I am not sure how you can really ever top seeing the gorillas for the first time. It was an intense experience and realizing how special it is to have been able to get that close to them is still even now sinking in.
Post gorillas yesterday we made the short descent back to Buhoma, it was downhill (easier) but a bit slippery at times as many of the rocks were covered in jungle moss. Two things I learned during the descent: 1. All those years of climbing rocks and subsequently falling down cliffs at the Shuswap has finally yielded me some good experience (no falls!!) and, 2. Ian will hold a boys hand all the way down a mountain because he is too damn polite to tell his porter he can do it on his own.
It absolutely down poured once we got back to the lodge, so we did what any logical couple would do- we got a couples massage. During our massage Gad came and took our boots to "clean" them for the next trek... When we returned post-massage our boots were returned- spotless. I actually think they came out of the box dirtier.
Dinner was lovely as it was the night before; chicken satay, carrot soup and chocolate mousse. Ronald has been taking the best care of us here- breakfast, lunch, dinner, he has been top notch The only other couple staying at Bwindi with us was Beverly and Erik; a British/French couple residing in London. They were great company and we now have (another) place to stay in London next time we visit.
Now- to the good stuff (the preamble almost always is for my ever failing memory... A few good reminders a few years down the road when I can't remember where I was in January 2016... 😊)
This morning we had a 5am wake up call- coffee and cookies included. For a different experience, Petrus has decided that we will go to Ruhoja today. Ruhija is only 42 short kilometres away however, with Ugandan infrastructure this drive will take us 2 hours (hence the ungodly wake up call). Added to this mornings stress is the fact that our money is locked in the office safe and yesterday's downpour has left the red clay roads much less stable than desired for this drive.
Despite being dark most of the way to Ruhija, when the sun comes up we are surrounded by banana and tea plantations. Uganda is a lush country, we extremely fertile soil. Political instability has been the single cause of the poor economic conditions in the country; as the export business and domestic agriculture has all of the ingredients required to succeed. Watching the sun wake up the mountains is a sight to be seen- jungle mist gently lifting from the ground as the emerald green vegetation slowly sweats the nights humidity.
After finally arriving in Ruhija (after a few close calls with getting stuck on the side of an African "mountain" with no AMA to call) we were quickly introduced to today's guide- Steven. Steven was going to take us to find the Bitukura family- with 4 silverbacks and 12 other members- the family is much bigger than yesterday's. And so- we began- this time down instead of up.
With the mud, getting down into the floor of the rainforest was difficult at times- more than one person slipping into the muck. Our porters were extra helpful guiding us today, on more than one occasion steering me from deep camouflaged swamp and helping me navigate through the month old elephant foot-prints that were filled a foot deep with stagnant water. Ian fared better in this environment than me... Those long legs (although not flexible) helped him get through the churned up pathways until we made our diversion.
Diversion it was. First up- the kind of up that I didn't know if I was stepping on tress which had been matted down to the forest floor or 4 feet from it. Using my walking stick to guide the stability we navigated upslope until we went undercover again. Once fully in the bush, the guides and trackers were merciless in hacking away vines and branches with machetes to get us closer to the gorillas. And then- what felt like a 45 degree angle, we were told again to put away our walking sticks and prepare to see the gorillas!! Only this time they were less than excited to see us.
At first we only caught a glimpse of a 2-3 year old playing in the treetops, much less visible than yesterday's. I thought to myself that it could be disappointing if this was all we got today, as it really seemed we had nowhere else to go. That was until Steve started swinging his machete to get us further into the forest, or a steeper downslope to catch a glimpse of the silverback and a female sitting on 10 square feet of plateau in the forest. The silverback was 36 year old Ndahura. He was noticeably bigger than Kanyonyi (yesterday's star), and very clear that he did not want us near. At one point he began grunting and began to make a ruckus as tho he was going to charge... I am proud to say I am definitely a flight-er and not a fighter... I have no idea where I thought I was going but I wasn't sticking around to watch him either A. Rip my arms from their sockets or B. Watch him get pumped full of bullets. (I am happy to report that neither occurred because I was sternly scolded to stay still so as to not create either of these situations).
The guides then spotted a new member under the females arm; a baby, maybe a few months old which was the cause of the silverbacks reaction to our presence. Once this information was in our possession (and the silverback had seemingly moved on) we bush-whacked further into the jungle to watch a second silverback and several adolescents munching away on a suspended fallen tree.
After our allotted hour- we had to get out, but fortunately the trackers took us on an abridged version of our entrance path- only this time half way through one of the, yelled "Faster! Ants!" Less than 15 seconds later Ian and I are taking turns swearing as fire ants managed their way into and onto our clothing, biting us at will. By the time we got to the clearing, we both stripped off our first few layers to rid ourselves of the ants- which as expected were clung nicely to all that luon and silverescent fabric I insisted on wearing for the trek (fashion over function you know...)
Ok ok ok. Too long of a post again. Just know it was awesome and here are more pictures!!!!!