Silverback Grab and Drag
We knew it was dangerous at the time. At least dangerous compared to what we had experienced so far in our travels. We have visited and lived in mostly arid, dessert regions in the north and south of Africa but we had yet to experience Dark Africa – the jungles. For perspective, the African continent is bigger than the United States, China, & Europe…COMBINED. In 2005, Volcanoes National Park, bordering Congo, was a danger zone. I remember arriving at the “hotel” that night. It was late and there were military fatigues everywhere. At the gate of the hotel there was a sandbagged .50 caliber machinegun post. Ehhhh…we’ve been around small arms in our past, but .50 caliber machine gun nests/towers for protection…ok, more serious. While unpacking from the taxi, we met some awestruck hikers from Europe, who had just returned from visiting the rare Silverback Gorillas, and were still laughing and in awe. We asked them how the journey was and boy did they have a story! After the Genocide and Civil War, the Rwanda Government was working hard to protect the Mountain Gorillas. Seeing the photos we captured can prove to you why. They are amazing creatures with personality. SO much personality I am going to share the story the hikers shared with us in a bit. My story is somewhat cool as well. I could technically say I was CHARGED and grabbed by a huge Gorilla! The video I captured is in the park after 4 hours of hiking and yes…she came after me and tried to drag me away. For what reason I am not sure or “fond” of, but my friends who can interpret Kirundi or Kinyarwanda, can only tell me. Nonetheless, it was an absolutely amazing experience. We think dogs can have personalities, but these beasts though…wow. So much personality, this is where I lead to the next story going back to the hikers we met the night before. Obviously, the jungles were dangerous at the time due to poachers and rebel elements hiding in the jungles. Every group that wanted to see the gorillas at the time had to be accompanied with an armed convoy. Two machine gun crews in the front and two gunners in the back. It takes about 2-6 hours to find the gorillas in the jungle. Sometimes, you have no luck and you are out hundreds if not thousands of dollars in costs. We were lucky and so were the group before us. But this time as they were hiking up the mountains after a few hours, they heard a loud rumble. They quieted and froze. Then they listened and it was the beat of several mountain gorillas beating their chests like a drum. The hikers said their hearts were beating in awe but also in fear. Then it became quiet. It was just wind blowing through the bamboo. Everyone was stopped including the machine gun crew who crouched for observation. After a moment, trees began to start shaking up hill. Then it stopped and it became SILENT again. Then one more drum beat of the chests…for distraction? Then several huge, silverback beasts jumped out of the bushes so fast they could barely see them but the four machine gunners, the ONLY FOUR, two up front and two in the rear were taken out and disappeared. NO JOKE!!! All that was left were 5 tourists from Europe in the middle of the African jungle. Think about this. Alone in the jungle and your only protection has vanished and you are alone with a couple of friends just a few years after a civil war among rebel insurgents hiding somewhere and wild mountain gorillas that just took out your only protection. We can all laugh LOL because moments later, the bushes rumbled below them, along with chuckles. The guards apologized. They said the Gorillas have not only timed hiker visitations and recognize who they are but they like to play games. Could you imagine?! The personality of wild animals playing games in the jungle?! I was only charged and grabbed by a desperate female beast. Not sure if I am flattered or not I was chosen?! lol But cool nonetheless and happy we could experience it. May we all seek adventure, humbleness, compassion, and wisdom from the world that surrounds us!