Bwindi Impenetrable Forest & Mountain Gorillas
Arising early, we headed off to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, home of the Mountain Gorillas, right after breakfast. We stayed at the Mahogany Springs Lodge one of our favorite lodges. As we sat outside getting our safety briefing, Abdallah pointed out the “map of Africa” tree.
We rose early and were off to trek to the gorillas.
I had a packed lunch from the lodge and two 500 ml bottles of water (I soon learned that wasn’t enough). We got hiking sticks and, as I wasn’t sure of what was going on, I had two porters to help me. Jenny only had one. These three guys were a God-send. Without them, I know I’d still be on the side of the mountain. It’s hard to tell someone about the pitch of the terrain, but it varied from 45-60 degrees. The trail was very narrow and very rocky. It is in a rain forest so it is hot and humid.
The previous day, the family of gorillas we were going to see were on the side of the mountain from which we started trekking. The folks that day left at 8:00 AM and were back at 11:30 AM. We left at 8:00 as well. Our day the family had moved over the top of the mountain and half-way down the other side. With my atrial fibrillation, the trek was exhausting and dehydrating. Clearly two bottles of water wouldn’t be enough. Oh, yes, I didn’t mention that Jennifer and I were the two oldest people on the trek by 8-10 years!
Gorillas, but no mist!
After summiting, we started down the backside of the mountain. The first of the family we saw was the babies playing in a tree. I immediately forgot my fatigue and began taking photos.
The whole family was moving around us. With over 10 of us, someone was always in someone else’s way to get “the shot”. Soon, we saw a female doing yoga.
One was using a stick to get ants to eat.
Soon, the silverback came into view. He was just a few meters away from all of us and didn’t seem bothered.
He started walking away and soon a mother and baby followed.
One was eating rotten wood from a knot in a tree.
After a bit, a juvenile came to me, took my wrist and held it and then leaned into me. I don’t have a picture of that, but I got a picture of another doing the same thing to Jenny. I don’t think anyone else got the same treatment we did.
Trust me, this was the “thrill of a lifetime.” We cannot touch them, but obviously they can touch us.
Heading back and trouble!
We could only stay an hour with the family. I think we actually stayed 80-90 minutes. Then we started back up and then down the mountain. When we were with the gorillas, my mind and body were completely captivated. Once we started back, I could tell I was in trouble.
Once we summited, we stopped and ate lunch. Then the downward trek began. Jenny and I were at the rear of the group. It started raining so we donned our rented ponchos. Now, it’s wet, slippery and we cannot see our feet because of the poncho. At one point, there was a 30″ drop. Stepping off with my left foot, my right foot didn’t follow. I was hung up with one foot down and one foot on the top of the step, and I was trapped. It took 5 guys to get me back up to the top of the step. I had to turn around and go down backward. Oh, my, the indignity of it all! When I was a hung-ho Marine, I’d probably have jumped down off the step. No longer.
As we went lower, I knew that I was in trouble. I was bonking big-time. We finished the trek at 4:30 PM! My knees were shaking and I was dazed. Once we returned to the lodge, I got a Sprite™ soft drink. A sugar drink never tasted so good.
Dinner was again excellent, and Jen and I were toast. Stick a fork in us, we were done! We were scheduled to go on another trek the following day, but we decided that wasn’t in the cards for us. Sara went on the second expedition while Jen and I rested and got massages. At dinner we discussed our trip so far and Sara is now a true Africophile. She is tired from everything, but wants to see everything there is to see. The following day, we were on the move again, this time to the Mgahinga National Park.