Awaking before dawn, I was amongst the first from our group to sit down at 6 AM for a hearty American-style breakfast of hot porridge, eggs, fruit and coffee.  Considering a trek to see Rwanda’s endangered mountain gorillas can take anywhere from 2-12 hours, I wanted to ensure my batteries were fully charged.  Excitement soon began to outweigh our sleepiness at the table.

Less than a week earlier, I was in suburban Virginia watching Gorillas in the Mist.  Now, I was in the heart of Africa, about to visit these critically endangered primates in person.

As we were about to get in our SUV’s for the ride over to Volcanoes National Park, Kristin Luna arrived from Kigali.  The last member of our group had joined us just in time to take part in the country’s number one tourist draw.   The early morning drive had us approaching the towering volcanoes that gave the park it’s name.  The locals were commuting by foot along the roadsides, as is commonplace throughout the country; kids welcomed us with enthusiastic waves.

Despite our best efforts, we still managed to arrive late.  Around the grounds of the visitor center, 6 other groups of 8 tourists each were receiving their briefings about the gorilla group they were assigned to see that day.  Each foreign tourist had paid $500 for their trekking permit, with the vast majority of that money used to fund the further protection of the gorillas.

The members of Kwitonda

 

We quickly learned that Kwitonda, the group we were assigned to visit, which crossed into Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of Congo about 5 years ago, was hanging out at the edge of the forest.  Our adventure would be over before lunch.  While a protracted, bushwhacking endeavor might make for a few extra anecdotes over dinner, we weren’t complaining.

 

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  • David Lee

    In late 2007, I quit my job and left the comfortable life in the USA for the open road with nothing but a 20-pound backpack, a …

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