Uganda - Kampala Calling
It was close on an hour when we finally came across the gorillas. The sunshine had been coming and going all morning but now seemed to have gone. Light was difficult for photography. I put the camera up to 800ASA and that was fine for a while. There was of course excitement on first seeing the gorillas and realising how close we could be without them minding, they seemed so big and so gentle. Occasionally they would look at us but they seemed mostly occupied with eating and with each other. We were told because we had reached them late that we had missed their siesta time when they all congregate and the juveniles play. Now they had dispersed and were eating again. The tourists took it in turns to stand in front of each other to take the best photos. As our precious hour went on, the mist moved in and the light was too poor for any more photography, still it was exhilarating to see them although I would not want to put a price on it.
Soon it was time to go, we'd had our hour but also it had started to rain really hard. At first we sheltered under big trees and then when it eased we started to make our way down. Having contoured around nearly half of the mountain, we headed straight down. The rangers used their radio to tell the vehicles where to collect us. We walked for another 2╝hrs.
The "vehicles" turned out to be my privately hired US$50 pickup that was waiting. The westerners were grateful there was a vehicle and climbed in the back. The rangers and guides recognised the driver as a regular. I made a point of getting in the front and when a guide tried to get in too I reminded him that this was my charter. This felt a bit mean and proprietary but on this occasion it felt very much a matter of principle. I had arrived on my own, no one to hitch or share a lift with so I chartered a 4X4 of my own for the day at great expense so that I could be sure of using my even more precious gorilla permit, if I hadn't then I don't think there would have been a vehicle to collect us as all the others had come in their own cars.
The local children had seen "wazungu" (foreigners) come off the mountain before and gathered around to ask for our used mineral-water bottles, in fact all the way back to the "parking" children were running alongside and shouting "chupa" (bottle).
That evening I ate again at a hotel in town. Enjoyed spinach soup, followed by fish in breadcrumbs and chips. The town was a lot quieter, I presume because it was Sunday; most shops were closed, even my guesthouse bar shut by 2200.
Rwanda - Gorillas Found