My Hike Turned Into A Gorilla Chase…

The hike was very strenuous. I was surprised at the steepness of the mountain slope.

Africa Folliage ImageBwindi Impenetrable Forest is steep and thick with trees on top of trees and plants. But on this trip I’ve seen by far the most beautiful country of anywhere I’ve been. It exceeds Peru, Brazil and even Bali.

Very rugged and very challenging to get up the hills and over the rocks and through the dense trees.

I’ve been to tropical rainforests, but this is what I had always imagined a rainforest would be like.

We hiked and hacked for about three hours when our guide, David, spotted some fresh gorilla dung. We got very excited…

After 90 minutes of more tracking we found the gorilla. But it turned out to be a lone male who was not part of a group.

I was prepared for the climbing… but not the sight of them. They’re huge.

The large male was not habituated to people. He stomped the ground, and we backed off.

David led us higher and deeper into the jungle for another hour and a half. He brought us to about 10,000 feet of elevation.

It had been hot, but the temperature cooled nicely at altitude.

We took a turn and hiked along a ridge…

I looked down, and the view of what we had just climbed through was incredible.

There are only 800 or so gorillas left in the wild in the entire world. When we first encountered the group of six we were looking for, they weren’t very cooperative. They moved away quickly.

The six hours of gorilla tracking turned into an hour of gorilla chasing. And you are only allowed to follow them for an hour.

When we finally caught up to the group, the silverback (the Big Boss of the group of six) was on the hill across from us by himself.

He was sitting and chewing his food, and when he saw me leading the group, he stopped chewing and stared straight at me. When I looked at him, he looked at me – and he saw me. There was recognition.

We approached, and he went sideways to our group on the side I was on. I was filming… and he stomped the ground and started to charge us!

I had to stop filming and couldn’t take a picture because I wasn’t supposed to look directly at him if he was coming toward me.

Gorilla Close-UpGorillas are almost extinct, and don’t live in their original environment. We may be the last generation of humans who will be able to see them in the wild.

I did get a shot of him running past me, though.

I felt like the gorillas were impressively huge and powerful looking but in some way… sad.

I had heard they were curious. That the gorillas sometimes like to investigate and play with people. Grab the shiny things we might be carrying.

But it was the same as looking at a gorilla in a zoo.

They looked dejected and lonely in their native habitat. You can’t project human feelings onto them, but I felt like I should get out and leave them alone.

I mean, look at a map of the world. Gorillas are isolated in a tiny spot. And I felt like they didn’t much appreciate us in their two remaining places on Earth where they still live in the forest.

The feeling I got was that they are almost extinct, and they know it. They are aware. I felt a kind of pathos and sympathy. Six billion people versus less than 800 gorillas. It’s lopsided.

I feel like we have no right to have put them in zoos, and we have no right to have cornered them in the wild. In this entire world we can’t find more of a place for them?

The plight of the gorillas mimics that of the original people of the area, the Batwa. They are also being chased off the land they’ve lived on for maybe as many as 50,000 years.

They’re the real reason I came to Africa. Like the gorillas, they are about to disappear. In 20 years they’ll be gone.

Next time, I’ll tell you all about my meeting with the Batwa elders and how they taught me how to make my own weapon and go hunting. And in the coming days I’ll share with you:

  • photos from my trip to the Earth’s equator
  • my visit to the source of the Nile River
  • my trip to the volcanoes of Rwanda
  • the Uganda mountain scenery
  • my day at the Entebbe botanical gardens
  • a visit to a unique African herb company
  • and my meetings with local herbalists

Also, I’ll tell you all about my invite and the meeting I’m going to have with Dr. Sekagya’s group of 300 traditional herbalists. They meet once a week to discuss one herb and share their stories and knowledge of how to use it.