Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Africa & the Middle East (
-   -   Excited about Rwanda gorilla tracking, but a question...... (

losaltos Apr 17th, 2012 09:16 AM

Excited about Rwanda gorilla tracking, but a question......
We are all set for two days of gorilla tracking and visiting the Parc des Volcans, Kigali, etc. Well all set except for what kind of pants to wear! I know this sounds trivial but I keep hearing about the wet, mud, nettles, etc. I know not to wear jeans and have heard that the regular convertible safari pants are too thin. I bought some Dickies for they didn't work because they didn't have any stretch which seems to be desirable given the hiking, etc. So any recommendations? I looked at rain pants that could be worn over regular safari pants and that sounds like it might work. HELP!!!!

jules39 Apr 17th, 2012 10:35 AM

I wore......hiking/safari type pants that are not cotton the types you can get at REI or other hiking stores. I did carry pullon rain pants that fit over these pants. I carried them in Rwanda & more recently in Uganda. I did wear them on the decent of one of our treks in Rwanda. This was a 2 1/2 hour hike back from the gorillas & it rained the entire way so I as glad to have them. I have been lucky enough to do 2 treks & Rwanda a few years ago & 2 in Uganda this year. This "outfit" worked well for me. Do you have gloves? Enjoy!!!

carolines Apr 17th, 2012 01:31 PM

We did two treks in Rwanda last March which were fabulous, an "easy" one and a "moderate" one (which nearly did us in, but was so worth it!) It was hot and sunny both days. My husband wore regular lightweight cotton zip-off safari pants and I wore heavier cotton pants. We were both very comfortable. Make sure you can crouch down comfortably in the pants you choose as you may spend a goodly amount of time creeping on all fours or squatting under vines as we did. Also that you can take giant steps up and down. We took along elastic-waist nylon overpants in our backpacks in case of rain. We spent quite a lot of time sliding down the mountain on our rear ends (in wet mud), but we had packed our trekking pants with a view to writing them off at the end. However, amazingly, the lodge cleaned them like new.

We stayed at Governor's Sabyinyo lodge which provided raingear, gloves and backpacks along with the gaiters,but we hadn't know that ahead of time so brought our own. Absolutely take leather or some sort of heavy gloves against the nettles (our were knitted "gorilla gloves" with rubber palms and fingers).

The nettle shrubs were taller than we were in some places so we wore long-sleeved light cotton shirts (we got really hot climbing.) If you wear glasses it might be helpful to use a cord on them as sometimes the overhanging vines whacked you in the face; be careful for your eyes. A life-saver for me was taking along a small bottle of "natural tears" as twice I had small insects fly into my eye. Another trekker did also so I was glad to have it with me.

The best things we took with us were collapsible water bottles (flat vinyl that expands when you fill them)that hook onto your belt with carabiners. Our fellow climbers were very envious as we could drink as we went. Everyone else had their water bottles stashed in their backpacks which the porters carried, and it was awkward to have to stop everyone in the procession to find your porter and get your bottle. We were glad to have hired two porters as some of the trekking was virtually impossible without helping hands to pull you(or drag you) up as you climbed.

Someone else on this forum had recommended bringing a collapsible walking stick along. I had brought a lightweight folding aluminum one and it was a real blessing having it in addition to the wooden stick provided on the trek. If you have any knee trouble at all, two sticks make a world of difference when facing a steep step up and made landing after a long step down much easier.

Sabyinyo provided us with a packed lunch for each of our treks, but when we all rested on the mountain to eat before the descent, some of the other people staying elsewhere had nothing at all to eat. Also,none of porters had any food. We were ravenous after our climbs and really need an energy boost at that point. We had stuffed our backpacks with granola and energy bars on the recommendation of others on the forum, and were very glad to have had lots to share with everyone.

One thing I do wish I'd had on one of the treks: a small pair of scissors! On a particularly slippery trail I fell headfirst into a cocklebur-type bush and was stuck fast in it by my hair (which had been tied back.) Everyone rallied 'round to help pull me out, but the only way to free me was to pull out bunches of my caught hair by the roots. Painful to say the least, and totally embarassing! I was picking tiny burrs out of my hair for days afterwards.

Our treks to the gorillas were brilliant and you'll have a wonderful experience! We were very glad to have two treks as well, as none of the females in the first family we visited made an appearance at all. Highlights of our treks were gorilla toddlers daring each other to run up and touch our shoes, a mother proudly uncovering the head of her two-week old infant as it nursed at her breast, so I and a fellow lady trekker could ooh and ahh over him, (so tiny!!) and being sideswiped by a silverback who seemed to know the hour was up, and gave us the signal to pack it in.

Happy trekking!

sundowner Apr 17th, 2012 06:30 PM

I enjoyed your report, carolines! How fortunate to see an infant. Sorry about your hair. That's one scenario I wouldn't have imagined.

losaltos, I wore thin rain pants over my regular pants and even though it didn't rain, everything was very muddy. I have worn those rain pants on many occasions since then and am glad I have them. I was there in a January and it was pretty warm. Okay, hot.

