Rwanda: The Mountain Gorillas

So, gorillas. 

We got to the Volcanoes National Park at around 7 am for our orientation and to meet with our guides. The dancers that perform during the gorilla naming ceremony came to perform their traditional dance, which was quite lively and just what I needed to wake me up a bit. 

These gorillas are a major source of pride and cultural identity for Rwandans, and they take their conservation very seriously. 

Then we got a little tutorial on gorilla behavior and the particular family of gorillas that we were going to see that day, the Hirwa Group. Trackers monitor the gorillas' location during the night so that they can radio the morning guides about where they are. We were going to see the Hirwa Group because it was in a location that was fairly accessible, and the trackers would stay with them until we arrived so we would be sure to see them. 

We hiked for about two hours straight up the mountain. It was fairly tough terrain, but one of the guides was in front of us hacking down briars and vines with a machete so that we could more easily make the trek. And there were porters carrying our bags. Mom, Hannah, and I only had one bag between us, so our porter felt a little useless, I think. That is, until Mom had trouble with one particularly gnarly rock area, and he came to her rescue. After that, he was right by her side helping her up the rest of the way. Other porters weren't quite as lucky. There was a wildlife photographer with us who had four enormous cameras, three of which his porter was carrying up on his back. I was worried for them, but then it was all of us who were huffing and puffing and needed to stop to catch our breath. 

The excitement in the group was pretty high - and only enhanced by the fact that we were told to remain very quiet in the hopes that we might see other wildlife. Something about the sound of just our footsteps and breathing in that big forest made the hike up feel like a wild adventure. 

And it was a bit - we were going to hang out with gorillas. 

Those are the enormous feet of the Silver Back Gorilla.

We spent an hour with them, and it was pretty freaking amazing. Of course, my main feeling was that I really wanted more time. I'm so glad that I have tons of great photos, but I wanted to just sit next to them for a while, shoot the breeze. We had to stay about 5 feet away from them at all times because they're very susceptible to human diseases, but man, did I want to cuddle. At least until the wind changed, and I got a whiff of them. Pee-ewe.

The seven of us crowding around snapping their photos and taking video didn't really seem to phase them at all. I asked the guide what they thought of us. After being a tracker and then a guide for twelve years, he thinks they just see us as little anemic gorillas. They were probably worried about our nutrition! Whatever the case, they just went about their business as if we weren't there.

But looking at my photos afterwards, I could not get over how expressive their faces are! Just look at these guys (and gals).

This will be perfect for my OK Cupid profile.

What? It's just an appetizer. I'll still be hungry for dinner. I promise.

Okay, if we multiply the derivative..nom 4 and...nom nom...divide the sum by 8, I think...nom nom...that'll give us the value we're looking for.


Go on. Save yourselves. I'm just...too...weak...must rest...on this...branch...

I could totally climb this...
Maybe a snack first...
Damn. Is that a hangnail? 

You're going to put this on youtube, right? Here I come Ellen show!
What?! Downtown Abbey's new season doesn't start until 2013?!
Sigh. What's the point anymore? I miss Mary. 

Be careful up there! Somebody's gonna poke an eye out!
Don't you talk back to me, young man.
Can you hear me now?