It’s Kigali, one of the jewels of Africa. Our flight was Rwanda Express…super easy and landed ahead of schedule. Amos was there to meet us and his smiling face is just one of the many reasons I love this country. The Kigali Serena is another! I got my usual room with a view of the lights sparkling among the hills. The whole group is here and we enjoyed Mongolian stir fry for dinner.
There really isn’t anything like the breakfast spread at the Serena. They make a great safari omelet, hot crepes and anything else you would want for a perfect start to the day. Our first outing is to the Genocide Museum that not only tells the history of Rwanda’s genocide, but the dark history of the Balkans, Cambodia, Namibia, the Holocaust, Yugoslavia, and more. The overall story lets you know what a dark time it was 20 years ago and how much has changed to make this country a beacon of forgiveness and hope. Then it was lunch on the way out of town and up country to Volcanoes National Park. We were greeted at our lodge by a traditional dance troop made up of students from a local school, who use our donations for books and continuing education. Tonight we get out the trekking gear and the cameras we need for tomorrow’s gorilla adventure. At dinner we had a good chance to talk through exposure theory so we have a chance to get the fur texture and the delicate grays on the gorillas’ faces. It was cool to see the “A-HA” when we pretended a black camera case was the gorillas black fur. My hut is so damn cool! It’s got a small heating unit if you need it, but the fire place does just fine!! Snuggly blankets and perfect pillows made for a real good night’s sleep.
First gorilla trek! We had breakfast at 6 a.m., and then drove to the park headquarters for group assignments. We had a lovely Dutch lady join our group. Our guides took us to the Umubano family whose silverback is named Charles. I was with this family three years ago and the head tracker remembered me and Ralph. It was a more rigorous hike to the Buffalo Wall than I have ever had before. It was an hour and 45 minutes with a couple of tricky rock areas. Penny made it so I was happy. Then the trek began in earnest… We trekked 4 minutes to a glade where the porters handed us our cameras. Holy Moly…we’re here. Fourteen gorillas, including two silverbacks, one mom with a six week old baby, a couple of knucklehead juveniles, and a couple of black backs are what I remember seeing. There were more climbing in the trees, but the ones we photographed were in open green glades, feeding, playing, and grooming. Charles was in full view as he peeled jade green leaves from the bushes. He called to the mother who walked out of the forest with the baby in her arms. She sat down on a green mound in full view right in from of us. We ended up with an open glade with seven or eight gorillas in it. Everyone got their share of great shots but I have high hopes for one of Lynn’s shots. One of the knuckleheads did a slow motion somersault right in front of her! We stopped for lunch and a rest before we visit the gorilla vet’s offices. I may stay back and just feel that special glow on my legs from the stinging nettles.