Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Gorillas, Gorillas, Gorillas!!!
Finally!! Gorillas! Part of the reason I was waiting was because I took more video that day than pictures and I really wanted to post video along with the clip. However, that seems to be down the yet a little further in the learning curve. Most of my shots were really crap but I did fortunately get some of Michelle's images, which I also can not figure out how to post. So these seem to be my best two images. They are of the silverback of the group that we saw.
The gorillas are highly protected here so there are only 6 or 7 families that are allowed to be tracked. The rest they just leave alone, which I highly agree with. The family we tracked is called the Amohoro family (not sure how the gorillas decided on this, tried to ask but could not decipher the answer. In Kinyarwandan, the local language, Amohoro means "Peace". There were about 18 gorillas in this particular family. I know we did not see all of them and with them moving around it was hard to tell but my guess is that we saw about 9 or 10 of them.
It took us about an hour and a half of hiking to find the group. It was a pretty grueling hike. It was raining and the trails are extremely muddy and very steep. I had kind of wondered if it was stupid to be hauling my hiking boots all around Africa but this day I did not regret having them. We were constantly sinking in mud and sliding down hills. Not many people are allowed back here so the trails are also very narrow. And to add to the final excitement the trails are also covered with stinging nettle which can get through just about anything. I had on a pair of thick cotton pants and my rain pants and they were still stinging my legs a bit. The worst part was when my hand accidently brushed against it. It still burned and was swollen even the next day. Some people even fell in the nettles (not me thank god) and Michelle got one smack on her eyelid. Fun for everyone!!!!
But, TOTALLY worth every step!!!! The gorillas were amazing. We are aloud to be around them for one hour but it honestly seemed like 20 minutes. The very first one of the family we came upon was the Silverback himself. Because it was so rainy they really weren't very active. Apparently animals don't dig the rain too much either. We were maybe only 20 or 30 feet from him. He was just sitting grooming himself. He could total crush a human but he really did not care that we were there and barely even looked at us. We could see a few on the hill top another 200 feet away.
Gorillas love to munch on bamboo so that is where they mostly hang out. We hiked down into this area where the bamboo plants were so tall we were completely covered. Basically at this point we were inside there house. You could never really tell where they were going to come out of the bamboo so everytime we heard a crack people would turn around to make sure they were not unexpectedly coming out behind us.
The guide had warned us that one of the teenage blackbacks liked to "play" with the humans and would try to get close so we really had to make and effort to stay back from him. I was knealing down in front of the group trying to get some video of him since he seemed to be the most active of them all. Our guide grabbed me and kept telling me to stand up. As I stood up the guide stepped in front of me and pushed me back (he was so close in front of me he was actually standing on my foot). Just then the blackback charged us. The guides started making noised to tell him to get back. (The guides have to go through extensive training and part of that training is learning certain noises to communicate with the gorillas). I was so stunned and mesmerized I did not move. And I really did not have time to be scared.
As we moved farther into their house we finally saw the baby. OMG!!! cutest thing I have ever seen. I think I may have gotten some good video of him so I can't wait to show it.
After what seemed like no time at all it was time to hike out. Thank god we had a few porters with us to help. We would have all been sliding down on our butts if it was not for these guys.
The gorilla trekking is by far the most expensive thing I have done in Africa but totally worth every penny.
P.S. I have posted more pictures on early blog entries if you want to scroll through and take a look. Not as orderly as I would like but one step at a time.