Misty, The Performing Gorilla

Trip Start May 30, 2005
Trip End Sep 30, 2006

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Flag of Rwanda  ,
Wednesday, August 2, 2006

We caught a mini bus to Ruhengeri. We were pretty comfortable in it with plenty of space, The mini bus left and drove down the road, stopping at the big bus station at the edge of town. This is when the bus really filled up. The three of us were squashed together while a, thankfully small, local was added to our row. Added to the fact that we had Nicola's rucksack beside us added up to it being a very crammed trip. Luckilly for us her rucksack was moved to be in front of the unfortunate local, even still we were seriously squashed.

Like sardines for the next 2 hours, I was so glad to finally arrive in Ruhengeri.

We met up with Claire that we'd met in Kigali. We headed for dinner and everything was fine at first, but when the sun finally went down I started feeling really cold. I returned to my room and added a jumper and zipper top, but I still wasn't good. Meanwhile David was sitting there in a T-shirt feeling perfectly warm. Something was up. In the end I had to head to my bed as soon as I'd eaten, I had a cold.

Normally a cold isn't a big problem while travelling, but you're not allowed to visit the Gorillas while ill as you can potentially pass on disease to them. So the next day I walked along to the ORTPN office in town with David and Nicola and managed to get myself re-booked on for one day later, hoping that it'd be enough time. David and Nicola would still be going on the same day as they'd previously arranged. After this I had a great lunch involving a fruit platter and enough vitamen C for an army.

The next day David and Nicola got up early and headed off for their trip. All I could really do was spend some time on the internet and have another one of those superb fruit platters. I was actually feeling much better but wanted to kill the cold stone dead.

David and Nicola got back and were raving about their experience. They'd be told that they weren't allowed to get within 7 meters for the Gorillas, but no-one told the Gorillas that. It set me up nicely to hope for something good.

Now the honeymoon finished. David and Nicola were crowbarred into a little minibus and headed back to Kigali. It was sad to see them go as it now meant that I was truely on my own. Also, they're heading off to China to teach English for a year, I'll not see them before they leave for China, and so it'll be over a year before I see them again. Bye bye!

I wasn't on my own for very long, and the next day I headed off to Gorillaville with two new friends from the hostel. We made an agreement to wake each other up if we slept past 5:30am, a good agreement since we had to leave at 6am. However, my new friends had just recently arrived from Uganda, completely failing to notice for a few days that there was a 1 hour difference. You can imagine how pleased I was to have a knock at my door at 4:30. Apparently after knocking on my door he went back to his girlfriend and said "Just as well I knocked, Ron was completely asleep", you can imagine what I said!

We ended up in the group to see the SUSA group. This involved a two hour walk, but it contained 38 Gorillas, by far the biggest group around. Our driver didn't want us to see the SUSA group as it meant that he had a much longer day for the same money, sorry mate, that's just your hard luck.

The first hour involved going straight uphill through farmland, with amazing views into the valley below us. It was tough going since we were at an altitude of about 2700 meters, but everyone was fit and we climbed steadilly. Then we climbed into the forest and walked through that for another hour. This was quite tough as the trail was fairly minimal, with stinging nettles getting at us through our clothing.

We eventually reached the Gorillas where we were met by the three guys that had been tracking them in the morning, radioing back their position to our guides. We headed up a little path and soon found the first one. It was a large female, just contently watching us watching her, as she ate her breakfast.

We moved along after a little while and came across the silverback, and he looked really grumpy. He walked along, turned with his back to us and sat down to some breakfast as well. He wasn't amused.

I was surprised by the destruction that the Gorillas cause. They were ripping apart trees and bushes for their food, I guess that's why they need to keep on the constant move. The noise that they made doing this was really surprising as well.

We found some cute kiddie Gorillas as well, they looked so comical, and they were curious as well. They'd keep coming towards us and we had to keep moving back in order to stay out of their way. All they wanted to do was play with us, poor little things.

Then the Silverback reappeared. He was wandering down the path that we were standing on. I almost soiled my pants as the guide ushered us into the side of the track to let him past, it was his path today. All 200Kg (29 Stone) of pure muscle wandered casually past us, only a meter or two away, coming with a few members of his family including some more cure kiddies.

They then started to settle down for a period of grooming and family time after their food. We watched them chill out for a while, they were so peaceful to watch, the Silverback still hadn'y cheered up and sat looking at us rather grumpilly.

Then the hour was up. It'd passed so quickly, and I'd taken so many photos! I counted 140 afterwards, which must make it some sort of personal record!

However the guides had a problem, the tourists didn't want to leave! It was like a pub closing time, "Come on, time gentlemen please, we've all got homes to go to you know". But we did leave, we'd had our time. However as we walked down the little path we found another large female walking up towards us. She just popped out from behind some bushes and was so close to us. Now my pants really were soiled.

It'd been such an amazing hour. Expensive but something that I'll never forget for the rest of my life. I recommend it to anyone that has the time and money. Brilliant.

It took another hour to get out of the forest again, and I was so glad when we did. As we started the decent through the farmland our guide stumbled over some rocks and did an impressive somersault before landing painfully. It looked pretty nasty, I felt rather underprepared as all the other tourists started offering items from their first aid kit, whereas mine was back in Ruhengeri, ooops! Then the slightly alternative couple pipped up, "we have some Lavendar oil". This just reminded me of a Billy Connelly sketch and tickled my funny bone.

I was knackered when I got back to Ruhengeri and was in bed not long after having a few celebratory beers with the couple from the hostel. Every now and then one of us would say, "We really saw the Gorillas today!", or "They were brilliant, and so close", My smile lasted a long time.

That night there was an amazing thunder and rain storm, the thunder was louder than I've ever heard it before and the rain was bouncing off the ground. I just thought about the poor little Gorillas up there without a house, probably sheltering under a little tree or something, poor little things.

I wasn't too sure where to head to next, I pondered the matter for a while and then decided to head to Gisenyi, up beside Doctor Congo's (DR Congo) border. There was a lake I wanted to see and I wanted some time to read my guidebook and plan my next move properly.
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