Thursday

Muzungus in the mist - Angela

Gorilla trekking ranks second on my list of most memorable, physical endurance tests; second only to the birth of my children. It was incredible. We started our hike at an elevation of 1500 meters and ended up at 3000 meters. Breathing was a challenge, but somehow the whole hike got easier as we got nearer the top. As we gathered around the dominant male silverback, a female with a small baby, and another younger gorilla, it seemed as if it was a Muzungu parade with as they followed our every movement with their eyes. Our guide taught us 'gorilla language', which consisted of a series of grunts, asking if it was okay for us to come close. I'm pretty sure the only people who used the language were our guides because I for one couldn't take my eyes or mind off our surroundings. There was a heavy mist that rolled in just before we reached the ape family, but as we stood watching them during our hour, the mist cleared and we could see the volcano rim that we were next to. There were about six other gorillas that surrounded us at different times during our observation of them. A few were younger, perhaps between four and five years old, and they'd scamper up trees only to get too close to the edge and break the branch off, tumbling to the ground. A few times we were worried they'd end up on top off us because they were up in back of where we were standing. No worries though - everyone in our party left the site intact. I swear that some of the gorillas were watching us with as much interest as we were watching them. Others were napping- gorillas that is, not students. These mountain gorillas were the same ones that Dian Fossey wrote about in her book, "Gorillas in the Mist", which later became a movie. She worked to save the mountain gorillas from extinction from poaching. I'm so grateful for the work she did in raising awareness for this cause. Today there is a cooperative effort on the part of Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo, the three countries who share gorilla habitat, in gorilla conservation. For lack of words that can describe this experience, it was definitely one of the coolest things I've ever done.

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