Our Trek to Gorilla-land
Nestled in the lush green mountain-forests of Bwindi, the silverback gorillas dwell in their own world away from the reaches of modern civilisation.
It was my longtime wish to meet the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. As is common to all, time passed me by silently, before I suddenly realised that I was approaching my late fifties and to fulfil my wish I had to be physically fit with lots of endurance and strength. So without further ado, we planned a trip to the land of gorillas. We reached Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park on June 22nd 2018, after a night’s drive from Entebbe.
After an obligatory briefing, we were assigned to a group of 7 trekkers, one guide and one security personnel. Not knowing the terrain, we initially did not opt to take any porter. However, after a few steps uphill, we realized our incapability to proceed further all on our own. We hired 2 porters without whom we simply would not have completed this trek. The forest had a dense undergrowth and at a high altitude of approx. 2400 metres. The steep, slippery trail caused scratches in our limbs and left us muddy and exhausted. We did have tantalising clues -steaming droppings, munched bamboo left back on the trail – which kept our excitement levels alive en route.
Following a 4 hour long, sweaty, scramble of a trek came the moment of truth when our guide, ushered us quietly into the clearing. Above the drip-drip of the foliage, we could hear sporadic snores and the soft sound of wind. The final moment of our excited wait came to fulfilment when we spotted a family of 5 mountain gorillas munching on green leaves and soft stems. A “silverback” is awesome to behold, with its cape of white hair, weighing approx. more than 150 kg. We saw a female with three young ones. The youngest one was just a month old, clinging tightly to the mother and feeding.
We were asked to keep quiet and still, and preserve a distance of seven metres –. but the mesmerising sight in front of us compelled us to draw near, as near as 5 meters from the object of our collective interests- a colony of silverbacks. The boisterous youngsters showed us some occasional rough tumble. We had a pulse-raising breath-stopping moment when the adult silverback made a brief “mock” charge at us when one of the trekkers went too close to it for comfort while capturing photographs.
What a sight it was to behold! We spent an hour among the hillocks of black denser fur protruding from the glossy greenery on every side – a crooked elbow here, a swollen belly there. It was, indeed, a powerful lifetime experience for me, to cherish meeting those searching, intelligent eyes in a face that seemed to reflect our own.
Read also: Into the Himalayas!
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