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Published: November 12th 2008
The Alpha-Male of the family of 8 we visited.
From the title of this Blog you can tell we are currently in Gorilla country and I am struggling with words to describe how AMAZING this part of Africa is!!! It is totally wild and I am overwhelmed everyday by the diverse landscape, amazing wildlife and beautiful people.
Our overland tour with African Trails is fantastic. Currently there are only 5 of us (Dan, myself, our driver Henry who is from Kenya, Nicola a Kiwi, and Stuart a Brit) in a week or so we will be picking up more people before heading South. So right now we have the whole truck to ourselves and get to set the pace in which we travel from one destination to the next which is such a luxury. We all get along great as we are all basically the same age, have similar interests, plus we have all previously traveled to similar places... needless to say we are already like family!!!
We were in Uganda for my birthday (October 22nd). Henry made us a wonderful breakfast at our campground in Jinja, which was on a huge bluff overlooking the start of the Nile as it pours out of Lake
Our Gorilla Trekers
Twenty minutes of trekking, Eight Gorillas, Six Guides, Three Tourists and Two Guns (to shoot in the air...just in case!)
Victoria. Then we packed up and traveled 2 hours to the capital of Uganda, Kampala. After banking and grocery shopping we made our way to our campsite (Red Chili Campground) which is a lush oasis within a massive and chaotic city. That night the boys made me a lovely birthday dinner and we celebrated with another overland group by drinking too much red wine and Tusker Beer into the wee hours of the morning which at the time seemed like a great idea however, when we had to leave the next morning at 5:00am to beat the traffic in Kampala we were all regretting that decision... ha,ha,ha!!! Traveling in a HUGE overland truck hungover is pretty f-ing crappy!!! I should also mention that Dan decorated the outside of our truck with balloons and a big sign that said "Happy Birthday Kels!!!" which was hilarious and got a lot of odd looks as we cruised down the road. Also, Henry bought me a beautiful hand made wooden Kenyan bracelet... which I thought was so thoughtful. In short, my 28th Birthday was a very special day in an amazing country, on a wild continent, with lovely people and of course it was
At the equator in Kenya with our beast of a truck!
so special to experience it all with Dan.
After a couple more days of overland long hauls we finally made it to Lake Bunyoni which is basically on the border of the Uganda, Rwanda, and D.R Congo. This area is a completely different Africa... lush green jungle, massive lakes, terraced rolling hills, excellent farm land, volcanoes and rural communities that still live in a very traditional way. When we arrived everyone on the truck looked at each other in AWE... now this is Africa!!
Yesterday Dan, Stuart and I made the trip up into Mgahinga National Park to do the trek in to see the Mountain Gorillas (only 700 exist in the world today... that is 1 gorilla for every 6 million humans). We left @ 7:00am and after a very slow and bumpy ride in a 4x4 we made it to the Tourist Centre. We were shocked to find out that the other 13 trekkers did not show up (most likely due to poor road conditions) so it was just the 3 of us going out with the rangers. The advanced trackers set out at 8:00am and we departed at 8:30am. The deal with the Gorillas is that only 2 groups of 8 are allowed to go out each day (within Mgahinga National Park) in search of the 4 families and once contact is established the group only has 1 hour to be with them... oh, and it costs $500 USD per person and it can take up to 8 hours to actually locate the family and then you have to trek out. So we were prepared for a pretty serious day of dense jungle trekking. I have to admit my knees were shaking and my breathing labored before we even left the Visitor Centre!!! We stopped in a clearing after about 15 minutes of "moderate walking" to remove a layer of clothing when the guides tells us that the advanced trackers have already located the family and they were only 5 minutes away!!! SERIOUS!!! Within 30 minutes of leaving the Visitor Centre there we are with the whole Gorilla family.... incredible. We came upon them as they were feeding in a small clearing so the visibility was amazing... Dan and I were literally standing less then 2 meters from a 400 lb Silverback Alpha Male.... OHHH SHIT... my heart was THUMPING out of my chest. And there he was looking at us like "hello, who are you?". The whole family was together which was made up of 3 Silverbacks (adult males), 1 dominant female with her 3 month old baby, and 3 "teenagers". We spent a full hour with them and they were completely unfazed by human beings and went about their daily routine of eating, grooming, playing with one another and resting. At one point one of the “teenagers” lunged at Dan and I (apparently he wanted to "play") and he was less then 2 cm from us.... heart attack!!! The guides however thought it was very funny and kept laughing and imitating the look on our faces!!! The whole experience was mind blowing... to see these mystical beings in there natural habitat was overwhelming. They are considered "critically endangered" so Dan and I feel very blessed to have been able to encounter them as well as contribute to their conservation.
So that was my birthday present this year... not too shabby, eh?
We are now heading back towards Jinja then into Masai Mara National Park (Kenya) which is one the areas where we will be camping amidst the "Big Five". Can this place get any wilder?
This continent continues to reveal incredible sights, sounds and experiences daily and we feel very blessed to be here and take it all in...
With love, adventure, joy and gratitude...
Until next time...
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