Chimps and Stuff

Trip Start Sep 15, 2009
Trip End Nov 21, 2009

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Flag of Uganda  ,
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We woke up early and had another long driving day ahead of us: 8-hours. I got the very back which is quite a bit bumpy along the way as the roads here aren't what they are back home.  I made it to our next stop after a grueling ride.  My back started to hurt a bit while scrunched next to some Danish dude.  He’s cool and we talk pretty well.  As we drove to our next campsite, we passed all these tea fields and saw a bunch of guys picking the tea leaves by hand and putting them into a basket on their backs.  We made into our campsite up on the mountain overlooking the valley and a lake.  There were some small huts where we hung-out and made meals which was pretty cool.  We just hung out for the night. 

Kibale National Park 9/23

This is the day we are going to trek into the jungle and hang with Chimpanzees for an hour or so.  We were told by our tour leader that 18 of us would do the morning trek, then the other 2 would be after lunch.  So we woke up early and made it out there and felt pretty excited about it.  As soon as we made it up to the park ranger station, our tour leader came back and said there was a mistake with the # of people going.  Only two groups of six were allowed to go and the rest after lunch.  So some volunteers were pulled and the rest of us went back to the camp feeling defeated.  We kind of felt hopeful that the afternoon group would see more than the am group.  There was an option to do a tea plantation trek with a guy at the camp.  Since most of us were tired of being cooped up in the truck, we jumped at the chance to do some walking.  There were only five of us going and we all brought our cameras and headed out.  I don’t think I really learned too much about tea but didn’t really care.  The weather was fantastic along with the scenery.  We walked up through some tea fields for a bit and up a hill.  We came to a few young guys who were pickers and they stopped to take a look at us.  The tour guide said it was ok to take pictures but it kind of feels weird doing so because who would like it if someone came to your work taking pictures of you?  Especially when they are a bunch of foreigners with expensive cameras and you are picking tea and getting paid by the kilo in a 3rd world country.  So I kind of feel dickish but I snapped one kind of close-up.  The guys spoke English decently and right before we started to walk off, one of the guys asked if we would give them some money to eat.  I think we all kind of felt bad and all pitched in.  I paid 500 Ugandan Shillings and so did everyone else.  500 shillings = 25 US cents.  That was probably enough for their lunch and then some.  Then they said we could snap more pictures which I did snap one more feeling a little less guilty.  Then we walked around a bit more and made our way to the camp for lunch.  After lunch, we headed out to walk with the chimps.  We were broken up into three separate groups according to slowness.  The lead guide said they knew where the chimps were and it would be easier to drive partly there and trek in.  So we hopped back on the truck and drove a few minutes into the park.  Then the three groups went into different directions so we could track the chimps together and just radio the other groups when we found them.  We started to walk on a trail for a few minutes and the guide was trying to listen for them.  We did a bit of off-trail walking too which was pretty thick but manageable.  After about 10 minutes of walking, we spotted one walking.  Our guide radioed the other guides and we started walking a bit further in.  Since chimps travel in groups, we knew there were other ones around.  Then we got closer to the one chimp that we saw and then all of a sudden a whole bunch of chimps started walking our way.  It was really cool to see!  We had found a family of about 16 chimps.  And we just chased them for about an hour through the jungle snapping pictures.  It was a bit hard to get a decent shot of them because it was dark on the bottom and there were so many plants in the way.  But we all did our best to get a good shot.  It was really cool to see our closest ancestors in the wild.  There was a few times one would sit on a log just like a human.  One male chimp was even laying on the floor with his front side exposed to us.  It looked like he was shooting a nudie picture spread with the way he was laying.  We were supposed to keep a certain distance from the chimps, but a few times you would be taking pictures of them and they would run pretty close to you.  There was even some monkey sex spotted that only lasted 5 seconds long.  It was pretty exciting trying to hunt these chimps and follow them through the woods.  Except we were hunting for pictures and not dead chimps.  Like most things on this trip, I don’t really stress too much on this trip about details and didn’t really think too much about this.  But I know the whole group and myself really liked seeing the chimps.  There’s just something about seeing things in the wild and not behind glass or steel that makes things way cooler.  About the National Park: there are something like 1,300 chimps in the park.  But I guess the rangers use a few different families of chimps for tourists.  The rest are left alone.  Cool place!
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