Rwanda - Gorillas Missed

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Sun 19 Oct
Up and ready for my vehicle at 0600. Waited at the park HQ for nearly 45mins for others to come up from Kigali. I couldn't help thinking that I needn't have got up so early. The other tourists and our guide filled the cars they came in so at least I didn't feel bad about paying for my own transport.

The town and surrounding slopes were completely fog bound but as we climbed into the mountains we were above the clouds. It was still before 0800 when we set off walking. A Sunday morning; I thought it curious to see some smallholders harvesting potatoes already and then reflected that back home in UK it was probably Harvest Thanksgiving Sunday.

As we reached the park boundary we were briefed on the "dos and don'ts" of the park, in particular when in the proximity of the gorillas. The path was soon steep and the mud slippery. We had at least one man in front with a machete hacking away at anything that started to grow onto the path and at least two armed rangers behind.

I was beginning to slip on the damp mud and the vegetation was not always strong enough to hold on to. I was grateful to find a bamboo cane to use as a walking stick. As we climbed higher and higher the vegetation changed. For the first hour or so we were going through dense forest, mostly bamboo. When we did get views of the sky it was very changeable, sometimes blue and sunny, sometimes grey and misty.

After 2hrs we came out onto a shoulder and the start of the African Montane region. We were beginning to see plants I've seen previously on other African mountains, the giant lobelia, 2m high groundsels, giant heather, an olive-like tree with yellow flowers (St John's Wort?). We had to cross a gully about 15m down a very muddy bank with no vegetation. This was a good test of how well we would cope with what was to come. The path continued steeply up. After 4hrs and feeling somewhat weary we reached a spot where the bushes were flattened. We were told this was where they had found the gorillas the day before. Today the rangers believed they were another hour's walk away; good expectation management I thought. Anyway it was lovely to be out trekking in the mountains. It reminded me of Mt Meru (near Kilimanjaro). The other westerners were all aid-charity workers from Kigali.


Rwanda - Gorillas Missed

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