Gorrillas in Rwanda

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May 30th, 2015, 05:16 PM
  #1
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Gorrillas in Rwanda

We will visit the gorillas in Rwanda at the end of July. We are in our late 50's and have been working out to be in shape.
Question: I know that an easy trip can turn difficult, and there is no way to predict. But I'm just curious what a medium gorilla hike would be like: how many feet (or kilometers) vertical and the distance. Also, does it usually involve climbing over logs and other obstacles continually?
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May 31st, 2015, 05:35 PM
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You will love your Rwandan gorilla trek. I did two treks last year at 58 and while I struggled in Bwindi, Rwanda was a very enjoyable trek. The hike was not nearly as demanding as Bwindi. It started in farmland with a very gradual incline for 15 or 20 minutes before crossing a rock wall and continuing up at a little steeper incline. It was not difficult although there were a few things to climb over or across. I hired a porter who helped me whenever he thought I might need it.
He was unobtrusive but so very helpful. Our hike was probably around an hour, but I could have easily done more. The guide seemed to know when to stop for a breather and was always watching us to make sure we weren't struggling. The altitude did make me breathe more heavily than my hikes back home, but again, the rangers were tuned into us and rested when needed. It was such a wonderful experience hiking through farmland and up thorough bamboo forests to see such rare and amazing animals. Our driver talked to the rangers before the trek to determine which group we would see and we got a relatively easy group. If you are nervous about your ability, request and easy group and they will do their best to comply. There are no guarantees of course, but I found the entire process quite orderly and organized in Rwanda. Enjoy!
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Jun 1st, 2015, 07:09 PM
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My DH and I - both 60+ - completed two gorilla treks in Rwanda in August 2014. You may read my input at the link below.

Our treks were both describes as "medium" and we found them much easier than expected. There was some scrambling and steep climbing but, if you hire a porter (one for each of you), they will assist you and you will be fine. Hiking details are in the report. Robin

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...-in-rwanda.cfm
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Jun 2nd, 2015, 02:47 AM
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Hi Caligirl 56,

Seeing the Mountain Gorillas remains one of my all-time highs in my 15 years “being on safari”. You pose some great concerns about the arduous nature of hiking in the Virunga Mountains. Before I comment about the terrain, if you are at all concerned, my recommendation is to hire a “porter” at the trailhead. They will assist you with your bag and navigating the trickier parts of the trail. The Rwandans are very warm hearted and there is no shame in hiring help. Having a strong porter beside you will make your day much easier. Aside from the help, you’d be contributing to the welfare of his family and the community – it is money well spent. I believe the cost is roughly $10 and they’d appreciate any gratuity on top. Trust me, they put in a lot of work!

You’ve got to remember that Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is equatorial Cloud Forest meaning that there is a lot of moisture. The ground can often be slippery and the terrain can be steep. There will likely be some “bushwhacking” by your guide to clear the path as the vegetation is dense. There are Stinging Nettles so I encourage you to bring gardening gloves. Elevation may also play a factor if you are coming from lower elevation (the highest my altimeter read was 9,000ft during my trek). As you are aware, gorillas do move, but in the AM briefing, they have a location on the gorillas and can advise you with fairly good accuracy on the type of hike you’d have to endure for each family. A “medium” hike will probably result in 2-3 hours of hiking in potentially slippery terrain with moderate elevation changes (a few hundred feet) and the inevitable bushwhack to include stepping over roots etc. It’s really the moisture that gave me the most problem.

It really isn’t as hard as one may anticipate. The adrenaline and anticipation really works to your advantage. Regardless of how long the group may take to reach the family, you have up to 1 hr. with them. Again, having a porter is a massive help and your money does go to a good place.

Enjoy your trip. I am sure it will be amazing…

Sincerely,
Kota Tabuchi – Travel Beyond
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Jun 2nd, 2015, 04:00 PM
  #5
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Thank you all so much for the encouragement. We have really been working out hard. But, nothing to simulate climbing over obstacles. It sounds like the porter can help with that. We will definitely hire porters--sounds like it will make a huge difference.

Thank you again!
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Jun 3rd, 2015, 05:07 AM
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Are you on TA? I don't like to ask you to post your email address here but, if you send me a PM with your email on TA, I will email you a few photos from our hikes, so that you will know exactly what to expect in terms of terrain/level of difficulty.
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Jun 3rd, 2015, 08:00 PM
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I am quite fit and could have handled a long hike. But alas, I got out there and both times the gorilla groups we sought were low and easy to find.

I hired a porter for my backpack on every hike, including my trek to see the Golden Monkeys. It is helpful to you (especially when you hit steep and muddy terrain), and also to those seeking work, as Robin has noted above.

These treks were one of the highlights of my life. I hope you enjoy your time in this always breathtaking, sometimes heartbreaking country.

