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Excited about Rwanda gorilla tracking, but a question......

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Apr 30th, 2012, 04:24 PM
  #21
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Wow more good input from all your trekking vets -- thanks so much! Crevasse jumping isn't one of my skills so I hope they have fixed that by now. My big worry is difficulty breathing at that altitude and with all that climbing. I have been doing a lot of cardio, so I hope by now to be moreable to do it. We arrive at Sabyinyo on only our first full day in Africa (arriving the ight before in Nairobi) so am taking Diamox.
Carolines: how long were your two treks? Sounds like the difficult one was about six hours?! Is that one way?
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Apr 30th, 2012, 08:24 PM
  #22
 
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atravelynn - "flying leaps", hah! We can laugh about it now but it sure wasn't fun at the time! My husband suspects the crevasse might still be gaping open, that if some sort of plank was put over it, it would be pinched for someone's home nearby. It's weird that no one else seems to have mentioned it as far as we've noticed.

Shoe malfunction - another good reason to bring duct tape! Had some with us, never thought of using it for the shoes but will remember for "next time"...

You know how you always remember the good stuff and shrug off the not-so-good...I do recall that second hike with a lot of pride and satisfaction despite the leaping, the bugs in the eye, the sprain, and keeling over head first into a man-eating bush. The trek itself was seriously taxing. I guess it could all be deemed harrowing in contrast to our "easy" first trek - but compared to my truly, spectacularly horrible episode with Nairobi fly on our first safari in 2007, this trek was a doddle! A bit concerned though as we will be riding elephant in Zimbabwe next spring. With my history I might be asking for trouble.

losaltos - this difficult second trek was three hours "up" and three hours "down". I put that in quotations since we went in a zig-zag,up and down and up and down both there and back. We would climb to a ridge, cross it, go down a ways, then up another ridge, over and over. Most of the time we were climbing and stumbling about deep in shade and foliage, or crawling on all fours under vines and through bamboo. Always, looking down at our feet to find ways around and through the mud, slipping and sliding and searching for footholds. But every so often, when we reached a clearing at the top of a ridge, I looked up, and was just stunned to see the mighty green peak of the volcano so close, so enormous, looming above us against that blue blue sky - it just took my breath away! (not that I had a lot to spare.)

When finally we reached the gorilla family, the adrenalin surged and there was no pain, no fatigue, just pure joy and exhilaration! I cannot describe how beautiful the experience was, just awe and wonder and joy and contentment all at once. I felt like my entire body was laughing inside with happiness. My favorite photo of our encounter is not a gorilla portrait! it's a capture of an incredible smile in the eyes of my husband, as he crouches just two feet from the outstretched arm of a fuzzy toddler. I go all teary when I look at it. The crowning moment was the very human gaze of a mother gorilla's brown eyes looking directly into mine, as I crouched open-mouthed with awe in front of her, half hidden by a bush, watching as she uncovered her nursing infant. I will never ever forget that. It was just a few seconds, but as she looked at me, then to another lady in our group, her chest literally swelled with maternal pride. It was a highly emotional moment. Dreams are made of this! The magic hour seemed to be over in a heartbeat, and I was so glad to have remembered the advice of another trekker: to put down the camera at some point, sit back (careful, the nettles) and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

The second time, it was really sad leaving the gorillas after that brief hour (though not after the first trek; we were totally exhilarated and couldn't wait for next day's encounter) and suddenly we all felt the weariness kick in, wow. It was hard for all of us to face the climb back down. When we reached our porters in a clearing, waiting for us with our snacks, my husband hopefully scanned the skies looking for a helicopter pick-up. He was the oldest on the trek, in his early sixties, significantly older than me but he fared better than any of us! he is very fit. You needn't worry about stopping for breath whilst trekking, losaltos. We had an asthmatic lady in our group (we happened to be with the same people on both treks)and she had lots of difficulty, having to stop often. The slowest person is put at the head of the line and sets the pace. You are encouraged to request a pause when you need one and believe me we were all grateful whenever we heard someone cry "time out please"! We sensed the porters were very protective of their "charges" and they often knew when you needed a break even before you did!

At the ORTPN the guide had assured us this would be a "moderate" trek but it was far more taxing than any of us had expected (ages of our group were 30's, 40's, 50's plus my husband.) The trek was preceded by about 40 minutes' level walk through some of the most spectacular scenery ever - millions and millions of white pyrethrum daisies blooming against the brilliant green of the volcanoes. It was heaven. It felt weirdly like a Swiss alpine setting except with very tall edelweiss (this is where we had to jump the crevasse.)

