Rwanda

Rwanda 7/1/06 - Gorilla Trek (Group 13), Lake Kivu

We woke up to find that we had no water, so we were quite glad we had taken showers the night before. We attributed this to the growing pains of the emergent tourism industry in Rwanda. We went to breakfast at 6 am. It was a buffet with an egg station. Craig had an omelette, potatoes, toast, and coffee. I had cereal and toast, and we both drank passion fruit juice. Johnson was supposed to meet us for breakfast, and we were supposed to leave for the Virungas National Park no later than 6:30. At 6:25, Johnson appeared. He had been trying to get the staff to resolve the water issue. He apologized and sat down, eating an entire breakfast plate in 5 minutes. Will and Caitlin, a British couple whom we had seen at dinner last night, came over to our table and asked if we were going gorilla trekking today. We told them that we were. They said that they had hired motorbikes to take them to the park headquarters, but the motorbikes had never turned up. They were supposed to show up at 6. They asked if there was any way we could give them a ride. It was fine with us; we had plenty of room in the Land Rover. Johnson agreed, so we would all go together. By 6:32, right on schedule, we were on the road.

We chatted with Will and Kate. Will was currently living in Mozambique working for a friend's dive business. Kate was a doctor who had been doing some medical work in Africa, and she was currently spending some time with Will before heading back to England. They were very friendly and we got along quite well. The roads in Ruhengeri were in the process of being paved, and we saw legions of Rwandan workers doing painstaking manual work to set curbstones, etc, while their Chinese foremen smoked cigarettes and sat on heavy equipment. After about ten minutes, we arrived at the Parc National des Volcans headquarters, several small brick buildings with green corrugated metal roofs. On the front of one of the buildings was the simple painting of a silverback gorilla, which was familiar to us from TV shows we had seen, most recently Sigourney Weaver's return to Rwanda 20 years after the filming of "Gorillas in the Mist."

We filled out paperwork in the office, and Johnson produced our gorilla permits, which we had purchased ahead of time in order to ensure slots on the trek. We hung around excitedly while everything got sorted out. Johnson was talking to various park officials and guides. People were getting nervous about which gorilla group they would be visiting. A lot of people were jockeying for the chance to see the Susa Group, which is the largest group in the park (almost 40 gorillas). But they are also the most elusive, and the trek to find them could last up to 8 hours on very steep slopes. Johnson told me that he had set us up with a good group, and to just hold tight. Shortly after 7:00, the park employees set out five signs, one for each of the habituated gorilla groups. Eight people would be assigned to each group, and would visit the group for an hour. Contact with tourists is restricted to an hour a day for each group. People gathered by the sign that corresponded with the group to which they were assigned.

We (along with Will and Caitlin) were assigned to Group 13. This was a group of 19 gorillas with the youngest baby in the park (just 2 weeks old!) We met Eugene, who would be our guide. He showed us photos of the gorillas in our group.Gorillas can be distinguished by the indentations above their nostrils. No two gorillas have the same noseprints, and the photos of the group were accompanied by detailed drawings of their noseprints. We met the other four trekkers in our group. They were all from England, except for Filipe who was from Portugal but lived in England with his British wife Barbara. Tonight would be an interesting night for them, as the World Cup match was England vs. Portugal. By now, Caitlin and Will's motorbikes had turned up (over an hour late) and the drivers were in a foul mood, and insisted on being paid anyway. Will and Caitlin refused, and the drivers complained to park officials and to Johnson. Johnson seemed a little bit as if he was caught in the middle, stuck between fellow Rwandans trying to make tourist dollars, and tourists who could have missed their chance to do the gorilla trek if they had waited any longer for the tardy drivers. Will and Kate managed to stand their ground, and all of the tourists hopped into their respective vehicles and drove to a parking area which would allow the best access to their group.

