February 2, 2013

Cross Training in Rwanda...trekking with Gorillas!

This week was a busy one as we traveled from Nairobi to Rwanda for a gorilla trekking adventure.  The mountain gorillas are located in Volcanos National Park and it is a very remote place in the country.  Since running here was not an option, the hikes would be my exercise for the two days we were out in the jungle.  Our first day started bright and early as we arrived at the park headquarters before 6:30am.  The local drivers have a process of making requests for their guests for the "best" family of gorillas and we were delighted to be visiting the Hirwa family.  This family had a huge silver back and several females, the juveniles and twin babies!
Juvenile gorilla
 Our trek started after a short, but very bumpy safari ride to the starting point.  Our guide Immanuel was a delight telling us we had the best family to visit and how much he loved the twins!  Off we went and shortly, we reached the park wall (built to keep the Cape Buffaloes inside the park) where we met up with the trackers.  The trackers are out before dawn finding the family to make it easier for the guests.  Obviously, the gorillas do not stay out, so there is still a hike involved.  We were very fortunate that the family had moved down the mountain and we ended up with a hike that lasted only a total of 45 minutes! 
A little rest!
The Big Daddy, Hirwa
We were delighted to meet the troop and especially the big silver back, Hirwa.  Immanuel taught us how to make pleasing noises for the gorillas and we all complied!  The  excitement of the morning happened about halfway through our visit, when big daddy decided to walk down a narrow path where the group of gawkers (aka us tourists) was standing.  Immediately the guide requested that we move to the side quickly and as far off as possible.  Tom chose the right side and the rest of us were on the left.  Soon, the gorilla was ambling by and he decided to sit down next to Tom and lean against his leg!
The next day, we arrived first at the visitors center ready to go for our second day of trekking.  This time, we were given the family, Agasha, that had a group of 27 gorillas including tons of babies and one just 6 months old!  We were lucky to have Immanuel as our guide this day again and off we went on a more rigorous but still short ride to our starting point.  The hike started it the same as we made our way to the park wall.  Soon the trackers were giving the family location to the guides and we made our way over the wall and started the hike.  This one was totally different than the day before, as we traveled through thick jungle that the guides chopped with machetes.  The paths that we walked were both steep and slippery and yes, I landed on my backside once!  In total, the hike was close to 1 1/2 hours each way.  It was worth it when we met up with all these wonderful gorillas. 

Check out the Agasha family in the background!  Thanks for Immanuel for this great photo!
So while I did not get in a run in the last few days, the hiking should suffice at keeping me in shape! 


  1. Replies
    1. Monica, we are so lucky to be enjoying this adventure. Thanks for the comment!

  2. That is just so cool!!

  3. Wow, that sounds like such an amazing trip! Pretty sure it's worth a few missed runs : )

  4. Wow Pam....so close to the Gorilla Family...can't imagine how you felt~ Really special to see them out in their environment. Your so sweet to take time to share your vacation with us.
    And yes...the hike was a work out too! What a wonderful adventure!! :c)

    1. I could not believe how close we were to the gorillas. I have wanted to do this for such a long time....it was really fun and a big thrill.