Wow - what a day! We got up at 5.30am to have 6am breakfast which was slow again but had pancakes so that was good when they did arrive! We then set off to the Gorilla Trekking HQ and got checked in! We were split into groups of 8 people and given a briefing about what to expect and how to behave and then it was off! Joseph tried to take us to the start point in the car which is 4x4 but as we had had so much rain we got stuck and it was decided that we should just walk from there as the other vehicles were also stuck. It was suggested that we have a porter to carry our bags and that we use a walking stick. With that sorted we set off! I was glad to find another lady who was also slow. Turned out that the pace was fine so that was a relief as I thought it might have been too tough for me… Francois, our guide, also made lots of stops to show us various plants the gorillas eat as well so that allowed us to catch our breath.
We soon reached the Volcanoes National Park Boundary and were told the Gorillas were only 25 mins away so that was exciting! Once inside the forest Francois gave us a demonstration of how the Gorillas behave and the noises they make – he was hilarious pouncing around grabbing trees!
Very soon we stopped and were told that we needed to get our cameras from our bags and leave our bags with our porters as the gorillas were just around the corner. (Trackers had been out since early morning finding them for us). Before we could get our stuff sorted we were pulled aside to let two gorillas stroll past us – it was awesome and rather surreal at the same time! We grabbed our stuff and started to make our way into the clearing where the rest of the family were. Our family was the Hirwa family and consisted of one 30 year old silverback, five mums and five babies.
We spent an hour watching them and taking photos. It was incredible being only about 2 metres from them! The young ones and their mums were quite playful but dad was determined to rest! After what seemed like a very quick hour we had to leave… It had been an amazing experience though!
The descent was easy as we’d really not gone that far. Back at base I was surprised at just how much my waterproof trousers had made me sweat as my trousers were very wet! After a quick change we had our ‘graduation’ ceremony where we were all given certificates to say we had seen the gorillas!
Joseph suggested we have lunch in the local town before making our way back to Kabale to saw us time tomorrow. He took us to a hotel in the hope of us getting a good meal after our problems so far. He succeeded as we had a great 3-course set menu meal French style which was finished off with crepe suzette! Pancakes twice in one day – I was in heaven!
The border crossing back into Uganda was a little busier today but easy enough. The winding roads however were a little more challenging after all the rain! Before long we came across a double petrol tanker that was stuck in the mud so that it was impossible to pass. Joseph decided to investigate! He instigated a rescue method and before long had all the locals pushing the tanker so that it was moved enough for the smaller vehicles to pass by which we did! We were now dubious of what else we’d encounter. Passed various other vehicles – none stuck fortunately as Joseph had also helped the others this morning so had done more than his fair share of good turns already today! We did nearly crash into a maniac local taxi who simply was driving really stupidly for the conditions! Then our car lost control and we skidded all over the place and ended up facing the wrong way! How we didn’t go over the edge of the mountain I don’t know but Joseph did a fantastic job of recovering it!
We finally got to Green Hills Hotel about 6.45pm and got checked in. Again we’ve got an en-suite room – quite luxurious really! We had dinner ordered and said we would meet Joseph in the morning as he didn’t stay here. I investigated the swimming pool but decided it wasn’t really warm enough for a swim! After dinner we chatted and played cards. We are looking forward to an easier day tomorrow as we had done the hard part of the journey today!