Gorilla trek Feb 2023

Old Feb 23rd, 2023, 06:56 AM
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Gorilla trek Feb 2023

Feb 14, 2023.

This is a very long report of our gorilla trek.
A long time friend and I flew from Vancouver to London on Air Canada.

We decided to overnight in Heathrow at the Hilton garden inn right in terminal 2 which was great. Comfortable beds, great pillows and towels and fantastic food in the roof top restaurant.

The following morning we flew BA to Nairobi and decided to spend two nights there to try to get over our jet lag before the hike. Being retired we have that luxury. Again at the Hilton garden inn but near Nairobi Airport, and we’re happy with everything. We did have to show our Covid certificates upon arrival at airport. We had purchased East African visas ahead of time and it all went seamlessly

Our full day of relaxing was spent by the rooftop pool and a short trip to the Nairobi national museum which was well worth it
At 11AM the following morning we flew to Kigali on Rwandair and with the time change arrived at 11:30. We needed to produce a negative PCR test to the rangers tomorrow taken the day prior to seeing the gorillas and upon arrival saw some booths near security that said “free Covid tests”. There were quite a few booths and a number of attendants but no patients. I asked them and sure enough they gave us each a test for free! Our driver was amazed, he did not know they were offering free ones. They may have only been supposed to be for locals, not sure. They cost $50USD at the hospital. They gave us some codes we would need to check the results on line in 3hours.

Our driver was Norman from Gorilla trek Africa and he met us at the airport to take us on the 2 1/2 hour drive to Tiloreza, our home for the next two nights. I had used Gorilla TA in 2019 and thought they were great so used them again. We used the ATM outside the terminal to get Rwandan cash for the tips.

The scenery of course is breathtaking , I had forgotten how incredibly beautiful it was.

Our hotel is very small, a nice pool, rooms all on the ground floor. The food was good, not amazing but good. Staff were wonderful and our room was large and nice.

The staff checked our Covid results on the Internet and thankfully we were negative and good to go. We were so relieved and then just chilled for the rest of the night

Feb 19, the big day has finally arrived. This is my friends first gorilla trek and first trip to Africa. I have done two previous treks to Uganda and one in Rwanda and found the one in Rwanda so much easier so chose to come here again.

Our lodge provided us with gators and after much agonizing about footwear I once again just wore my gortex hiking runners. We only travel with carry on so not much room for extra boots.

I love people watching at the meeting point, some folks look like they just came from a shopping trip to LL bean in all their crisp brand new safari gear, while others are in yoga pants and white runners

Our group was to see the new family Muhoza. A silverback broke away and found 10 females to join him and now have 8 youngsters making a family of 19. One baby was born that morning. This was supposed to be an easy trek as they were last spotted close to the base of the mountain and rarely go high.

The gorillas had other plans. We drove up an extremely rough road for about twenty minutes or so until we got to the potato fields. One of the rangers rode with us which was great because we learned a lot from him about the gorilla family we were about to visit . There were seven of us, we hail from Canada, a fellow from Columbia, woman from Mexico City and another couple from Israel. There was one other fellow but never did talk to him. We were by far the oldest, actually I never saw anyone else much over 60. We are both 69.

Linda and I were the only ones who hired a porter, mine was a young woman who did not speak English and Linda had a lovely young man.

I was just in hospital in Bangkok for a few days at the end of my trip to Asia in November for a sudden and unexpected back issue where I couldn’t walk for a few days. I was advised not to come on this trip but this was all paid for and non refundable. I did lots of physiotherapy and small hikes beforehand and took drugs in the morning . I knew I could do it.

We started to walk down a flat path for about 15 minutes and the ranger was talking to the trackers constantly. Patience was his name but he admitted he didn’t have any. He suggest we sit and wait for a half an hour cos the gorillas were still travelling and had headed up the mountain.

Patience finally heard from the trackers and we walked back to where we started, much to the surprise of our drivers. From there we walked through potato fields for another half hour or so and then headed up the mountain. It was very steep and there was not a path or trail of course, just what the guys had macheted through for us. It had not rained for a few days so it was hot but no mud. I was grateful for the gators and I had brought garden gloves for the stinging nettles which were needed.

My porter was awful. I have had porters before but I think this must have been her first day. Because of my back issues I welcomed the help, but she would grab my hand pull me and went too fast. When I let go of her hand she would walk in front and just let the branches hit me in the face and chest.

