Blokes Dressed As Gorillas.............
Apr 18, 2005
|When commencing this trip,I only had 2 things I really wanted to see.One being the mud mosque in Mali at Djenne which didn't disappoint.The other was to see the mountain gorillas.
Now I'm sure everyone has seen the documentaries and heard the stories about the gorillas so I won't bore you with the details.My encounter with them took place in the border region D.R.Congo in "Le Parc National des Virunga".Now this wasn't a cheap excursion by any means.$350 US dollars was the price to pay for viewing the magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.I have to say it was worth every cent.
It was an adventure from start to finish.Due to the rain in this area we couldn't take the truck to the Ugandan border town of Kisoro.This was a stroke of luck not only from the point of view of not being in an uncomfortable truck for a long bumpy drive through the mountains but it meant we could reach our destination without the fear of the truck breaking down which so far on this part of the trip it had been doing with regular monotony.The drive through the mountains was spectacular to say the least.Winding our way through lush tropical forests,past villages clinging to the steep cliffs was a lovely way to spend a few hours.
On arriving in Kisoro,arrangements were made to get us into the D.R Congo and up to the area where we could see the gorillas.This process did involve paying a bribe to the Congo immigration officals as if we had gone through proper channels and got stamped in and out of Uganda again we would've had to pay for new visas to enter Uganada,Kenya and Tanzania.Due to an agreement between these 3 countries you can come and go as often as you like on the same visa.As soon as you leave any of these 3 countries thugh you'd have to pay for a new visa to re enter( I think that makes sense).This in turn would cost close to $150 so the $50 bribe was readily agreed on.
An early morning start was in order and there was no problems crossing into D.R Congo.After a briefing from the park officals we were packed into dodgy minibus taxis for the journey up to the mountians to where the gorillas live.
There was an air of excitement about going to see the gorillas in the Congo as a few years back a group of tourists had been killed in this area while doiong the same.This broguht about us being escorted by armed guards who were carrying their AK47's as if they were toys.
Splitting into 3 groups we all set off at the same time for the trek up the mountain.We were told that there was a number of groups of gorillas and the rangers explained that a maximum of 1 hour was allowed with them so as not to disturb their natural way of life.
so off we trekked through thick rainforest and mud.After wandering for over an hour we got the call that a family of gorillas was near by.Sure enough we came to a bit of a clearing and there they were.It was a family group of about 7 gorillas in total nonchalantly going about their gorilla day.Basically this involved lying about,eating and alot of grooming.Its amazing to see them so close up.At one stage a very large silverback male came sauntering right in front of me,not paying the slightest bit of attention to my presence.How he didn't hear my bumhole making a puckering sound from fear I don't know.He was a big boy indeed and I for one wasn't going to mess with him.
On other occassions the smaller gorillas became a bit curious and approached us with one baby getting a bit to close which resulted in the mother running towards us and scooping the young fella up in her arms.
After about 30 mins my camera battery ran out but this was not a problem as it was such a good experience to sit and watch them with the naked eye rather than through a view finider.One thing that did strike me though was how much they looked like blokes dressed up in gorilla suits.Maybe they were.....
After our allotted hour we trekked back to the base camp and regaled each other with our experiences and showed off our photos.
Definately a highlight and definately worth the money.Hopefully the Congolese can maintain the environment that the gorillas require to live in.Its such a large income earner for the locals that I'm sure they will protect ghere livelihoods.I just hope it's not to the detriment of the gorillas though....