The parking area was on the edge of farmland, and the locals were obviously used to groups of "muzungu" (white people) showing up around this time every day. There were curious children watching us. A man brought over a bundle of walking sticks which were carved with a gorilla and baby at the top. He passed them out to each of the trekkers. We were asked if we wanted to hire a porter. Craig and I had brought the bare minimum with us (backpacks containing snacks and protective gloves, hip packs with our camera supplies, and water bottles). We were told that this particular trek was one of the easier ones, so we politely declined. Johnson sometimes goes on treks, but he said that he was tired and would sit this one out. We started our trek, accompanied by Eugene and several armed soldiers. We were warned not to photograph the soldiers without their consent. We were told that their duty was to protect us from wild animals in the volcanoes, but we suspected that there was also some degree of threat from rebel forces. We were quite close to the border with the Congo, and there are still occasional troubles. At first we had a gentle walk through farmland. We saw cows, goats, and fields of crops. Children in the fields with their parents ran to meet us, smiling and waving. They were very excited. We hadn't really known what to expect in terms of weather, and we had wondered if it would be hot and humid, like we had experienced in the jungles of Guatemala. But it was actually quite comfortable. As we walked through the farmland, the sun felt warm on our faces, and we couldn't have been happier.

After about 25 minutes, we reached the boundary between the farmland and the forested volcanoes, and there was a large neat stone wall there. It had a narrow entrance, and the purpose of this was to keep buffalo and elephants from crossing into the fields. As we passed through the entrance in the wall, we could smell the sweet scent of the forest. Eugene pointed out the sodom apple, a small yellowish fruit that we had seen during our bush walk in Tanzania. We hiked over relatively flat terrain. Eugene was in contact with the trackers via radio. Trackers keep tabs on the gorillas all day, then leave as the gorillas are creating their nests for the night. The next morning, the trackers return to the nesting site. If the gorillas are still there, they stay with them for the rest of the day. If the gorillas have already moved on, the trackers need to pick up their trail and find them once again. They report the location of the gorillas to the guides, so that the guides can bring the tourists to the correct location.

There are only approximately 700 mountain gorillas left in the world, and they only live in three countries: Rwanda, Congo, and Uganda. The number of gorillas is actually increasing. It was down to a low of around 250 in 1970. Dian Fossey's work at the Karisoke Research Center (established by Fossey in 1967) until her murder in 1985 brought needed attention to the plight of the gorillas. Her research was very important, and though her methods were sometimes questionable, without her the gorilla population may well have been extinct by now. Instead, the population has nearly tripled in the past 35 years.

Congo's political climate makes it difficult for gorilla tourism to flourish. Uganda has decent tourist infrastructure, but the gorillas are harder to get to, and hikes are often very taxing. Rwanda's gorillas are the most accessible to tourists. Trackers not only keep an eye on the gorillas so that tourist guides will know where to find them. They also protect them from poachers. Mountain gorillas have never survived in captivity (any gorillas you may see in zoos are lowland gorillas) but that doesn't stop people from trying. People want baby gorillas for private zoos, and poachers can get a large sum for them. A gorilla group will defend its young to the death, so poachers will end up killing several adults in order to abduct an infant. Then when the infant makes it to its destination, it invariably dies anyway. It is such a waste. Other people want gorilla heads and hands as a sick excuse for home decorations or ashtrays. Gorilla trekking permits are expensive, but that allows good money to be made from the tourist trade. It is an incentive for locals to protect the gorillas rather than make a quick dollar by exploiting them. Also, the high price of the gorilla permits allows them to still make money even while limiting the amount of tourists per day and the amount of time they spend with the gorillas, so as not to stress out the gorillas.

The hike was very nice. It was mostly shaded and the terrain wasn't very steep. Before we knew it, Eugene said that we were less than 20 minutes away from the Group 13. We couldn't believe it. We had expected this to be a death march through the jungle, up incredibly steep slopes, bushwhacking the entire way, etc. In actuality, most of the way was a nice trail, and only occasionally did Eugene need his machete to cut a path. By now the anticipation was palpable. We continued on, and soon got a spot where we were instructed to leave everything except for our cameras. Noone is allowed to even carry food or water when approaching the gorillas, so we left everything behind. Were we really this close this soon? It seemed too easy. It was a good thing we hadn't hired a porter. That truly would have been pathetic. We ventured a little way from where we had left our belongings.