We got to a very steep part, straight up and the soil is so rich that it just falls way when you try to climb it. She was yanking on my arm and almost pulling it out of the socket. I actually yelled at her, I was so frustrated and worried about being hurt. Unbeknownst to me the ranger assigned a second woman to me as well. She was yanking on the other arm and grabbed so tight I ended up with a huge bruise

Finally Patience came and told them how to just lend an arm for support and let me pull myself up which was great

The other woman then grabbed my ass from behind with both hands and literally pushed my fat ass up that hill which I appreciated. I think the really steep part was around 30- 40 minutes but it is really all just a blur and I was not looking at my watch.

As I say it was very steep but now we were heading crosswise. Patience told us to put down our walking sticks and water bottle and get our cameras as we were there. He took my hand and assisted me the rest of the way.

Our first encounter was a mom and young one who we watched for about 10 minutes, and then made our way down the hill to find more moms and babies eating, sleeping, and playing. One gorilla was heading down the hill but we were in her way so she climbed a tree and went over us.

Working our way down the hill we find the silverback and more females and babies eating and chilling. Linda was sitting down taking a photo when I looked over and saw a big female walking right towards her. The ranger came and put his hands on Linda’s shoulders and was talking ,( grunting) to the gorilla letting her know ‘everything is okay’ . She passed mere inches behind Linda and I was able to get it on video.

A little later another large female came and sat right beside me, maybe a foot away, to eat some especially tasty bamboo. The ranger told me ‘quick stand up’ which is not an easy feat at my age.

We had to wear masks while we were with the gorillas as they are susceptible to our illnesses especially Covid. One guy continuously had his mask below his nose and Patience kept telling him to wear it properly and five minutes later it was down again. I eventually even yelled to him ‘ put your dam mask on’! Idiot

All too soon our hour is up and we make our way back to the parking lot. It was much easier going back because we had been slowly following them down for the past hour. It was a wonderful and very close and intimate visit.

We met a woman the next day who had asked for a challenging hike and it ended up to be a half hour walk through a field that was right beside the hotel they were staying in! The gorillas decided to come down that day.

So you just never know if your request for easy will be hard or hard will be easy. The gorillas don’t follow the script

Later in the afternoon we went to the Guardian Village which was fun, explaining life in Rwanda. There was dancing, singing and drumming and a mock marriage procession where I was the bride and carried to the honeymoon suite to meet my new husband. Great fun and a good income source for these people who used to be poachers

The following morning we did the Golden Monkey trek which was supposed to be very easy and just over a half hour apparently. But once again they decided to head up the mountain. It was on an actual path unlike the gorilla hike and after going through the potato fields we made our way up the mountain for about an hour. It was very hot and again no rain. We hired porters again and this time my guy was fantastic.

I felt like I was completely beat up after two challenging hikes in a row ( for me) but so happy I did it.

The golden monkeys were very cute and fun to watch. They are endangered and only found in Rwanda and Uganda .There were a few dozen together in the area we were in.

We said goodbye to Rwanda after our short visit and caught the 5:30PM flight back to Nairobi .

It was such an amazing experience once again.

We were never asked for our yellow fever vaccine card, only proof of Covid vaccines upon arrival in Kenya which surprised me .
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Old Feb 23rd, 2023, 07:12 AM
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These are just from my cell phone. Haven’t downloaded from my good camera yet

Trek to golden monkeys

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Old Feb 23rd, 2023, 07:45 AM
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Wow! Thank you for your terrific report. What an experience!
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Old Feb 25th, 2023, 04:30 PM
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Another great adventure!another great photo and word report!
I so admire that you experience life as your name says: living for today!!!
Was your friend blown away with this first trip to Africa?
Thank you for the inspiration!

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Old Feb 26th, 2023, 07:06 AM
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Thanks for your trip report and photos.

How different things were for you than my gorilla tracking in Rwanda 20 years ago after a couple of weeks volunteer work with the Anglian Church diocese in Cyangugu. I took an Okapi bus from Kigali to Ruhengeri the day before, and stayed in a comfortable Anglican Church guest house for an unbelievably low price. That night we walked to a restaurant that served delicious Belgian style meals.

On the morning of the gorilla trek we went to the ORTPN headquarters, which was in Ruhengeri at the time, to meet up and choose the gorilla family we wished to visit. On the bus from Ruhengeri I had met a South African who also planned to do the trek, so we decided to keep together. He had his heart set on the Susa Group, the one studied by Dian Fossey, which was the largest at the time with 42 family members (that was before it divided into two groups). Being warned that it was the most difficult group to reach, I was a reasonably fit 59 year old, a veteran of coronary bypass surgery about 12 years earlier. With some misgivings I agreed to go with him to visit the Susa Group. Later I found out the other members of the group had just climbed Mt Kenya, so were all super fit.

