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Gorillas – a LOT of gorillas [author: Ide]

By on May 29, 2011 in Rwanda with No Comments


(narrator: Ide] First let me say that I have yet to get hooked on the social media revolution, as most Facebook friends can attest.

Rwanda has been an interesting trip to say the least. From the infrastructure – which stretched beyond the capital to some of the farthest provinces – to the overall cleanliness and orderliness of the country.

Pulling up to the meeting area for the gorilla trek, my spirits fell, as there were roughly 50 tourists standing around sipping tea and coffee. I asked Omar, our guide/driver if all these folks were going on the gorilla trek. He said no, that this was the meeting point for all the trekking activities in the park.  My mood lifted and I was off to get some coffee.

After a few minutes Omar came back and asked which trek we wanted to go on – the short, medium, or long one. Without hesitation Justine said, “the long one.” Omar smiled and went in to register us to see the Susa gorillas – the largest group on the mountain. After another coffee we were collected to meet our guide and he gave us a breakdown of what to expect, which included that two twins had been born the day before.  During that meeting the other six trekkers introduced themselves and I realized one thing about tour groups that really sucks.  If there are more than five people in a group you are bound to have one asshole – in this case we had four. I will not go on about the shitty 50% of the group because on this trek I just ignored them (although I was not so lucky the next day).

Once briefed, we drove by 4WD on a seriously rocky road for roughly an hour and then the trek was on.  In addition to our guide, we were accompanied by two soldiers with AK47s.  At first I thought that this was odd, until the guide said that the buffaloes in the region were extremely aggressive and that the soldiers were there to scare them off with warning shots.  In my life I have learned that if someone needs a gun for an event, it’s good to stick as close as possible to them.  Especially if that person is carrying an AK.

Once we started into the forest we spent the first hour walking up a slightly hilly area of bamboo which morphed into a slightly steeper grade of low hanging tree branches and a shitload of stinging nettles. After about 45 minutes I noticed a pretty large turd that didn’t look like anything I’d ever seen before. I asked the guy with the AK47 if it was from a gorilla and he just smiled and nodded. With that, I stopped worrying about the nettles and began looking from side to side for a gorilla. Around a quarter hour later I saw three big-ass gorilla heads about twenty meters away and had to refrain from yelling, “Look at those three big-ass gorilla heads!” At that point everything went blank except for the thought “must look for more gorillas.”

We met up with the trackers (who follow the gorillas 24-7 to make sure no one poaches them) and dropped our camelbaks. As we stepped into a clearing we saw a silverback eating bamboo about 25 feet away. The other folks were all saying stuff like “this is amazing” and “this is awesome.” I just kept thinking, “Holy fuck that motherfucker’s huge.”  After a minute of amazement (on our part) the silverback glanced at us dismissively, got up, and made his way up the mountain.

We ascended in a different direction and in the next clearing I realized that we were now surrounded by gorillas. The bush was moving in almost every direction and we could see several in a clearing a few feet away.





After about ten minutes all the gorillas had moved on and now we were directly following them. As we walked along a freshly hacked path we came about five feet from a gorilla who had had twins the day before. Once again everyone was whispering things like “amazing” and stuff, and I’m thinking “Jesus Christ, she’s fucking going to kill us.”  Luckily I was incorrect, but she was annoyed and started off.  As she did I saw that the umbilical cords were still attached. Once again, whispers of amazement, and I thought, “Damn this some National Geographic shit right here.”


We headed further up the hill and hit paydirt. We came to a super large clearing where ten to fifteen gorillas of both sexes and all ages were eating and playing. For the first time they looked completely indifferent as to whether we were there or not. We got to observe them for about 40 minutes.


About 20 minutes in the guide grabbed me by the arm and said very calmly, but firmly, “Move.” When the guide says this, it usually means he’s heading you to a better viewpoint.  This was not the case. As I started to step, one of our group said, “Look out behind you,” and as I turned I saw a gorilla and her month-old baby waiting for me to get out of the way. I did so, verrry slowly. The remaining twenty minutes we watched as the new mother fussed over her twins; and some juveniles and an adult gorilla played slap-the-shit-out-of-each-other. Then it was over and we were off back down the mountain.

Unbeknownst to the group we were in for a vertical descent directly down the mountain through the craziest bush known to man. After about fifteen minutes everyone agreed that this was the longest and most painful shortcut ever.  Our path was hacked by a guy wielding a machete, which meant that not only did you have to look out for the ankle-twisting ground in front of you, but for eye-gouging icepick spears of freshly cut bamboo.  Our so-called (two hour) shortcut ensured that we left the park with great memories of gorillas, tons of mud on our asses, and more than a few scrapes.

All in all I will say that the hour or so I spent staring at the gorillas capped off possibly the best seven weeks of my life.



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