Uganda: Part 2

Many visitors to Bwindi just track gorillas for one day and the UWA advises that they have a 98% success rate on people actually seeing gorillas. However, I’d come all this way and was not going to leave anything to chance so we’d secured permits for a second day of tracking. Feeling a little more confident as we approached day 2, we attended the compulsory briefing and today, our ranger-guide was called Boaz. We engaged a band of porters and set off directly from the park headquarters on foot, in search of the Rushegura group. The start of this hike was much easier—we were following a well worn trail and the terrain fairly flat and I was almost seduced into thinking this would be a dawdle! This part of the forest was totally different and stunningly beautiful with moss covered vines surely worthy of Tarzan and Jane. Then we descended a steep bank and had to cross a babbling brook and clamber up the other side—one porter pulling and the other pushing from behind! The trail disappeared and the vegetation became very dense. So much for my easy hike…

After only about an hour’s hike, again, we were very fortunate in being told that the trackers had located the gorillas and so we left the porters and bushwhacked our way through the forest.  The first one I spotted was high up in a tree and then we saw a young baby swinging from a branch like low hanging fruit.  We were on a steep slope and the gorillas were easily making their way through the forest with us in hot pursuit and not nearly as agile! These guys were constantly on the move, scampering up and down trees, in and out of the bushes and literally spread out all around us.  It was exhilarating, but definitely more challenging than yesterday.  Boaz was clearing brush and vines out of our way and suddenly he disrupted a nest of African bees. He screamed “run…bees on the rear…” realizing I was at the rear, I picked up the pace as best I could on an uphill ascent out of harms way! Apparently these bees are known for chasing after you.  I’d stupidly left my gloves back with the porters so was clearing brambles from my path with bare hands.  Pausing to catch my breath, and bathed in sweat, again gorillas were all around me. We eventually made our way out of the thicket we were in, although I suspect it was a circuitous route given the bee scare. Another magical hour passed all too quickly, but it was a totally different experience from that of yesterday and much more arduous. 

We opted to have lunch at the lodge today since we were so close and this afternoon all of us took advantage of the lodge’s resident masseuse, “Precious”, to sooth aching joints and muscles. We visited the local hospital and its adjacent nursing school which is one of the philanthropic projects that A&K support in Uganda. We were shown around the facility by executive director, Dr. Birunji, and he explained that one of their goals is to attract local women to deliver their babies in the hospital setting vs. at home in order to manage complications.  It was very moving to hear him speak of both his trials and triumphs.

Our boots were meticulously cleaned and delivered to our tents in anticipation of packing for tomorrow’s departure.  It was hard to believe that something I’d dreamed of doing for 25+ years was now a tangible memory and I was a bit sad to be leaving.  I would have loved one more day with these amazing creatures.  It had been physically challenging, but I did it! I also longed for time to see more of Uganda, all of the people we’d encountered were so nice and accommodating. In hindsight, it would have been nice to have a break day in-between the two tracks, just to relax a bit.  We flew back to Entebbe and Ruth Williams from the A&K Uganda office joined us for a nice lunch at “Faze 3”, an open-air restaurant not far from the airport before heading back for our connection to Dubai. I left with a heavy, but very full, heart. 

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