GORILLA TREK DAY 2-VIRUNGA

August 13, 2017

Sleeping at the Burkima Camp is the top of the line luxury for Glamping. After we finished our fabulous day 1 Gorilla Trek, we were guided to our Camp for the night. I’d call it a Hotel in a Tent…Including Solar light, full bath and 2 hot water bottles to keep you warm in the chill of the night. The views are spectacular and the Congolese who service the camp are beyond friendly and helpful. Oh and the sleep was wonderful…a full 8 hours…the singing of the birds was my alarm to wake up…and the timing was just perfect. We had to meet for breakfast at 7:30, which was a luxurious sleep in for this trip…and a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, cheese, toast and a Veggie Omelet, or any egg of your choosing. There were 8 of us discussing yesterday’s adventures and the anticipation of todays. We were saying goodbye to a lovely couple from Australia, who were in the middle of their 6 month trip. They were off to conquer the volcano which will be mine to take on Tuesday.

At 8:30 we went back to the jump off camp for the trek. Yesterday we saw the Huma family of Gorillas and today we have the pleasure of visiting with the Rugengo family. This family has 4 Silverbacks, 2 females, 1 Juvenile, 1 junior and 2 babies. The patriarch of the family is the orphaned son of Rugengo who was slaughtered along with 8 other Silverbacks in 2007.  The People of Virunga carried each body and buried them in their own cemetery. No one knows why they were killed but there is suspicion it was to stop the tourism and thereby destabilize the country…but that is only 1 theory. The Patriarch of the Huma Family is the brother.

Today we had to work a little harder for our visit. Our guide, Peter, was swift on his feet…and I so appreciated all my fast walking at home because keeping up with him was a feat. Today we hiked through some fields that were planted with Sorghum and Potatoes…And because the sun was shining, all sorts of butterflies were fluttering around…It killed me not to stop and take pictures of the Butterfly “coffee klatches”…They convened in these groups throughout the fields. But I knew hesitating would be my doom so onward I went…After what felt like miles because I had such anticipation…but I am sure was only 1 or so…we headed into the Jungle. There we were met by our two trackers, who were sent our earlier to find the family’s location and guide us to them. But now the fun trekking really begins…This part of the jungle seemed far more dense than our hike yesterday…and the trackers were using their machetes a lot more to clear a pathway…and I use that term loosely… There didn’t seem to be a designated trail…which led to some tripping about as my feet would snag on vines on the ground or covered roots…And we all had to be aware of the Buffalo scat…I definitely didn’t want to slip in that!

Up and down and all around we went…working our way through the thick Jungle…One thing I have noticed is how similar the vegetation is to Florida. I even saw our terrible Potato vine…but here it seems to fit right in…The guide warned us of touching a stinging plant…no need to warn me on that one…I made the mistake of trying to pull that “weed” from my yard and learned quite quickly WHY I should wear gardening gloves!

Suddenly we stopped and we instructed to back up and then told to put our masks on…Seems some of the family had creeped up on us before WE were ready. This Silverback wasn’t the Patriarch but was fabulous nonetheless. We all scrambled for our cameras and began to shoot away.

Because I saw the gorillas yesterday, I felt more relaxed to just watch them. OMG so funny. The guides beaconed for us to follow him through some more jungle and just like the pied piper, off we all went. There were only 4 of us on this trek so we all got wonderful opportunities to actually interact more.

We soon came upon the Patriarch and around him, close by, were 2 females and 2 juniors and a baby.

The Silverback, almost on cue, posed for us…He looked like a model taking his poses… then as quickly as he sat up for us, he decided enough was enough and a rest was in order. I then focused on a female behind him…and just as I did, I hear a crack of a branch and spin my head around to see a young Gorilla making his way to us via tree branches…not very graceful but he definitely made an entrance. This young tyke was so busy breaking any branch he could find that he even broke one onto the female…she reached out to grab him but he would have none of it…off he went to continue to play without interruption…The female decided she liked what came on the broken branch and started to munch a bit…then when she was satiated she rolled over and got up…reached for her littlest one, who seemed happily occupied and put her baby on her back and took off toward the Silverback who was happily napping…And as luck would have it, I caught her getting up and putting the little one on her back…The universe was with me on this….…then the 2 Juniors wrested about and continued chasing and wrestling for most of the last half of our time…

Back with Mom and babe, the baby found a leaf that seems to intrigue him and make him happy as he munched on its stem once he found it! Once the leaf proved to be no match for the little guy, he decided to climb on his father’s back while the Silverback was soundly napping and his mother was grooming her mate…As the very little baby made great strides to climb upon his giant father’s back, this proved far more difficult than conquering the leaf…His first attempt was a bit of a failure…but then he saw his mother’s arm and attempted another try using her as a stabilizing factor…As he began to slip he reached for his mother’s arm and then made the critical mistake of stepping on a tender area of his father’s butt…which stirred the Patriarch and the baby fell backward as if doing a back somersault …and jostled the Silverback to get up and move on to find a quieter place to rest…This left Mother and child behind…But before we could feel sorry for the little guys failure, the other 2 Juniors were at it again…running around and capturing the attention away from the baby…I was left thinking…are we here to see them or are they just playing with us because possibly we are THEIR entertainment!

On and on this Gorilla family entertained us for the whole hour. We were so close that at some points I could have reached my arm out and touched them…BTW, NO TOUCHING…We followed all the guides instructions at all times but they were quite liberal in allowing us access…We all had great respect for these creatures. They are so very tender and more like us than I had imagined. Watching the interactions is like watching a family with babies, pre teens and teenagers.

Today was the last day and it was fabulous…then so was yesterday…but today was a bit bittersweet in that I was done with the Gorillas…Finis, as they say here…Now onward to Mikeno Lodge further in the Jungle and upward on the Volcano!

 

 

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