields, wattle and daub houses.  As we got farther out, there were lots of fields of people working in them and lots of beautiful little kids.  We rode on an exceptionally bumpy road for 1/2 hr before we got to the parking lot.  No, first we got to the lodge or something where they had Rwandan tea and coffee. It was a nice touch...with the morning mist still on the volcanoes and the dancer group performing in front of the volcanoes.  At this point we split into 3 groups...Juliet switched with me so I could be in Fiona's group, but Fiona ended up being speedier than I.

I got to rent a carved stick at the starting point.  We trekked up the mountain through lots of potato fields, goats & sheep and smiling, waving little kids.  Juliet's guide was much more informative about the local agriculture and pointed out the types of potatoes and some other plant with its specific uses.  We met the trackers after awhile.  Mr. Francis had been communicating with them to find the Ugenda gorilla group.  At first Francis pointed to some bamboo and other vegetation and said the gorillas were in there and the trackers coaxed them out.  I was checking to see if Fiona's camera was flashing when I saw a gorilla pass by behind her in the path ... not more than 10 feet away.  I was open-mouthed in surprise and exhilaration!

We got to spend an hour watching them...the silverback, the second male, some moms and babies.  It was socializing time so they were wrestling, eating eucalyptus leaves, playing.  (I have eucalyptus written now, but now I am not sure what they were eating.)  We moved back and forth across the path to get out of their way and saw them run in front of us several times.  I was holding my breath and snapping photos...only problem  is that my telephoto lens autofocus doesn't work any more.  The lack of autofocus on the camera is complicated by my own lack of focus, recently discovered after my cataract surgery.  What ever did we do in the days of old?  Now back at Fatima's I showered and am trying to organize...lost cause.

We waited for the other group and then drove off a few hours to the Ugandan border.  No problems...hakuna matata.  Juliet tried to change money with a man in front of the exchange booth and we were told to go inside.  We bought a big water and continued on to the campsite.  It was a pretty wet one because they were mopping the path.  Juliet started the tent and Nick helped.  The bathrooms were definitely funky  .. I didn't look at the showers.  We went to bed early again with an early start in the am.

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