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Trekking to see Gorillas

Kampala, Uganda

An experience I would not have if it were not for my parents. They financial supported this expedition, as it get continuously more expensive to see gorillas in the wild. This is mostly due to politics and high cost of protection.

We drove like bats out of hell across Uganda to get to the Southwest corner. A place where Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo. We were initially suppose to go into Rwanda to see gorillas. However, there were only three of us so are guide got us on a group in Uganda (I would have loved to go to Rwanda but then our visas would have become invalid...costs going up even more). So, we went to Kusoro. A small town in the corner, from the hills you could see both Rwanda and the Congo; my cell phone bounced between signals.

We stayed at a small campsite right outside of the town. It is hard to describe the atmosphere in this area. This region has seen refugees from Rwanda, the Tutsi army hid out in Southern Uganda, Idi Amin reeked havoc all over, and the wars in the Congo often pour over into this region. There was already one refugee camp with around 10000 refugees from the Congo. You could see this past on everyone's face. The tension in the air made it obvious that the past was not long ago and could erupt at anytime. At night I was actually woken up by the sound of mortar being shot into the refugee camp that was 6km away by Congolese rebels. However, all this said, there was a wedding that night and the people that came by our campsite were excited and happy. You would not be able to foresee what we would find out a week later. But first the actual trekking experience.

we woke at 4am to head up into the Ugandan mountains. driving for an hour and a half and meeting up with the rest of the group. While waiting to head out we were told that the day before they trekked for 6 hours and it rained for 4 of those hours. With doubts of even seeing gorillas, we piled into the cars. Our guides rode with us. A nice young man sat next to me with his rifle between his legs and the tip wedged into the ceiling of the car. we rode for another 15 minutes and then piled out. about four guides for six trekkers. All, but the lead guide, had rifles. We headed out. First were a series of villages, some having Sunday mass in small clay churches, in others little kids would walk with us and giggle, speaking a little English with us. We went down one mountain and up the next, on the way down that one, through the rain forest (which actually looked a lot like Washington forests) and to a stream. Here we were stopped, it had been about 45 minutes and the guide had been on his walki talki with the scouts the whole time. We were worried that maybe it was bad news...quite the opposite. The gorillas were coming towards us. We walked down the side of the stream and around a bend we almost stumbled right into a gorilla sitting on a branch right above the stream dipping his hands in and drinking. His back was to us but he immediately noticed us and moved into the bushes. We went slightly up the hill and waited. He emerged from the bushes sat down and ate right with us. We then moved up the hill and were able to watch a whole family of gorillas eat.

The funny thing about this is as we were standing watching these gorillas, we could here shouting just over the ridge. I asked our guide what was going on and he told me that it was the local farmers chasing the gorillas out of their banana plantation. We had trekked for an hour to see these creatures and these people were chasing them out of their property like crows or rabbits. Granted the gorillas were eating a lot of the bananas, tree and all. After an hour we were forced to leave, and made a different trek back. I chatted up the nice young man with the gun in front of me and learned that these rangers work f three weeks(seven days a week) and then have a week off. He told me that if he leaves at dawn he would get home at dusk that day. Interesting that this is how he could describe the distance from here to his home. Not in miles, km or time to drive. Literally if he sets out on foot how long it will take him.

We got out to the main road and it started to rain. I talked to some little kids while waiting for the car to come back. We all piled in Guns and all. On the way back, I felt it safe to ask the question, 'why the guns?' I was told what I was afraid to be true. Guerrilla fighters come over the border a lot and so the guns are for our protection.

We got back to camp, said good bye to the Doctors without Borders that I had met the night before and Kelsey and Malia returned from a trek of a different kind. They went into one of the local villages with a guy from the campsite and played with the kids, tried banana beer and talked to locals. We headed out. Our guides were set on getting out, they said for our safety but we just assumed it was their asshole ways again. However, we learned the truth to this about a week later.

Two days after we left another 10,000 refugees flooded into Kusoro and set up another camp. And an added bonus the campsite we were in actually had guerrillas come in, looking for someone. We were very lucky. I honestly know how close we were to the conflict now. An idea that excites me and makes me want to go back. an idea that scares the crap out of my parents, both my location and my excitement about it.

That is it my trekking gorillas experience. I loved it and have about 300 pictures of these mountain gorillas, 18 of only 500 left in the wild.

permalink written by  crAsh13 on September 2, 2007 from Kampala, Uganda
from the travel blog: East Africa in 2007
tagged Uganda and Gorillas

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crAsh13 crAsh13
4 Trips
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I was born in Alaska. Lived in Florida, Colorado, Washington, Switzerland, Missouri and now Georgia. Africa changed me in ways i still struggle to understand. Being alone does not scare me, meeting people is amazing, I love being lost and I take each setback as another page in the adventure. ...

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