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Gorilla trek #2

Time to wake up at 5 AM, breakfast at 5:30, meet Robert at 6 AM and head off to Volcanoes National Park Headquarters.  Even if we weren’t going trekking, it was good to see all the activity in the towns in the morning. Adults and children were out and about walking to work or school, taking potatoes, bananas, eggs etc. to market.

carrying potatoes

Taking potatoes to market. These guys buy potatoes from farmers and use their bicycles to move them up to 25 km. to market.

After yesterday, we were very glad we’d booked two treks to have another opportunity to see gorillas.  This time we were assigned the Sabinyo group with Big Ben, the bald gorilla; and Guhonda, the oldest Silverback gorilla in the park.  and our trekking guide was Fernando with Placide to help. Fernando made Susan into Queen Susan and Susan and Jane from Australia led the way.  No one could go faster than we did.  At least people were kind enough to tell us that we were going just fast enough – ie. SLOWLY!

This group was much better than yesterday’s group:

  • 2 Australians – older couple like us!
  • a couple from Massachusetts about our age
  • Larry and Jane from Denver
  • Mark and Susan

Susan and Mark each hired two porters again and Josse (female) and Andreus were the best for Susan.  I think the drivers should do a better job of explaining what the porters can do and the importance of the employment to the economy.  I can testify that their assistance in walking in mud and crossing rocks and little wooden bridges is immeasurable!

Today’s walk was much easier than yesterday’s hike, at least on the way up to see the gorillas.  We found them after a nice walk through a relatively good trail and only a bit of trekking through cleared brush.  Susan must have looked pitiful again because the ranger and trackers helped her through the brush after we left the porters.

Our first encounter with a gorilla was to see Big Ben sitting in the middle of the trail as Susan came around a corner. He was easily identifiable as he is noticeably bald on top! He moved a bit off the trail and we all watched him for 5 minutes or so.

Big Ben gorilla

Big Ben with his bald head. He was standing in the middle of the trail when I came around a corner

Next encounter was in a clearing with the Silverback wanting to move down the trail.  When a silverback wants to move, you move!  We all cleared the trail but the silverback charged the group as he moved.  Another male (teenager) stopped to play with bamboo tree and threw it, hitting the Australian in the knee.  Then he rolled down the hill in sommersalts!

A big silverback gorilla

This silverback gorilla, leader of the family, was every bit as big as he looks here.

Silverback gorilla walking past Mark

He walked on the path right in front of Mark.

We saw a mom holding on to her baby tightly.

Mom gorilla with her baby

This mom and her baby were standing close toe Mark.

We followed the gorillas for a bit and found some playful little ones.

Baby gorilla

This young one was playing with a stick.

Baby gorilla

This little fellow was enamored with Mark and tried to get closer to his shoes.

Baby gorilla

How could one get any cuter??

Then the rain started, and we learned that gorillas don’t like rain. They all try to find some place to hide and several ended up under a tree’s rout system.  The gorillas sat and stared at us!  By this time our hour with the Sabinyo family was up and we moved on to trek back to the start.

Remember, it rained, right?  The rain stopped but now the trail was mud and more mud!  Thank heavens for the porters who helped Susan through the mud and held me up when I had to slide down a little hill and helped me up the steps of mud!

Mark and I thought the hike was easier than yesterday other than the mud but the MA couple said this was harder than their previous trek.  The MA couple only walked 6 minutes the day before because our silverback had chased their silverback and his family out of the park.

After the trek Robert stopped at the gift shop for us to get our certificates, use the toilet and buy t-shirts of the family we saw!

Poor Elie at Virunga Lodge when we got back!  He took one look at our hiking boots and knew we’d had a messy hike.  He laughed and asked if we wanted a picture of our boots before he cleaned them!

If you ever get a chance to visit Rwanda and the Gorillas do it.  Rwanda is a beautiful country and the people are very proud of how clean and safe the country is after the 1994 genocide.  We can attest to both as we never saw a piece of trash and we will talk about security at the airport in another post.  BTW, people are hired in Rwanda to plant flowers, pull weeds, and pick up trash.  This isn’t their full-time job; it’s a part time job.  The last Saturday in every month is national clean-up day and even the president participates.


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