Thursday, December 22, 2011


I am not even sure where to start with this post - it was so amazing and so intense, I think I am still processing it. With my family here for a visit, Eric and I were able to leave O for a night and finally make the trek to see the mountain gorillas. We drove out to Musanze and stayed in the Ishema Hotel (I called it the Ishitty hotel - it really wasn't very nice) and got up early the next morning to make the short drive to the Volcanoes National Park headquarters. Eric had purchased our permits in Kigali so all we had to do was show up at 7am and get put into a group. Right now there are 10 groups of gorillas that you can trek to - the lead guide divides people into groups based on agility and fitness and then you set out. Each group consists of 8 people and one guide. We were put into the Ugenda group that has 13 gorillas in it - including 2 silverbacks - it is considered an "intermediate" hike. Once in our group we drove about forty minutes up closer to the mountain and then began our trek out. It was so incredibly beautiful - so much green and so few people - it was nice to just hear silence (along with the sounds of my own breathing as the elevation increased) and see the views. Porters met us at the starting point and trekkers are encouraged to hire porters to help the local economy - it seemed kinda silly as we only had one little day pack but our porter Deo really helped us out. We hiked for about one hour through terraced farm lands planted with potatos, pyrthrium and wheat until we got to the park boundary. Once at the boundary our guide, Beck, gave us a little lecture about how to act around the gorillas and the accepted distance to keep from them. It was a trip to go from the terraced farm land to the park - like stepping into the rain forrest - all of a sudden there was foliage all over and the trail turned to a narrow little muddy slice. The sun was filtered and you could feel the moisture in the air. Once into the forest we hiked for maybe another 45 minutes and finally spotted our trackers. These are professionals who go out early in the morning and track the gorillas - it makes it easier for tourists to see them. Once you find your trackers you know you are close to seeing the gorillas. We gathered in a circle and left our packs and walking sticks and then walked about ten feet away from our circle to where the gorilla's were resting. They were so quiet that if you didn't know where they were you would have hiked right past them. Once you spot the gorilla's your one hour time limit starts - it was literally the quickest hour of my life. You are supposed to stay about 20 feet away from the gorillas but that is close to impossible - they move around all the time and are curious so basically we just hung out and took a million pictures and let them do their thing. That's the down low for now - more to come with processing and a better internet connection.
So incredibly close to the gorillas...
The youngest member of the Ugenda group was this one year old
The lead silverback - he scratched his bum and then smelled his hand!
The big daddy giving checking me out - he weighed close to 500 pounds...HUGE!

School's out for the Summer!

I pick O up from school on Friday afternoons. A couple of weeks ago his teacher asked me if I minded if he played a missionary in the end of term school play. I looked at her with eyes wide open and said "of course not" so you can imagine how my mind processed my child playing a missionary at a preschool in Africa. The whole thing was just too freakin weird. As the week passed Eric told me one day that school asked if Orion had a suit and a cowboy hat - what the heck? Is that what missionaries wear? The missionaries I have met wear your average clothes. Since O owned no suit or cowboy hat we were out of luck. The following day Eric said that they asked if it was ok if he wore a roseary and carried a bible. In the end the play was cute - long and overdrawn for a preschool play but harmless. What a smiling missionary!
Parading around the stage in his "thomas the train" undies and a fur show how human clothing has changed over the ages. Pretty complex theme for preschool, huh?