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Our 2nd day with the gorillas brings more opportunities to view and photograph the individuals as they rest and eat plants in the meadow of waist high vegetation.  We see mothers and babies, blackbacks, juveniles, as the silverback stays a safe distance away. We take “selfies” with gorillas in the background.  Sarah is with me because the terrain out of the meadow is steep. As we near the end of the hour, a juvenile approaches us. I take a photo and he continues toward us. I take another photo, it wraps an arm around Sarah’s leg, slides by to wrap an arm around my leg. It feels warm, a firm but gentle touch. In two seconds he /she is gone, leaving us breathless and amazed. Boaz shouts,”Karen, are you liking your experience today? This means you are very lucky.”  I feel lucky. Our hour ends, but as we’re hiking out three more gorillas approach us and stop to eat. We’re all amazed.  We take a shortcut out of the jungle, but it’s very steep and dense.we stop at a plateau to eat our packed lunches, then continue the hike out.  There is one more steep slope to reach the rough road where our trucks are waiting. It’s not wide enough for both porters to support me, so I lean on Sarah and we leap to the bottom.  We dance along the road to celebrate our amazing day.

 

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For our second day of gorilla trekking we ride in our safari vehicles for nearly an hour, traveling to the other side of the mountain, seeking the Habinyanja gorilla group.  Boaz is our guide again, and my two porters are Sarah and Moses.  The trek today makes yesterday seem easy,  Sarah leads the way, offering her hand in the tough spots; Moses follows with my pack, giving me a push up the steepest hills. We hike for over two hours and have left the formal trails, with the trackers using machetes to forge a path  through the jungle undergrowth. The first gorillas we spot are two juveniles in a tree and as we approach them we see Makara, the 41 year old silverback, deep in the brush feeding on leaves. The juveniles throw fruit from the trees, and Makara soon moves through our group and then lunges and snarls at a tracker clearing brush. We spot several females and babies and then a big black back, the 2nd in command, who rests to eat and be photographed. Makara  continues to a large green meadow-like area and the family follows, to sit and graze in the waist high plants Photos here, more to come.

We soon see many of the 16 members of the Mubare gorilla family.  There’s the silverback, head of the family, a 47 year old. There are females with babies – a 3 year old, a 10 month old, a 1 year old riding on his mom’s back.  Boaz identifies the individuals by their sizeand distinct facial features.  Our porters stay behind with our packs and walking sticks; we’re told that the older gorillas have memories of the pygmies with spears that resemble walking sticks.  We’re instructed to stay at least 7 meters from the gorillas and if they approach us to stand still and lower our heads.  Several, including the silverback, pass through our group.  We may stay for an hour observing and photographing the group.  One of the black backs, a large male, beats on his chest; one picks it’s nose, a mother cleans her baby’s face and then between its toes.  The humanness of the gorillas is so apparent. The silverback lunges and snarls at one of the trackers who is cutting brush close to him  so we may get photos.  The hour passes quickly.  We begin the long hike back to camp.

We walk to the Bwindi Park Center for a briefing and meet our guide, Boaz.  There are eight women in our group, eight porters (I have two, Frida and Noah), a student intern, and two armed rangers who walk at the front and rear of our group.  It’s a strenuous hike through the mountainous jungle, up and down steep narrow paths, sometimes muddy, packed with leaves and tree roots.  After three hours, Boaz stops me and says, “Look in that direction and tell me what you see.”  “A gorilla!”  The first one we see is sitting in the long grass munching leaves.

We take an AeroLink flight from Entebbe over Lake Victoria to the Kihihi airstrip where we’re met by Moses and John Paul (JP) who will be our drivers for the next week.  We drive for two hours to Bahoma Lodge in Bwindi Forest. Kihihi means “almost there,”

 

 

After traveling over 24 hours by air we spent a night in Entebbe, Uganda and then had an intro to African wildlife at the Uganda Wildlife Education Center where we saw zebras, ostriches, camels, a baby elephant and a white rhino.  We hand fed the cheetah and the giraffe.

 

Karen goes to Africa, with a group of eight women with Borton Overseas Travel. The plan is to go to Uganda, first to Bwindi ImpenetrableNational Park, to see mountain gorillas, then to Queen Elizabeth National Park, for a short safari, and finally to Kibale Forest National Park to see chimpanzees. I leave November 1 and return November 12.  Please wish me a bon voyage!image