Safari njema.
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Jun 6th, 2015, 05:36 PM
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Canadian Robin, I went ahead and pm'd you on trip advisor--thank you! And Leely2--did you see they gorillas in the jungle, or were they just in the bamboo? We are hoping to see them in the more jungly parts, and were hoping that requesting a medium hike would ensure that.
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Jun 6th, 2015, 07:57 PM
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One time on a rather steep, bamboo-y hillside. Another time in a flatter area with a canopy of trees (easier for standing and watching but not as good for photography because it was darker).

Both experienes were great! Different yet equally remarkable.
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Jun 6th, 2015, 07:59 PM
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We did this in Sept, 2013 and will never forget the experience. So glad I went but it was physically challenging. I was 61, about 40 lbs overweight and not in good shape. I do not exercise regularly so this was really my fault. From what you describe about yourselves, I think you will be fine.

I regret not having gotten into shape for this. I also regret telling our tour guide that an "easy to medium" hike will be fine. I wish I had asked for an "easy hike". You meet at the ranger station in the early morning and the tour guides "negotiate" with the ranger guides on behalf of their clients to secure a spot. We went to see the Amahoro group. My husband and I were with a family of 5 lean Australians all in great shape so my biggest worry was holding them back. What got me I think was the altitude and being a bit dehydrated. Our hike was about 1 hr and 45 minutes up until we and our ranger guides met up with the trackers and the family of gorillas. I had to ask for a lot of rest stops and during our 1 hour viewing time with the Gorillas, I got very nausious and faint. I realize it was altitude sickness (my sister in law is a respiratory therapist in Colorado who always recommends aspirin and drinking a lot of water at high altitudes). Yes, there is a lot of underbrush on the whole trek, even on parts called "trails" - a lot of stepping over and ducking under vines. Our guides used machetes to clear the way often. We had hired one porter and the family hired two.

I began to feel better and did get the full enjoyment and thrill of being up close to these beautiful creatures. They were busy eating and moving around quickly. The vegetation was beautiful and green and yes, I got a little stinging nettles on my hand. We had perfect weather and wore no gloves. The porters were a godsend because they held our backpacks and water bottles, binoculars (which we did not need since the gorillas were so close). They also provided walking sticks but held them when you didn't want them. I was so weak for the hike down (which included up and down terrain) two of them put my arms over their backs and helped me the whole way. My husband tripped and one point and they helped him too. We were so grateful for their help we paid all three of them $20 each instead of the $10 for just our porter!

My best friend, my age, had been to Africa many times but never on a gorilla trek. She went just last summer. She was 63, 100 lbs overweight with bad knees and feet. She insisted on an easy trek and that is what she got. Plus, their group of gorillas had finished eating and were lounging about a bit "drunk", with babies playing, so no chasing around required like we had. I think it was plenty green from the look of her photos but don't recall if vines or bamboo. She had a wonderful experience.

There is no way for everyone to have the exact same experience but it sounds like you'll be fine with a medium hike and will no doubt have the thrill of a lifetime.
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Jun 10th, 2015, 04:54 PM
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Hey guys.

Just did this in February. I'm 62 and an athlete, but when I did it I'd been ill for about three days and hadn't eaten for four. And, I did one of the epic hikes. So it was great fun. Depending on the group you visit, and there are a lot of "depends on" when it comes to this stuff, you can see a lot of vertical work. You can't control what you're going to do or where you're going to go, for that is determined by the trackers, who find the gorillas that day. Their location determines how far, how high, and how hard.

You've already done the hard work, you're in shape. Pack extra water, tips for the trackers, guides, porter (HIRE ONE) and the guard, and pack a sense of humor. You cannot predict what's going to be on the trail. That's why they all it an adventure. Despite my lack of food and having been ill, I did just fine- the sheer excitement of where you are, what you're seeing and the joy of being around these primates will distract you from most if not all of any physical complaints like a cranky knee or whatever. We worry far too much about things that will never happen.

Just go, be open, soft and curious, and be amazed.

PS Read canadian robin's material, I found it hugely useful and followed much of their advice, especially about the tips. Remember that all these guys used to be poachers. HIRE a PORTER. Your tip goes a long way.
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Jul 4th, 2015, 05:47 PM
  #12
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Thank you all so much! Only 4 weeks to wait!
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Jul 6th, 2015, 11:39 AM
  #13
 
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I just returned from Rwanda, and we did what I would consider to be two "medium" hikes (the groups we visited were Agashya and Hirwa -- both of which are often on the "easy" side, but in both cases, they were farther away than normal due to issues with a lone silverback in the area). Each hike was about 2 hours to the gorillas -- about 45 minutes through generally flat farmland and then an hour (or slightly more) through the bamboo forest (with modest elevation gains, but nothing too steep). There had been a lot of rain in the week leading up to our visit, and it actually poured the entire night and early morning of our first hike, so it was really, really slippery and muddy. The porter was a real life-saver. I was with a friend and we each hired a porter, which I highly recommend.
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