How to penetrate an impenetrable forest
Combine 2 days travel with a non existant bus, 5 hours at a bus station waiting for the driver to have a sleep, a pickup truck with a very expensive wildlife permit. Mix this with an impenetrable forest sprinkled with 300 endangered mountain gorillas and finally add a little bit of rainy season and you have all you need to have a brilliant adventure!
I've always been told I have no willpower and true to form it took just a few hours of arriving into Uganda to decide that I couldnt miss the opportunity to see the gorillas. justified by the fact it will be a long time until I come back and the fact that permit costs are set to increasingly rise I figured there are other ways to save. Not eating perhaps?!
To visit the gorillas you can go for the all inclusive, 4 wheel drive, spoon fed luxury option or you can brave it on public transport. Having just almost bankrupted myself on the permit I opted for the latter. So together with a Brazilian guy I met at Kampala we set off on the Ugandan highways.
Its the journey not the destination right? After turning up for an imaginary bus we opted for a trip to kabale, Uganda's higest town to get as near as possible to where we needed to be; a small town called Buhoma. 5 hours later we were still waiting for the bus to depart. The Ugandans just sat through all of this, patiently waiting, whilst I had steam coming out of my ears with frustration. Throughout all of this people wandered up and down selling shoes, hankies, blow up dolls, plastic mirrors; all the usual travel essentials!
12 hours later we arrived in Kabale which is actually a nice little town. It turned out there were no buses to Buhoma the next day. With a little help from some locals we managed to arrange one of the pickup trucks that go though to where we needed. Ive never been so glad to have the extra 3 pounds equivalent to pay for the front seats. The back was cramed with at least 30 people, several hundred pounds of maize flour, a few babies and then my backpack tied to the side to finish it off. Or so we thought. The driver seemed to continually stop to fit more people on. he then had to stop at least every 200 metres to rearrange them all to stop people falling out! 70km took 6 hours! meanwhile we actually felt like we were missing out on all the fun as they laughed ad joked the whole way, despite having only each other to hold on over the bumpy mountain road. I'll never moan national rail ever again!!
After this we then had to board another bus and then a shared car which took an hour to do the last 17km of the trip due to the driving rain and sliding mud. These goriallas had better appear we were thinking!!
But they truly did. After trekking for just over an hour, serious delayed by the oversized Canadian in the group who came fully equipped with white socks rolled up to the knee, a strip of washing up pad elasticated to his head to mop up sweat and two porters; one pushing him and the other pulling him up the hill there they were. It was truly amazing. They are such magnifencent animals, so gentle and yet so with all the might to break a mere camera yielding tourist to pieces. We must look so strange to them staring away in wonder as they scratch, pick fleas, eat leaves and generally chill in the forest. In our family there were 19 individuals of which many were babies. They out on a great show for us trying to carry each other and swinging around in the trees whilst the mums and adults looked on protectively. One huge black back who is a stage away from become silverback sauntered past us bearing his huge six pack for all to see. You wouldn't want to annoy him thats for sure! The hour went unbelieveably quickly sadly and it was soon time for us to depart from the magical world of the trees and the distint world of the gorillas to return to human ways. It will certainly be an experience to remember forever.
Our gorillas were not actually in the impenetrable forest when we found them, they were just on the outskirts. having taken 2 days to reach them there was no way I was going to leave without penetrating the impentatrable! So I set off on a nature walk into forest in the afternoon. You have to take a guide an an armed escort into the forest to scare away anuy unhabituated gorillas, elephants, chimpanzees should you come across them. I was rewared with the sighting of the rear of a diker (deer type animal) and 2 monkeys. Not quite the wildlife dream but the forest was fantastic and one of the greenest and most dense forests I have ever been in. I was also treated to rain that only the rainy season in the rainforest can produce. It was torrential to the point there was no way the camera was coming out of the bag.
We headed back to Kabale that night to save on money as accomodation was really expensive (these bloody gorillas!). We had met some other travellers so managed to all share a taxi back to Kabale. It was a little disconcerting to think that it cost us just a few shillings more for a journey that would take half the time, with double the comfort. We did have to get out and walk parts of the journey where the mud was too much for the car to make it with the weight of us. We passed several trucks and other vehicles that were well and truly stuck. Luckily we made it back with no problems and many a story to tell of the last few days. I'd highly recommend it!