2:59pm Rwanda time
What a day! I’m so tired. I got up at 5:30am this morning, breakfast at 6:00am and leaving the lodge at 6:30am for the gorilla trek.
I felt a bit nauseous this morning when I got breakfast. I’m not sure why. If it’s just all the rich food I’ve been eating lately. Or if it’s just too soon to be trying to eat breakfast and have a cup of tea.
Anyway, we got to the Volcanoes National Park, got sorted into trekking groups and met our guide. His name was Francois and he apparently worked with Dian Fossey when she was there working with the gorillas, so we were very lucky to get him.
Francois was so funny, he was teaching us how to communicate in “gorilla” and even made us act the part, it was part embarrassing jumping around making gorilla noises but it was also loads of fun.
After that we drop up part of the mountain to the start of the walk and met up with the porters. It’s funny, I still can’t get over being started at so much. I’m a white person, and not only that I’m female, I’m young and I’m single. Anyway, when our Primate Safari guide Sam, was handing out our backpacks to the porters you could see them looking at me, hoping they’d get my bag.
My porter was a young guy named Ellizée who seemed like a nice enough guy, very helpful. Then we walked into the forest with Francois and the additional guide, Francis, plus all of the porters and then we also had an armed chauffeur. I’m not 100% sure why he was armed, I think in part to warn off poachers and to shoot at the ground in front of an animal, like a buffalo if they got too close and threatening to us.
The trek I did today was actually a bit easier than the trek in the Nyungwe forest. I think part of that is because I had a porter this time, and oh my gosh, he was worth every cent! I ended up with a second porter, and at times a third and fourth (single white female!) helping me. The second porter was named Leonard, and one of the guys hired him but he didn’t seem to need any help so Leonard stuck with me.
Not that I really needed help, there were some creeks I could have stepped over but Ellizée and Leonard practically picked me up and carried me across. There were some bigger creeks and banks to climb and then I was very happy to have the help.
When the group got close to the gorillas, the group we were seeing were called the Hirwa group, which means the lucky group. The trackers met up with us to show us exactly where the gorillas were, and so the porters were left behind and just us tourists went to see the gorillas with Francois and Francis.
It was fabulous. I can’t believe how close we got! Within a couple of metres and then a couple of times they brushed past. I can’t say I touched one but technically the gorilla touched my pants, that counts right?!
Even the big silverback male just brushed right past me. It was totally surreal and absolutely amazing. I had to force myself to stop taking photos after a while and just enjoy it with my own eyes.
I even got a certificate for doing the walk which is kind of cute, plus I bought a T-Shirt saying I visited the Hirwa group of gorillas. I had to have something!
After that I got back to the lodge and had some lunch. It was lovely to sit down and have a cup of tea and reflect on the experience with the rest of the group.
And then of course I had to have the fire lit in my room so that I could dry my soaking wet socks. But it was totally worth it!