I turned a corner on the path, and suddenly there were gorillas right in front of us. There was no warning whatsoever. About 45 minutes had elapsed since we left the stone wall. I started to snap some pictures (flashes aren't allowed as they disturb the gorillas). We were a ways away and could only vaguely see them, but this was how I had expected it to be. I anticipated that none of my photos would really come out well, as they would be in a jungle, at such a distance, with no flash. You are not guaranteed gorilla sightings, and at this point I felt overjoyed to even get a glimpse of them. Eugene led us closer. The adults were lounging around, totally splayed out on the ground. Babies were frolicking, and the male silverback was eating vegetation. The babies wrestled with one another and climbed vines and trees. The babies started to approach us with friendliness and enthusiasm, and Eugene and company made us move back. Gorillas share so much of our DNA that they can easily become infected with human illnesses (and vice versa) so touching the gorillas is forbidden, and every precaution is taken to prevent the gorillas from initiating contact. But we were told that if a gorilla did come toward us, we should back up slowly. Never run away. They told us the gorillas don't know the rules, so they might actually touch us, and if so, to just keep calm.

We had expected to be intimidated in the presence of these creatures, especially the silverback, who was at least 6 feet tall when standing upright. But they were totally unconcerned by our presence, and we felt very comfortable. We had been told and read not to stand taller than them, and not to look them in the eye. Eugene and the trackers and soldiers made sure that we crouched down at appropriate times, but I totally forgot the no eye contact rule. The gorillas were so friendly and when we did make eye contact, there was a connection there. They are so human! And their eyes were a beautiful chocolate brown color. It was amazing the details that you could see when you got this close. Their eyelashes were so thick and gorgeous that they looked fake.

After a few minutes, the gorillas moved on. I thought "Wow, we actually saw them." I was quite satisfied already (though I knew my pictures would be disappointing), and was fully prepared to head back. I expected the trackers and guide to take the stance that the gorillas had had enough, and that we should go. But not so. The gorillas didn't seem to be trying to get away from us. They were just moving on to another place, as they constantly do. We followed. Two babies came up behind us and climbed a bamboo tree, only to slide down it like a fireman's pole. They were so playful and amusing to watch. Every once in a while you would hear sounds and a gorilla would come crashing down from a tree. The jungle was so dense, we had no idea that they were even there.

The gorillas moved on one more time, and we followed again. This time their destination was a sunny spot, which would be perfect for photos. This just kept getting better and better. Some of them were lounging around in the sunlight. Some were eating vegetation. They were totally unconcerned by our presence; even parents of the babies didn't mind that we were there, nor did they mind that the babies were very interested in us. We were struck by how clean and shiny their fur was. Of course they had some bits of jungle debris on the surface, just from walking around through the plants and nettles, but they seemed to have such good hygeine. At this time we got to see the 2-week-old baby boy. He was so cute. His fur wasn't as shiny and in-place as the adults' and older juveniles'. It was slightly more brown than black, and he was fuzzy, whereas the older gorillas looked more sleek. The baby's fur was sticking up in places and he looked like he had a case of bed-head. His mother was absolutely doting on him. At one point we had to step back because the silverback was moving towards us. But he was doing it in a very non-threatening way.

All of the gorillas were so docile. You really see what misconceptions the public gets about gorillas, as perpetuated by King Kong, etc. We were all snapping photos constantly. We wanted to capture everything. We knew we only had an hour with these animals, and we wanted to preserve that hour forever. The next thing we knew, Eugene was telling us that we only had four more minutes with the gorillas. Already? Where had the time gone? We all got a couple more photos and then walked with Eugene and the guards back to where we had left our belongings. The trackers smiled and posed for a photo. We thanked them for protecting these amazing animals. They were very humble. We asked when the last time was that a poacher successfully abducted a baby. They replied that it had been several years since they lost one, and they seemed saddened by that fact. Like they were ashamed for having ever lost one on their watch. On the contrary, we thought the fact that several years had passed without an abduction was an optimistic sign for the future of the species. We said goodbye to the trackers at around 10:45.

