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Hunting for Gorillas

One of my favorite past times, when I’m not writing, is to travel. Just ask Mr. Munro. He gets nervous every time I pick up a travel brochure. One of the highlights of all my travel over the years would have to be spending time with gorillas in Rwanda. Adjectives can’t describe the magical experience.

Here’s an excerpt from the travel journal: Gorillas in Rwanda

One of my most treasured memories is seeing mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Mr. Munro and I were part of an overland group undertaking a trip from Zimbabwe back to England. The trip took just over seven months. At one stage it looked as though we’d miss out on seeing the gorillas because of civil war in Zaire (Now Democratic Republic of Congo). After much discussion it was decided to vary our itinerary and go into Rwanda via Uganda and see the gorillas there.

We made our way to Parc National Des Volcans and camped outside the park. The weather was wet and misty when we set out in our small group. The whereabouts of two groups of gorillas were known at the time, and Mr. Munro and I ended up in the group searching for the group way beyond and away from the road where we left our truck. We walked and we walked and we walked. The guides used huge machetes to clear some of the undergrowth as we tramped through the wet foliage. We walked for two and a half hours and the wet gave way to humid heat as the day advanced. We climbed up hills and the view below was incredible – lots of trees of varying colors of green and a slight mist. There was huffing and puffing and groans from all. Where were these gorillas? Were we going to be one of the unlucky groups who arrived back at the camp without seeing a thing? The lead guide whispered for us to stop and to halt our chatter. He glided forward in a silent manner that I remember admiring since the rest of us sounded like a herd of elephants.

Then there they were. A family group of about seven, but they were in the undergrowth and it was difficult to see them. We were all disappointed since we wouldn’t be able to take our photos. Definitely no coercion allowed! We were there strictly to observe.

Five minutes later they moved out from undercover to forage. It was magical. I remember all the sore muscles and aches and pains fading. Mr. Munro took this photo of me and one of the other girls, and the expression on our faces brings everything rushing back. We were privileged. It was SO exciting.

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There was a baby in the group. He was as curious about us as we were about him. He climbed halfway up a spindly tree and stared at us. It wasn’t far from where I was sitting, then he reached out to touch, but before his little hand hit me, his mother grabbed him and placed him at her side, out of harm’s way.

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The gorillas moved on and we followed. The silverback male was huge – very impressive with the silver streak along his back. He looked at us and suddenly charged because he’d decided we were too close. We all immediately sat so we looked like less of a threat. The silver back stopped so close to me and one of our friends that he almost sat on us. My heart pounded – heck it almost stopped – but the silverback decided he’d done his job and he ambled off.

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Our hour with the gorilla family finished and we had to leave. We left with much chatter and excitement only to run into a border patrol from Zaire. Immediately we were shushed. Our guides replied to the calls cautiously then we were asked if we had any sweets. Evidently the border guards had a sweet tooth.

We arrived back at camp, tired and very muddy and had to queue for showers. My butt was stinging awfully and when I was in the shower I realized during the silverback charge, I’d sat in a nest of ants. These are horrid big black bull-type ants. They bite and when you pull they off they break in half leaving their jaws in your skin. Nasty, I can tell you! Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention the stinging nettles. Several of us had close encounters with them too, but didn’t notice in the excitement of spending time with the gorillas.

Would I visit the gorillas again? In a heartbeat. It was the most magical experience of my life, and we have the photos to prove it.