Thursday, February 23, 2017

Rwanda and GORILLA tracking

Early Wednesday morning we left Mbale towards Kampala.  We picked up Andrew (a prospective missionary) to take him to the mission office.  Our prospective missionaries need to travel to Kampala to get their chest X-ray,  their yellow fever shots, and hepatitis shots.  It costs 30K shillings round trip and we were glad to help Andrew save that money by riding with us.  We had hoped to take Francis but his grandmother passed away unexpectedly and he had to travel to her village for the burial:(

I woke up that morning feeling terrible.  My stomach was giving me fits and I was achy all over!  I knew it was NOT going to be easy traveling all day.  Our plan was to travel to Kampala (5 hours) then travel to Entebbe (another 1 1/2 hours) catch our plane (waiting time at the airport 2 hours) and then fly to Kigali (1 hour).  Before leaving,  Elder Phelps and Andrew gave me a blessing and I was truly blessed.  While my stomach really hurt and was very unsettled I was able to make the trip without extra stops.  I didn't eat anything either, which really helped.  We arrived at our hotel in Kigali around 6:30 pm and I was able to eat a little bit and then relax the rest of the evening.

We are staying at the Kigali Marriott and it is soooooo nice!  I love that when we stay at a Marriott they upgrade our room (usually).  We are in a suite with a separate bedroom and two baths.  AND it has a bathtub!  Score!!  We get to stay for THREE whole nights in the lap of luxury:)  

After having a bite in the executive lounge (another Marriott perk) I went right to sleep because our morning was going to be early.  Our shuttle to Volcanoes National Park was coming to pick us up at 4:15 AM and I wanted to be completely over my sickness!  Rick on the other hand got to spend some time talking with Brach and then face timing with Skylar.  He had fun doing that!

I woke up at 3:30 to get ready and thought, "I feel quite a bit better, this is going to work!"  We got ready and met our shuttle (who had already picked up Elder and Sister Harline, who came in from Ethiopia) and started our 2 1/2 hour ride to Volcanoes National Park.  Marriott packed us a continental breakfast box which I picked at....still not sure how my stomach was going to react to eating.  At this point, Rick started feeling sick!  He is such a trooper.....he was getting what I had on THE DAY of our Gorilla hike.  He did OK.  While he was weak and shaky throughout the morning he was still able to make the hike and enjoy the gorillas.  By that evening he was feverish.  We stayed in the room and had a bite for dinner and then it was HIS turn to go to bed early! (like 7:30 early) 

We REALLY loved our experience.  I was worried that our hike would be treacherous.  It was not.  We walked about an 1 1/2 hours to reach the gorillas and the climb was pretty slight.  We had four couples in our group and one of them was a young couple from New York.  They had gone tracking the previous day and had a VERY hard hike!  It was straight up the mountain!  They wanted to come back the next day to have a less strenuous hike so they were put with the "older couples".  I'm glad it worked out the way it did:)

Here we are ready for our hike!  On top of this mountain behind us lies the border to 3 countries: Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo

This is us and the Harlines before the hike began.  We rented galoshes because we only had tennis shoes and I did not think that was going to be good enough.  SOOO thankful that we did because we were hiking in muck and mud for much of the time.  At least four times I stepped in a muddy hole that came up to my calf.  Don't you love Rick's green galoshes:)

My hand carved hiking stick.  It sure came in handy!  Plus it helped having a porter (Augustine) to help me over the big rocks and through the slippery muddy slopes!

A selfie with the volcanic mountain boundary of Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC (again).

                                      Our group including porters on our hike.  We got to hike through beautiful bamboo forest and jungle.    We got bitten (pinched) by some pretty strong little ants a few time, as we had to cross their natural habitat.  Our guide would say "Ants! Ants!" to warn us when we were getting into them.  Our guide was Fernando and he taught us how to act around the gorillas.  He taught us that growling means "we're friendly"  Grunting is "not friendly" and if the Silverback approaches you do not make eye contact and kneel to the ground showing submissiveness.

There are ten groups of gorillas residing in Volacanos park.  We got to see the Muhoza group.  This is a relatively small group consisting of one silverback and five females and one baby (four months and as cute as could be.)  They had just had lunch and so they were all lazing around.  This meant that we were able to get very close to them.  Within 6-10 feet.  At one point I was wishing that they would be a little more active to 'liven' things up but this was nice,  I didn't have to worry about being approached by any of them.  Of course, Rick would have LOVED to touch one of those things.  He's a touchy feely kind of guy!  Especially with wild animals!  HAHA

                                           One of the females posing for us.

                                         A close up of the sleepy silverback.

                          After a while he got up and decided it was time to eat again.

                  My porter, Augustine.  Rick called him my "new boyfriend."  :-)

                              Muck and mud.....

The baby.  There was one other baby in the family, but it died just two weeks ago.

What a wonderful day tracking the gorillas.  I love that we can do these fun things while serving in the Uganda Kampala Mission.  While we work very hard in Mbale, we get to take time to experience enjoyable things in Africa, too. 

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