It was so amazing to have been so close to these incredible creatures! We replayed the scene in our heads as we walked out of the forest, walking on air. As we walked back, it seems we had trekked a little further than we thought. We had been so focussed on our goal that we hadn't even noticed. We emerged at the stone wall at 11:11, and exited from the forest. We broke out our water and snacks while talking excitedly about our experience. There was so much to say, and yet none of us could express exactly how we felt. But the fact that we had all had that amazing experience bonded us. Caitlin gave us each a miniature banana, and Rebecca gave us a chocolate biscuit. The volcanoes were clearly visible and we enjoyed the gorgeous walk through the farmland back to where the cars were parked. Johnson met us and we excitedly recounted our tale. We returned our walking stick, said goodbye and thanks to Eugene, and then got back into the Land Rover with Will and Kate.

Johnson drove us back to the hotel. We were greeted upon our arrival with fruit juice in fancy glasses with sugared rims. It was now 12:15. Wow, had we really been gone almost 6 hours? The morning had sped by. And yet at the same time, it was only noon. We had a successful gorilla encounter and still had half a day free for sightseeing. We chatted with Will and Kate for a while. They showed us a couple of the pictures they had taken of the gorillas. They were amazing close-ups.They invited us to watch the World Cup with them that evening. Johnson planned to take us out to the lakes, but we knew he was a huge supporter of England (Arsenal is his favorite football team) and that he would probably make sure we were back in time for the game. So we said we'd meet them in front of the TV. Then we went back to the room. There were crested cranes patrolling the grounds behind our bungalow, and the trees were amazingly tall and straight. It felt like another world.

Well, whereas we hadn't had water when we last left the room, we certainly had it now. In fact, the toilet was leaking (clean water) at the input valve and flooding the entire bathroom. We tried to mop up what we could and then realized that the floor was sloped such that it would eventually work its way down the shower drain. So we just ignored it while we took showers. We met Johnson in the lobby. While there, we reported our flooding toilet to the employees. At first they thought we still had no water. Quite the opposite, we explained. They looked a bit worried and said they would take care of it. We were taking it in stride, attributing it once again to the burgeoning tourism market in this remote area. As I changed my clothes I noticed that at one point when Eugene had instructed us to sit down in the forest, I had apparently landed in some gorilla dung.

Johnson had gone back to the park headquarters to pick up our certificates signifying that we had seen the gorillas. He had me write out our names beforehand, so that they could be written on the certificates. Apparently they had trouble reading my writing, and couldn't tell if I wrote Craig or Graig. So they made him one of each, and gave me one with my name as well.

Johnson drove us into the center of Ruhengeri town. On the drive, we saw people pushing bicycles laden with Irish potatoes and banana beer up the hills. We stopped at the Hotel Muhabura for lunch. We ordered the beef stroganoff, which was different than what we had expected. It was in a reddish sauce. It was served with "chips and beans." Craig's beans turned out to be brown beans, whereas mine were string beans. Why? Who knows. I had a Fanta (and learned that in Rwanda, saying "Fanta" just gets you anticipatory looks. Unlike Kenya and Tanzania where Fanta means orange soda, Rwanda stocks the different flavors of Fanta. So they expect you to say "Fanta orange.") Craig had a large Primus beer.

We spoke with Johnson about the political climate in Rwanda and in the U.S.A. He spoke of the genocide of 1994, how the Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred by extremist proponents of Hutu Power. Between 800,000 and a million people (Rwandans tend to say a million, but international analysts estimate closer to 800,000) were killed in just 100 days. This amounted to 1 in 8 Rwandans being slaughtered within just over three months. "The dead in Rwanda accumulated at nearly three times the rate of Jewish dead during the Holocaust. It was the most efficient mass killing since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki," Philip Gourevitch wrote in "We Wish to Inform you that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with our Families."