Leely2 Apr 17th, 2012 07:07 PM

I simply wore heavy-ish olive colored khakis from Old Navy--cheapo, didn't spend more than $15 on these pants. They had some stretch in them and were long enough to tuck into my socks. Brought 2 pairs which worked out because one of my treks was a bit of a slog and the kind ladies at Kinigi Guest House laundered one pair while I hiked in the other the next day.

In the end you won't care about your gear! do take gloves and some kind of snack. Rwanda is a beautiful country despite its horrific recent history. I hope you fall under its spell.

losaltos Apr 18th, 2012 09:41 AM

Thanks all for your encouraging responses! We are staying at the Sabyinyo Silverback and could have used some of the gear they provide...but have already purchased it all. I do have the gloves, hiking pole, backpack etc...also someone suggested eyeglass defogger so got that as well.

Jules39: You said you used "hiking/safari type pants that are not cotton the types you can get at REI or other hiking stores." Can you clarify that...what are they made of if not cotton?

Should be a great adventure! Will of course post trip report and photos.....

carolines Apr 18th, 2012 01:44 PM

losaltos, you will love Sabyinyo lodge! The birding in the gardens is great, the cottages are luxurious and the scenery from up so high on the mountain is stunning. The altitude also helps you acclimatize for the gorilla trekking. If you have the opportunity we highly recommend you visit the Iby'Iwacu cultural village at the bottom of the mountain. It is just what a cultural visit should be, lots of fun with the locals! The village was one of the highpoints of our 5 weeks in Africa, lots of colourful photos too.

At the ORTPN there is a fellow selling wooden hiking sticks like the ones they loan you for the trek, only these are stained dark brown, with little gorillas carved into the wood. Someone on the forum had mentioned she bought one and took it home. So of course I bought one too (even has a baby gorilla carved into it) and was able to take it onto all our flights home. It fit into the overhead bins perfectly. I used it to hike the long winding stairway leading up to the Lodge after our trekking, perfect. Only $10. and it's our favorite souvenir from Rwanda.
Every time I pick it up I can see the nettles, the billions of pyrethrum daisies in the fields, and the gorilla youngsters tumbling at our feet!

After the descent from our second gorilla visit, when we were all catching our breath back at "the wall", someone asked for a group photo, so we have a wonderful photo taken by our guard of all us trekkers posing by the wall with our guide and our porters. If you think of it, it makes another wonderful souvenir that will bring back some incredible memories!

Jane62 Apr 18th, 2012 03:58 PM

Los Altos, I don't have anything helpful to add to the discussion, but just wanted to say hi because I also live in Los Altos! How funny - I wonder if we know each other? I wish there were a way to private message on here but apparently not! I am also so jealous of your upcoming trip, it sounds amazing, and also enjoying the things others are sharing of their trips. I'm dying to do this sort of trip - next trip to Africa, maybe. We're making our very first trip to Africa this June but with kids (13, and 10) so they were too young to do the gorilla-tracking sort of trip. We're looking forward to it though - S. Africa! Have a great trip and I'd love to hear about it! If you're a tripadvisor member, you could PM me over there - I'm momof2LosAltos over there!

losaltos Apr 19th, 2012 09:14 PM

carolines: Thanks for the tip re: the walking stick. That does sound like a good souvenir. We will of course go visit the cultural center. We have a day between gorilla treks so will have the time.

Jane62: I am indeed on TA and will ping you there!

Thanks all!

jules39 Apr 22nd, 2012 08:44 PM

The pants are made of some high tech nylon or stuff:-) They are pricey so I would not go out & buy them just for gorilla trekking. I use them hiking at home all the time so I just took them. I would invest in some light weight rain pants though. As someone mentioned they are great for mud.

losaltos Apr 23rd, 2012 08:59 PM

jules39: I did get rain pants (they feel like rubber, ugh) so will put those over something I guess. Thanks all!

mistadobalina Apr 24th, 2012 12:16 AM

We wore convertible pants, breathable long underwear (just the tops), t-shirts, and lightweight rainproof/windproof jackets. The jackets are easy enough to wrap around your waist if you get hot, but they come in handy for not having anything stick to them, and they are invaluable if there is a shower. Nobody had any issues with nettles.

Leslie_S Apr 25th, 2012 12:07 PM

Would someone be able to give a good idea of the kind of gloves that are needed? Would leather gardening gloves work?

porcupinelane Apr 25th, 2012 02:00 PM

Leather gardening gloves would probably work. We didn't have any, so went to the local hardware store, and bought a pair of gloves for "thorns"/roses. It was not too expensive. There was rubber padding on the palms of the gloves, and that was really helpful. If not for that padding, I think the nettles would have stung my palms.

