DRC...and gorillas

Trip Start May 31, 2006
Trip End Oct 14, 2006

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Flag of Congo - The Dem. Repub.  ,
Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Well you last left me just finished rafting...when we'd done 12 rapids in 10kms. The following morning we left our truck (which needed parts from Nairobi) at the campsite and got a private bus to take us from Jinja across Uganda to Kisoro. I should probably mention at this point that we left about 8am and travelled past a public lynching and burning (theives don't do well out here - luckily i only saw the crowd not the charred remains). We drove on for lunch at Mbarra - nice bakery and a decent toilet and got to Kabale for a petrol station stop at about 6pm...then the roads really started to deteriorate on our way up to Kisoro. Kisoro is a smallish town in Uganda very close to the borders of both DRC (democratic republic of Congo) and Rwanda. You can go to see mountain gorillas in either country and we were headed early the next day to DRC. The roads to Kisoro snake up the side of the hills...and are unpaved with regular lorries etc travelling on them so are fairly bad condition in places. The 70k took us about 3 hours...the first 35k we averaged about 35k/hour...then the pace slowed. It was nice to finally arrive at our hotel at about 9.30. We had a traditional african dinner rice and bean stew...actually really nice and then headed for bed...my first night in a bed for a while...and we had ensuite...two luxuries that i would only get a few hours to enjoy.

So the morning of the 28th was our day in DRC to see the mountain gorillas so we got up early and met at 6.30....left at 7am...got to the border...and they had to wake the Ugandan border guard (it's very secure you see!) So we took photos of the sign and stuff like that while we waited...then we all got our stuff for the day off the bus and walked through the gate and past a few houses, and in the other gate...we were now in DRC. Passports stamped and souvenirs (old zaire money) purchased, and we went to the office of the tour organisers to be split into two groups and get into the 4wd vehicle. I was in a group with Jamie, Kristy, Tracey, Sara and Greg. We then drove for about an hour along roads with houses (well some brick and mostly mud huts with banana leaf roof's with people waving at us, and some requests for money or pens shouted at us. As we got further out we needed to get past a farmer with his large herd of cows...that was entertaining as they didn't seem to want to let us pass...he looked exhausted when he'd finally managed...then realised there was the other one behind us...we cheered when he succeeded. Then it was through some fields until the 4WD could take us no further...and we started walking gradually upwards through Maize crops and lots of others with further shouts of Jambo. The view was fantastic as you could see for miles around, but there was a bit of a mist so the temperature was quite good. Finally at about 12 noon after nearly 2 hours of walking we met with some more guides who told us the gorillas were within 10metres of us, so we left our back packs with some guides in the fields and walked up to a border wall and crossed that into some undergrowth...and there was a huge silverback...they were just there...we couldn't believe how close they were to the fields. The silverback was just sitting back relaxing and he didn't seem too bothered that we had now joined him, lots of photos ensued while the guides (guards) cleared some forest and then we saw some more. Well over the next hour i saw two young gorilla's playing, one who particularly liked beating his chest, a mother with her baby on her back who then sat and let her baby play. I nearly got charged by one female and so the Silverback came running...apparently my face was a picture coz you just have to stay put...which isn't your reaction, but the guides managed to calm them so the photo taking could continue! It's very hard to describe the experience...to be within feet of these creatures is just unbelieveable...but then i seem to be saying that a bit. After just over an hour with them we left the forested area again and sat with the guides and ate some lunch before walking back through the fields for about 2 hours again to get back to our 4WD...at one point a girl i passed i said 'jambo' to and she just very quitely said 'Mazungo' (spelling incorrect but i can't remember...it means white person!)

Then it was the drive back and the walk back over to the Ugandan side to wait for our bus...by the time we got back to the hotel it was already gone 5.30 so we just had to grab our stuff to head back down the mountains to Lake Bunyonyi where we were staying the night. Sara and i were exhausted so decided to upgrade to a room (don't mind camping except putting your tent up and down is a pain in the rear end!) Then we had a meal and a bit of an argument as to timing the next morning ensued...then some of us stayed for a while chatting and laughing before bed.
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