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Gorillas, border to Kongo

Funding: 102 USD Ewa Wyrwas; 20 USD Kristina Johansson (Use the money well!)

In this post we meet the mighty gorillas, we walk far and wait long before the big silverback comes down to us.

We decide to leave early next morning but we definitely want to come back again after a visit in the Bwindi impenetrable forest.

We ride the last 10 km to the gorilla visitors office and we arrive only 10 minutes before today’s groups will start walking up the hill. No time to think about the price. This is a costly tourist attraction. 600 USD per person but this is also the only region in the world with mountain gorillas and in Rwanda the price is 1000 USD and in D.R. Congo it is cheaper, but it is not safe there and also close to impossible to get a visa, so this is the option we have. So we follow our trekking guide, and two armed military guards up the steep, jungle dressed mountain.

We walk for an hour or two. The guide has radio contact with the trackers who are following “our” gorilla family. The word is that the gorillas are moving too, so we have to walk even longer than we planned. We carry a small backpack each. The jungle is beautiful, with dragon plants, palm trees, great mahogany trees, hundreds of years old and a lot of plants climbing on everything.

So we walk and walk, sweating in the humid air. We take a break every now and then all together for water and to open up our 10 USD lunch package, consisting of two extremely small jam triangular sandwiches, some pieces of fruit and a Festis (small juice). So we forget that and think of how lucky we are to be here.

We come to meet another set of guards and get informed to eat and drink one last time before seeing our distant relatives.

There they are we are suppose to keep a 7 m distance but we all are shown a place to stand and a the mother and two baby gorillas less hen 5 m away. Soon the mother takes her baby,

or the baby clings on to her and walks straight for our group and pushes the girl standing next to Christian, just to make way and pass. She stops a few meters later. The silverback and some others are up at the top of a high tree, so now we wait.

We all get a beautiful moment to take pictures of the supercute baby and mother but we want to see the big male, leader, the Silverback. So we wait. We wait for over an hour. And this trip was strictly one hour with the gorillas but apparently the guide really wants us to see the silverback so we wait. And it is fun. We get leaves and small sticks in our head or thrown close to us from the big apes eating just some 10 m above. Then it is shaking more and more in the high branches and soon he comes down. The Silverback. Heavily the 120 kg gorilla slowly climbs down. Wow!! I sit close to the bottom of the tree, I really want to be close when he comes down. He comes down heavily and he sits for a minute on the spot. He watches us. We are about 3 m apart.

His arms are as long and wide as my legs. He looks at me, gets on all fours and starts wandering of towards one of the mothers. He gets closer to me, should I move, this is clearly his choice of path. He looks at me again and I look at him while I take photos. He stares right into my eyes for the second before he passes me within inches.

My heart beats fast. Wow! So close, so big.

We think this was it but we follow the small group another 15 minutes and we see three babies playing in the low branches, the mother breastfeeds, the father picks his nose and has some good salty snacks coming out apparently, no shame :). We take many pictures and we love being here. They are very different but yet the eyes are so familiar.

On the way back we support some kids selling drawings. It is hot and we walk another one and a half hour. I have a headache. Most of us are dehydrated but happy. We talk to the others a bit and when we finally get back we have a beer. Me and Christian decide to go back to the farm for the night so we come there late just before sunset. We are so welcome again.

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