We were so surprised at the difficulty of the second climb because our first trek the day before, an "easy" trek to the Agashya group, was really that. First, a short hike across the Irish potato fields through beautiful scenery, past a village or two and lots of waving children. Lovely. Then an easy walk through some very pretty bush, steep at times (and having two sticks I had an easier time than most, levering myself up and over some giant sized clefts in the ridge.) Very enjoyable indeed, not too much mud or nettles except for a few stings on our necks. We were able to chat happily as we went forth, the time passed quickly, and so we were astonished to suddenly hear the trackers whisper "they're here!" We were treated to an up-close hour with a baby-gorilla daycare overseen by the silverback, fun! Back at the lodge in time for lunch. As we ate we all laughed at how easy and fun the trek had been, not nearly as tough as what we had imagined. We ate those words the next day after trek number 2 - and long after the lunch hour had passed! Closer to suppertime actually.

losaltos, it's good that you have a day between treks. If I were you I would ask your driver to request an easy trek the first day, as the altitude may indeed wind you a little. We had come from two weeks in Kenya at high altitudes so had no trouble at all. Your overnight beforehand at Sabyinyo will help as it is very high up, at something like 8500 feet I think. You will be totally pampered there with every comfort, so by the second trek you should be able to face a bigger challenge if you so choose!

Where are you staying in Kigali? If it's at the Serena, you will be dumbstruck to find you had to travel all the way to Rwanda to find the best French fries on the planet!
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May 2nd, 2012, 04:12 PM
  #23
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Carolines: Wow thanks for all the info -- and the wonderful word pictures of your visits with the gorillas. It has made me even more excited to go! Yes we are staying at the Serena in Kigali. Have made a note re: the French fries, though would likely have gone there w/o the reminder -- love them!
BTW I am 66!
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May 3rd, 2012, 12:28 PM
  #24
 
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losaltos: You must be counting the sleeps! Did you use "Governors" to book your trek and accomodations? Last year we used "Governors" as our ground operators for Kenya and Rwanda - we stayed at their Loldia House, Little Governors (second time there) and of course Sabyinyo, then Kigali Serena. After gorilla trekking we flew back to Nairobi to repack for Namibia, and ended our five weeks with a stay at &Beyond Sossusvlei that completely rocked our minds. It is the most truly awesome place we have ever seen or experienced.

Anyway Governors will book travellers a suite at the Kigali Serena as a matter of course. No matter what type of room you have booked there, here's a tip: someone had written on Trip Advisor that they were initially shown to a very tired, badly worn room/suite - definitely not worth the high price - and so they returned to reception, asked for a room in the refurbished wing, and got a wonderful, completely different suite. The same thing happened to us: the first suite the porter led us to (actually a huge room with seating area) was pretty grim, down a shabby dark corridor (first tip-off) and there was really noisy construction going on nearby. We too returned to reception, asked for a newer room, and it was no problem at all at reception, they were most gracious - OMG the suite we were given was absolutely gorgeous! In fact it was one of the most beautiful rooms we've ever seen in our travels, top drawer furnishings, wonderful attention to detail, stunning marble bath, beautiful linens etc. This in Rwanda, a complete surprise. So do be sure to ask at check-in for a room in the newly refurbished area. Room service was excellent (and oh those French fries made with Rwandan Irish potatoes...!) We had a small balcony looking down over a lovely pool, and in the evening you can have a candlelit dinner on the adjoining patio, with live music. We enjoyed an excellent guitarist and singer. Very romantic. There was never any construction noise at night but I'm guessing the hotel has completed the expansion work by now.

Are you still planning to journey to Bots/Victoria Falls after Rwanda? We were wondering which Wilderness camps you had decided on. Next March (only 330 sleeps) we will also be at two Wilderness camps in Botswana, then 3 nights at Elephant Camp in Victoria Falls. Afterwards we fly back to South Africa for safari in Sabi Sands, then Rovos rail to Cape Town, then winelands then home. Our African agent has made almost 40 trips to Botswana and I think is relieved to have finally got us to safari there!
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May 8th, 2012, 08:13 AM
  #25
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carolines: We booked our trip locally with a wonderful agent in Berkeley (Next Adventure). I also used them for my last trip to Kenya/SA last August and was very satisfied. Unfortunately we only get one night at Sabyinyo (all booked) but move then for two nights to Virunga Safari Lodge which I hear is also nice. Farther away, however. We spend 9 days in Tanzania after Rwanda, then I go solo down to Vic FAlls and Botswana (3 camps: Chitabe, Duma Tau and Kwetsani) then home from Joburg. Thanks for the tip re: the rooms at Kigali Serena. We will certainly make the trip back to the front desk if disappointed with the first one.
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May 8th, 2012, 01:18 PM
  #26
 
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Hi LosAltos - sorry for the late reply, I hadn't been reading this thread the past week or so! I leave for S. Africa on June 8 and return June 30 - so you leave on June 23 and when do you return?
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May 8th, 2012, 08:03 PM
  #27
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jane62: I leave on June 21 and return July 18.
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May 8th, 2012, 09:06 PM
  #28
 
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ah very good. Well when you get back in July, we'll all want to hear about your trip and also, you and I and PorcupineLane should all get together (so long as PorcupineLane isn't going to Africa too!) and share Africa stories!
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May 9th, 2012, 08:51 AM
  #29
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Jane62: Absolutely, let's get together! We should have lots to share....
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May 9th, 2012, 06:51 PM
  #30
 
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In addition to gorillas, it appears African adventures abound!
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