We rode in a pickup truck to the base of Mt Karisimbi, but the truck couldn’t go any further, so we had to walk for an hour on a steep path through a farmer’s field to get to the Volcanoes NP boundary. We stopped for a rest at the boundary, leaning against a fence that had land mine warning signs on it. This was only 8 years after the genocide, so it was conceivable there were still land mines in the park. That’s when you put your faith in the rangers and trackers to keep us safe.

Thankfully the Susa Group was near the park boundary that day, so we soon began to hear chest thumping and other signs the gorillas were nearby. I won’t describe the hour we had with the gorillas, because I couldn’t top live42day’s wonderful trip report. Let me just say it was one of the best experiences of my life, and also gave me confidence that my heart bypass was still working.

Last edited by Heimdall; Feb 26th, 2023 at 07:13 AM.
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Old Feb 26th, 2023, 02:17 PM
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"The other woman then grabbed my ass from behind with both hands and literally pushed my fat ass up that hill which I appreciated."

Well, can't say you're not an appreciative type. I hired porters for two gorilla treks and a Golden Monkey trek--luckily, they were all wonderful. However, I was young and very fit then, so all I "needed" from the porters was to carry my camera equipment. Nonetheless, this was helpful on steep and muddy trails. I had read that this is often how these folks must make their living, so it seemed a bit mean for me not to hire them given the overall cost of the trip.

Thanks for this great report and photos. You are so fortunate to have gone gorilla trekking so many times. I agree that it is an awe-inspiring, beautiful, breathtaking experience.

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Old Feb 27th, 2023, 08:17 AM
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Old Mar 3rd, 2023, 03:01 PM
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Nice report- loved the pictures. We will be there in a couple of months and looking forward.
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Old Mar 27th, 2023, 09:10 PM
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Originally Posted by AKR1
Nice report- loved the pictures. We will be there in a couple of months and looking forward.

Just loved your report, and photos! Did you return to Canada after the treks and Nairobi?
I've been to Africa a number of times; that old saw about Africa getting in your blood is a true one, even for casual tourists like me. (Last Africa trip was Zimbabwe where I am longing to return..soon!)

But I somehow never thought to see the gorillas...maybe cause it is a long way to go for 1-2 days visit with them, and also the fear of the exertion often required to reach the groups. But reading your account might make me reconsider, especially if it is not too convoluted to combine with another destination or two. (i should take a look at flights or ask my travel planner in SA who can arrange anything!)

Did you not think that Kigali had interest for you?

Also curious about the reason you liked the Rwanda experiences more than the one you took in Uganda. I'm kind of curious about Kampala which I hear is very green and interesting.....but I know so little I am not even sure how distant it is to the gorilla forests. Is gorilla viewing still possible in the DRC, or is the situation too shaky around Goma to permit that right now and, sadly, for forseeable future? Or do you access the same groups from Rwanda side? Again, I'd want t combine gorilla viewing with other destinations but don't want to spend half of my trip in flight.

Anyway, thanks again for the pleasure of reading this...where to, next???

Last edited by ekscrunchy; Mar 27th, 2023 at 09:14 PM.
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Old Mar 27th, 2023, 11:20 PM
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Thank you. I did spend time in Uganda before , 2017, staring off in Entebbe and doing a safari en route to the gorillas. I really enjoyed it. The game viewing is not as good as Kenya, but still good and much more affordable. I spent a bit of time in Kigali the last time in 2019 and went to the Genocide memorial which was good.
but this time we decided to just do the gorillas and golden monkeys.
It is a lot of money to go for just a couple of days, and time, sometimes I think I am crazy to do it, but seeing gorillas up close is unlike anything else

After our week safari in Kenya we spent a couple days in London and then flew to Hurghada Egypt to snorkel the Red Sea for 8 nights which was amazing ( my second time there) and then my friend flew home and my 37 year old son flew to meet me in London and we toured about the South of France for 8 days. That was wonderful too. A very diverse vacation for sure .
My next trip is to Scotland, Germany and a few other places in the area this September, with my husband this time .

I would not consider going to the DRC myself, and others say the same thing.
I liked Rwanda better because it was less of a drive from Kigali airport, no extra border to go through, roads are better overall, and the first trek I did was much easier so hoping for the same again but sadly didn’t happen. But I survived .
it will be my last though. My back is totally screwed so I can’t push my luck any further, and I don’t think I can afford it anymore anyhow. Four times was great! Enjoy your planning and feel free to ask me any other questions
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