Johnson spoke of how the Belgians had instituted government-issued identity cards which labeled Rwandans as Hutu or Tutsi. The Hutu extremists would stop people and check their ID cards. If the people were Tutsi, they were often killed on the spot, sometimes shot (the victims would use their last money to try to bribe their killers for a quick death by bullet), but more often hacked to death with a machete or bludgeoned with homemade clubs. He spoke of Paul Kagame, their current president, who had taken office after the genocide. Johnson said that Kagame was working very hard to unite the country. People were no longer allowed to identify themselves along Hutu/Tutsi lines. THey were all Rwandans. People who had masterminded the genocide were being tried in Arusha, Tanzania, in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which we had driven past two days ago. Thousands upon thousands of ordinary folks who carried out the killings were tried in the traditional gacaca court system within Rwanda. People were healing, slowly. It seemed like such an unbelievable atrocity. How were fellow humans capable of committing this kind of ruthless killing? And yet, as we learned more about the history, it became apparent to us that the seeds of the genocide had been sown long ago.

When the Belgians took control of Rwanda from the Germans after World War I, they favored the minority Tutsis. Tutsis and Hutus were not even really separate "tribes", per se. They spoke the same language (Kinyarwanda), held many of the same beliefs, etc. The divide between them was mostly an artificial one, put in place by the Belgians. It came to be more of a socio-economic distinction than a racial one. Hutus were farmers, and when one accumulated enough livestock, one could "become" a Tutsi. Tutsis got special treatment from the colonial government, which bred resentment from much of the Hutu majority. When Rwanda gained its independence, the Belgians switched sides. Knowing that a Tutsi could never gain widespread popular support, they backed a Hutu president in 1961. (In a strange coincidence, today was July 1, Rwandan Independence Day, celebrating their autonomy from Belgium). As Hutus gained power, they started to take out decades-long frustrations on the Tutsis. Many Tutsis were exiled to neighboring countries. The genocide, in one form or another, was taking place as early as 1959. The death of the last Tutsi king inspired Hutu violence, and hundreds of thousands of Tutsis fled across the border to Congo (then Zaire), Uganda, Burundi, and other neighboring countries.

Exiled Rwandans formed an army known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front, led by Kagame. By the early 1990's, President Juvenal Habyarimana's government formed Hutu extremist militias, known as interahamwe, supposedly to protect the regime from the threat of the RPF. The interahamwe dubbed Tutsis "cockroaches" and lobbied for their systematic "extermination." Egged on by government propaganda and hate radio, Hutus were on the brink of an ethnic cleansing. In April of 1994, Hutu president Habyarimana's plane was shot down. Hutus blamed the RPF and mayhem broke out. Hutus started to kill their Tutsi countrymen, neighbors, and friends. Any Hutu who didn't share in their view was seen as a traitor, and was often killed as well. In order to spare their own lives, people were forced to kill others.

The shadow of the Holocaust hangs heavily over Berlin. When we visited the Gestapo headquarters and learned more about the rise of the Nazis, we thought "How could such a thing have happened? How could the people go along with this?" We had wondered if the same thing could happen today in the United States. Americans seem to be becoming more divided as time goes on. Rwanda taught us that this kind of thing could definitely happen again. The fact that it happened in 1994 showed us that humanity is still capable of such acts of hatred, that we haven't really learned from history, and that despite the promise to "never forget," people are doomed to repeat the past.

