Saturday, August 11, 2018

Tuesday - Part 2

It is not only a trackers' job to locate gorillas, they are also charged with protecting staff and visitors from such perils as poisonous snakes (cobras and vipers) and from attacks by cantankerous Forest Elephants, who are a separate, distinct species of pachyderm with a real chip on their shoulders.  We hoped to see them, but not too close, as they are known to go after humans for no good reason.  And even though they are half the size of African Bush Elephants, they are still way bigger than us! 

We departed camp and entered the jungle with great anticipation.  But it would be another 1-1/2 hours before we'd stand on the edge of a huge swamp spying the gorillas, who were feeding at a distance more than a football field away.  The only way to get closer, our research guide told us, was to go through the swamp.  We were up for the challenge, secured our equipment, and followed him into the stinky bog.  I was the first of our team to take a step onto one of the thick clumps of floating vegetation that was actually solid enough to withstand my weight.  But my second step proved this was going to be a real nightmare, as I landed up to my waist in murky water and thick mud, holding the video camera over my head in case I was completely submerged.  With the help of our guide and a tracker, I was able to pull myself out, but not before tearing a big hole in my pants from the crotch all the way down to my right kneecap, exposing my colorful underwear.  Mind you, these pants are designed for activities such as jungle safaris, but they completely failed me this time.  After the initial shock, I laughed out loud along with the rest of our team, knowing it would make for a good photo op later.

We continued to move forward, slowly, sloppily.  One or two solid steps, followed by a splash into the nasty, dark ooze.  The trick was trying to find the most fortified vegetation and follow our guide, who has spent many days working in this swamp.  Yet even he, with all his experience, has never made it through unscathed.  He was just as muddy and wet as we were.  What's more, he was wearing shorts, and giant leaches began attaching themselves to his legs.  He would periodically find them and pull them off, leaving trails of blood.  This is exactly why I only wear long pants when I travel!  

But, since my pants were compromised, I had my share of troubles - ants climbed in through the gaping hole and bit my legs so hard they left dozens of small black and blue bruises, as I discovered the next day.  What's worse, the gorillas were moving away from us at a pace faster than we could maintain.

Doesn't this sound like fun?  Our story continues tomorrow!