We were up at 0500 to start an amazing day. It was chilly that early...around 15 degrees...but for us, it was comfortable. We were spirited off to the Volcanoes National Park where we were introduced to a park guide who was to take us and 4 other people in to the forest to see gorillas.
During the briefing we noticed one of the guides we had met at the cultural centre recognized us and invited us to meet the famous Edwin Sabohuro who was also in the park to see the gorillas. We took time to meet him, a charming man whi is now completing his doctorate at a university in South Carolina, specializing in conservation. He is also continuing his work in Rwanda and Uganda to introduce measures to counteract poaching activites. Remarkable young man indeed!
What followed was amazing! We were driven to a point close to a park trail and then we were met by porters (reformed poachers) who we hired to carry our bags and otherwise help us on our trek. Then we started to walk.
We walked for about 30minutes through fields of potatoes and flowers (for export). We saw a newly born calf (10 minutes old), people tending their fields and beautiful scenery.
Then we hit the park border and the rain forest immediately began. The forest is dense and the trees themselves are bamboo soaring high over our heads.
We trekked on a path which was difficult at times, narrow and uneven, and made our way slowly up the mountain side. (I for one was grateful for my porter who helped me a lot over obstructions and up the steeper section of the trail) and we trekked for about an hour, seeing evedence of mountain buffalo (very dangerous as they can charge), mountain elephants and we heard golden monkeys in the tree tops. We were accompanied by a park Ranger with a gun and a machete to protect us from charging buffalo for the most part.
After an hour or so we met the trackers, five men who track yhe gorilla family throughout the day. They do not interefere with the family or its members, but observe and protect them. They report the movement of the family and clear away dangers, such as snares set by poachers for other animals. They therefore know the location of the gorillas and assist the guide to direct him and his group to their location.
So it was, moments later that we came upon the family. We were mere feet away from the first Silverback we came across...he was huge...weighing more than 500 lbs! The females and their babies were close by.
Words fail me in describing just how close we were to these magnificent animals! At one point the mischevious 5 year old ran at Paul, beating his chest and grabbed him and nipped his rear...trying to entice him to play. The tracker made a sound of admonition in gorilla-speak and the young gorilla broke away and in a flash was hugging my leg! I guess you could say we got close to these wild animals!