The international community conveniently viewed Rwanda's problems as a "civil war" between the RPF and the Hutu government. The U.S. didn't want "another Somalia" on their hands, and didn't want to get involved. Knowing that the international community is obligated to intervene to prevent genocide, they argued the legal definitions of words, contending that what happened in Rwanda was not "genocide", but "acts of genocide". The UN peacekeeping forces in Rwanda were extremely understaffed. General Romeo Dallaire had informed the UN that with 5,000 troops the genocide could have been avoided, but the UN instead decreased the number of their forces in Rwanda. Massacres were committed in some of the most unthinkable places: families seeking refuge in churches were killed, at worst with their Hutu clergy approving of the killing, or at best attempting to do nothing to prevent it. Massacres were carried out in boarding schools, hospitals, and houses. Nowhere was safe.The hundred days of killing were finally stopped as the RPF took control of the country. Many Hutus who were involved in the genocide fled across the borders to refugee camps in Congo and Uganda. Relief agencies, feeling guilty about not having taken action earlier, decided to go all-out funding these refugee camps. However, a lot of these so-called "refugees" were those who masterminded and perpetrated the genocide. These killers were now being taken care of by charity, while Tutsi survivors in Rwanda, who had lost homes, families, etc, were receiving nothing. The genocidaires strong-armed the actual refugees remaining in the camps and used them as human shields. The aid agencies couldn't separate out the legitimate refugees from the war criminals, so they continued housing, feeding, and clothing them all. Eventually, the RPF disbanded the camps. Hutu extremists would cross the border from Congo and commit smaller-scale massacres in Rwanda in the following years.

It was a fascinating discussion and we learned so much. It reminded us of some of the conversations we had had with our friend Carlos in Peru. We had only been in the country for less than 24 hours but we already felt such a connection to it, and we felt that there was still a lot more to learn. We had bananas flambe for dessert. As usual in Africa, they were the tiny bananas. They did not skimp on the alcohol. Lunch took quite a while, and it was 3:00 by the time we were through. The World Cup match would be on at 5, and we knew that Johnson had wanted to see it, but he continued with our scheduled itinerary despite the time. We drove for about an hour and a half to Lake Kivu.

Some groups of children we passed were calling out to us in Kinyarwanda and extending their hands. Johnson said that they were asking us for empty water bottles. They collect them and sell them to local doctors, who use them as containers for local medicine. The children are paid 100 francs per bottle. The practice is discouraged, as the children often drop out of school and choose the more lucrative behavior of begging. Johnson scolded a group of preteen boys for begging. He spoke in Kinyarwanda, but we could get the gist of what he was saying, and the boys immediately looked at the ground. One of them got down on his knees to ask for forgiveness.He said he would never do it again. Johnson explained that it is a cultural tradition to do what adults expect of you. Looking back on this after doing some more research about the genocide, this characteristic of Rwandans made them more susceptible to manipulation by the government and their peers. Johnson asked one of the boys to pick us a sample of the blue gum plant. The boy did so, and Johnson gave him a small tip for his helpfulness.

Other children we passed were just very excited to get a smile and a wave. We would pass by a valley and some small child would start waving frantically from down below, getting more and more excited as we smiled and waved back. We saw some children playing with a ball and a homemade kite. Though he had initially planned to take us to some other lakes, Johnson really wanted us to see Lake Kivu, where we could swim at the beach there if we wanted to. Lake Kivu is very close to the Congolese border, and the area had been heavily bombed in the past. We drove past a colorful genocide memorial where victims from this area (known as Gisenyi) were buried. We also passed an orphanage which housed children who were orphaned by the genocide, AIDS, or abandonment. A lot of the orphans were outside in front of the building, and they all waved to us as we passed.

We soon arrived at the Kivu Sun Hotel. Lake Kivu is a popular weekend retreat for Rwandans, and the public beach abbutting the hotel's private beach was hopping with people. Johnson showed us around the hotel and brought us out to the private beach. It was gorgeous. We took off our sandals, rolled up our pantlegs, and waded in the water. It was actually quite warm. Johnson seemed a little disappointed that we didn't swim. We had brought our bathing suits but it seemed like too much of a hassle to get changed, and it wasn't so hot that we felt we needed to go intro the water all the way. We stayed at the beach for about 20-30 minutes.