We went on two days. On day 1, we each had a pair of thick nylon pants (and all got stung). On day 2, we put on an extra pair of those lightweight hiking pants, because we had seen our guide do this (double layer). It was very effective! Day 2 was definitely less stinging!

We wrote up our trip (to both Rwanda and Tanzania) on , in case you are interested in more info.

PS Hi to Los Altos x 2! I am in Sunnyvale, not too far. =)

Have a wonderful trip!

Jane62 Apr 25th, 2012 11:44 PM

Hi Porcupinelane - funny, so many of us who live so close together! We should set up a get-together to talk about Africa after Losaltos and I get back from our next trips! I'm not going to see the gorillas but I hope to some day!

Leslie_S Apr 26th, 2012 09:49 AM

porcupinelane - thanks for the glove and pants advice - and I've bookmarked your site - it's fabulous! Lots of good info there. I wish we had a group of friends that would want to go with us like you did - that does seem like a fun way to do a safari. Most of our friends are thinking mainly of college funds for their kids now so safari is too much of a luxury to consider - or then there are the ones who say "you're going WHERE?"

atravelynn Apr 28th, 2012 09:13 AM

Your porter can carry your rainpants in pack. I never was stabbed through my trousers by nettles during numerous treks up the mountain. Heavy material would have been uncomfortable. Cotton garden gloves are a good idea if you can stash them in your pockets for the majority of the trip.

Bring something for potential blisters or soreness after hike #1 so you are in good shape for hike #2. Even if your boots are 100% broken in, the steep paths can make your feet/toes rub on different parts where you don't already have calluses built up.

Have fun!

losaltos Apr 30th, 2012 09:21 AM

Jane62 and Porcupinelane: Yes we should get together after our various trips. Jane: When do you leave/return?

atravelynn: Thanks for the tip re: blisters. I have some moleskin and assume that will work?

I leave June 21 and am getting so excited!

carolines Apr 30th, 2012 11:20 AM

atravelynn, great advice on bringing foot care supplies along - thanks to your trip report of a few years ago, we brought lots with us. (I viewed your gorilla photos yesterday and they are fabulous!) I actually put moleskin inside my shoes, and stuck bandaids to the backs of my heels, little toes, vulnerable areas BEFORE the hikes so nothing had a chance to develop from chafing. Worked great! had no problems with any blisters at all despite even the really long, steep and strenous 2nd trek (to the Amahoro group.)

However besides falling into the burr bush I also sprained a muscle on the top of my foot, when my foot slipped down off the wet mud path in one direction, and my porter yanked me simultaneously in the other. Luckily I had brought along one of those long brown stretchy bandage rolls with clips. The swelling started that evening and the bandage helped a lot - especially a couple of days later at Kigali airport when I was cheerfully waved onto the plane with my gorilla stick (and limp.)

On the walk through the pyrethrum fields before the wall, (going to Amahoro group) at one point we all had to jump a gaping crevasse in the path that was at least three feet wide, very scary as if you missed, it was at least a ten foot fall straight down. It was too wide to step across. A very nervous lady with very short legs had to take a running jump and barely cleared the gap after teetering on the edge; thankfully someone managed to grab her arm. We wondered why there wasn't some sort of plank placed across it, it was quite dangerous. Later as we were descending the mountain I was worrying about jumping that gap again, as my knees after 6 hours trekking were feeling a bit wobbly. Also, I think it was on this same trek that we had to balance walk on a log placed over another crevasse, just after climbing the wall. We all helped each other but there was moment in the middle when you were on your own! I think if you have a problem jumping it would be a good idea to let your driver know, before you are assigned to this group (unless they've covered the gap since.)

losaltos, since you are also staying at Sabyinyo, here's a tip: when your cottage steward washes your hiking shoes and leaves them tipped up on the hearth of your fireplace to dry beside the fire, don't be tempted to move them any closer to dry them faster! My husband did this and in the morning found the soles had partially melted! Somehow they managed to hold out for the second trek, but after that they were toast...! I wish I were back in Sabyinyo right now, I envy you! Have a wonderful time!

atravelynn Apr 30th, 2012 04:40 PM

Thanks Carolines. You had one of the most harrowing gorilla visits I have heard of with your flying leaps over crevices and such. Heavens!

Moleskin is good, along those pads that surround a sore area that has been irritated and might blister. They are probably made of moleskin with adhesive on the back and are in the shape of a tiny toilet seat. Not the medicated corn pads that remove a corn.

Good point on the ankle supports, Carolines! On any hiking trips over uncertain terrain I take two of the step-in kind of ankle supports that leave the feet and heel open. Have always brought these home or left them, thank goodness.

Melty soles, oh no! Good tip, though! One guy on a gorilla visit had his whole heel come off his boot. He was able to flop back down the hill ok...which brings up another good item to pack that would have repaired the heel: some duct tape wrapped around a pen or pencil for easy toting. I have not loaded my gorilla porter down with duct tape but I do bring some in my luggage.

June 21 is just around the corner.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:50 AM.