Posted in Nature Writing, Travel Writing

Gorilla trekking (part 2)

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[Uganda, Part II] • When we were close, our guide pulled us close and gave us a quick primer: stay 7 meters away, don’t make loud noises or impersonate the gorillas, don’t call them over to you but if they approach you, act natural. We could take photos, but no flash and nothing cheeky. We were in their home, and the bottom line was to deeply respect them during our visit. • We had one hour. • • During John’s little pep-talk, Carla and I saw a gorilla in a tree, just in view. We both equally suppressed squeals and then tried to get John to finish his schpeel—every single one of us was buzzing with anticipation. • • When our guides led us to the Nshongi family, it was a juvenile male of 4 or 5 that we had seen sitting in a tree. He was casually munching on a branch and looking at us, thoroughly unphased yet certainly not welcoming. The first thing I remember him doing was taking a nice, long, uninhibited fart to welcome us. • • Two babies came over to join him. They tumbled and played like the tree limbs were a jungle gym which, I guess to baby gorillas, they most definitely are. And then, the silverback. The head honcho, the pater familias. Each gorilla family has one alpha male (all other males have to abscond from the group upon maturing, or challenge the silverback for his throne.) This silverback was 32. He’d been in this forest, living his life, against the toughest of odds, since 3 years before I arrived on this planet. I chewed on that thought as I watched him exist. • • His back looked bald but it shone metallic and silver in the sun. He acknowledged the two babies in the tree above him and chewed some more, a mere body’s length away from us. This was certainly less than a 7 meter distance, but our guides and the trackers kept cutting down obstructing brush with their machetes and drawing us to come closer. • • Two adult females came out of the brush and began to lodge under a shaded tree next to us. The silverback went to join them, crossing clear in front of us, and the 3 of them laid, lazily grunting and picking each other’s fur (what I learned is an action of friendliness and fidelity.) • • (Continued in comments)

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Stories of travels, of tribulations, and of learning to tell the difference.

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