The lake is shared by Rwanda and Congo. There are islands in the middle, and one of them houses a Rwandan military prison. Johnson drove us to the Congolese border to have a look. There was no military presence at the border, which surprised us. But there were police. There was a tax checkpoint for those entering Rwanda from Congo. When we drove back past the lake, we saw some people fishing. One man told Johnson that he had come over for a day of fishing from the Congo. His small son proudly showed off his catch. Johnson pointed out the Congolese volcano Nyiragongo, which had eruped in 2002. It was starting to get dark, and the clouds near the volcano was glowing were starting to glow red. Johnson talked a lot about the crops of Rwanda. We passed a tea plantation. Other crops include cabbages, carrots, onions, potatoes, eggplants, coffee, bananas, sorghum, pineapple, and maize. Another crop is chrysathemums, which are used to produce an insecticide known as pyrethrum. Craig asked if there is anything that they don't grow in Rwanda. Johnson laughed and said "Apples." He said that in other provinces of Rwanda, sweet potatoes and cassava are grown.We saw some beehives on the ground in the fields, as honey is also harvested.

As we drove back to the Gorilla's Nest, Johnson tried to find the World Cup score on the radio. Hearing the announcer speaking in Kinyarwanda, obviously excited by the game, we flashed back to scenes in Hotel Rwanda where the hate radio was calling Hutus to arms. We were half expecting the announcer to mention "cockaroaches," and it was slightly eerie. The score was tied at zero, and we had missed the regulation game. Ever the optimist, Johnson said that was ok, he'd be able to watch exciting overtime.

We arrived back at the hotel at 6:45. Employees, guides, tourists...everyone was gathered around the TV. As soon as we walked in, the employees ran to gather chairs for us. Will and Kate were front and center, and there was no way we could get to them. We caught their eye and they waved enthusiastically. Will was the most vocal supporter of England, and one of the guides was loudly supporting Portugal. They did some good natured trash-talking and the atmosphere was that of a friendly rivalry. Everyone was having fun. We sat down and watched the overtime. Barbara and Filipe wandered through. Although they represented both teams, it was Barbara's birthday and they had decided not to watch the match. England lost in the penalties, much to Will and Johnson's disappointment.

We all headed to the dining room for a buffet dinner. We sat with Johnson and had tilapia cream soup, salad, veggies, beef, and pork. Johnson started to tell us about an 86 year old client he had once had, who wouldn't let him touch her bags because she didn't like Africans. Unbelievable! After we had finished eating, Will came bounding over with his iPod full of amazing gorilla pictures. Johnson went to the lobby to watch the next match (he would be supporting France) and we had a nice chat with Will and Kate. We talked about lots of things, but of course the conversation kept coming back to the gorillas. We had permits to trek again tomorrow. They had only booked them for today, but had had such a great time that they were desperate to do it again. They said that they might go to the park office in the morning to try to secure standby permits. We made plans to meet at 6 for breakfast. We went back to the room and I wrote in the journal. The toilet leak had been fixed at some point during the day, but now the toilet was in a mode of perpetually filling. We went to sleep to the sound of the toilet constantly running.
Bungalows at the Gorilla's Nest Lodge

Parc National des Volcans

Eugene

Will and Barbara at the beginning of our gorilla trek

Trekking through farmland

Stone wall which separates farmland from forested volcanoes

View of the Virungas

Will and Caitlin

Craig and Steph on gorilla trek

Gorilla, Group 13

Gorilla, Group 13

Gorillas, Group 13

2-week-old Baby Gorilla, Group 13

Gorilla, Group 13

Watch the gorillas frolicWatch the gorillas frolic
(20 second clip)


Baby Gorilla, Group 13

Gorilla, Group 13

2-week-old Baby Gorilla, Group 13

Gorilla trackers

Stone wall which separates farmland from forested volcanoes

Virungas

On the road to Gisenyi

Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu

Sunset

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