Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Parc National des Volcans, Day Two

Our group went from five to two on this last day of gorilla viewing, as some of our group chose to hike to the top of Mt. Visoke instead of see gorillas. We were therefore paired up with a lone tourist from Spain and four young tourists from Sweden. A group of eight is the maximum size to see the gorillas, and it certainly is better with fewer people.

This day the hike was a couple of hours through some pretty intense mud, and up some steep areas. On the way down, I gave up trying not to fall or slide and just sort of learned how to glide down the mud with each step. Though I fell several times, no harm done. The easiest hiking was in the bamboo section of forest where there was a carpet of leaves instead of just mud. Again there were stinging nettles, but not as bad as day one. Although small swarms of flies are around the gorillas, overall the bug situation wasn't bad in any of our viewing.

The group we saw this last day starts with R, but I can't recall the full name. The silverback is the largest in Rwanda and he is impressive! This group contained a youngster, about a year and a half old, who literally showed off for the cameras the entire visit. (Pictured above). He climbed trees and pulled them down to the ground, he spun, he swung, he got pretty close to us and made a lot of eye contact. He was like a kid saying "Watch me! See what I can do!" His dad was tolerant of his antics, as was his mom. The majority of our time was spent with the silverback and this youngster and his mother, though they were joined by a female with no children later on, and leaving them we came upon another mother and her three offspring of various ages. The young show-offs mom and dad are also pictured here.

This day was the hardest for me to enjoy, as the Swedes insisted on NOT doing anything the guide told them to do, and they were tall and liked to stand in the front taking photos, blocking the view of everyone else. The guides and the gorillas were extremely vocal on this day, and the guide was trying to keep everyone together and not too close. He wanted us to fall back to let the gorillas past, as they were walking towards us, but the Swedes wanted to stay put to try to get a photo. When it was time to go, they refused to stop taking pictures and stick with the group. They were overall, in my view, disrespectful of the guides efforts to keep both people and gorillas safe. Also annoying was the fact none of the Europeans hired porters or even tipped the guide. Time with the gorillas was wonderful, as always, but the time with the humans was annoying.

Also detracting from this particular viewing day somewhat was the guide. While not bad, he wasn't very enthusiastic or informative, and he seemed more or less tired of his job. (Who can blame him, interacting with annoying tourists for a living). Although it was the least enjoyable of all four days of gorilla viewing, it was still worthwhile and I am glad I went.

On this final day I experimented with taking brief video with the camera, so if I can figure out how to post a short clip of the youngster playing, I will.

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