5:45 AM wakeup to disassemble tents, have coffee/tea and bread, and head out for a 6:30 hike to see chimpanzees.
There were a family of 35 chimpanzees in the area; so we split into 2 groups and headed into the forest. (Pat, Doug, Maj, Emmely, Steffi, Daniel, Sabrina, Francesca, and myself) We hiked for 1.5 hrs with Robert as our guide. He and the other guides connected through their mobiles trying to pinpoint the chimps’ locations but – being chimpanzees – they tend to fly through the trees very quickly and move away.
We finally found three of them and stayed for an hour with our necks cricked up and our cameras trained above us. The outcome was a load of treetop pics with black blobs. I gave up DSLR after last year’s trip to Myanmar, when I was finally enlighten that I’m just not a good enough photographer to warrant lugging around all that weight and lenses for less than impressive pictures. So I sold my DSLR and upgraded to a small but amazing Sony RX100 II. The zoom lens isn’t powerful enough to capture the details of chimpanzees in trees, which gave me great reason to sit back and enjoy them. One of the guides gave me binoculars and – as I looked through them – Emmely stuck her nose in front of me and joked she was a “really big monkey” which made me laugh out loud.
We had brunch back at camp: tuna and pasta and fruit. There were two picnic tables, one of which see-sawed up and down unless you and the rest of your table planned the weight distribution just so. Without that, the table would tip and half the people would tip over. Ana and Lissette and I sat at this table and giggled as we tried to coordinate our sitting/standing in unison.
Promptly after lunch we packed up the bus-truck and started our 220K drive to Lake Bwindi.
One forgets how immense Africa is until driving overland. It’s big. It’s bumpy. It’s often full of cars. And it’s dusty. I’d forgotten about the dust. We crossed over a long stretch of hot, rocky, bumpy construction road that slowed us down to a few km per hour and likely added 1-2 hours to our drive. But TIA. This Is Africa. I was reminded yet again of one of my favorite quotes, from a book called “Dear Exile” when one friend advised another: “Aways bring a book. But in Africa, bring seven.”
We topped for groceries in Kabale – a town 30 mins outside Lake Bunyoni and finally arrived at the Bunyoni Overland Resort – a beautiful campsite on the water. Emmely and I upgraded to a room with a shower which was pure luxury and had a beautiful view. We were so happy to shower in our own private room. Steffi made me laugh later when she asked, concerned, “Did you not know we were camping?” Yes I did, but when only on a 1-week holiday I’d never turn down an opportunity to upgrade. Especially after a long, hot, dusty day like this.
Dinner and This Is Africa
Dinner was mashed potatoes and chicken on the upper porch above the lake – and even though John told us to show up at 7:00 for dinner and a briefing we weren’t served food until 8:00. After dinner, John instructed us to wait so our gorilla guide could brief us. This was a bit of drama as apparently the guide arrived at the campsite with a driver who was not welcome and so they weren’t let in. Lots of phone calls back and forth, followed by a false alarm of “The guide says he’ll be here very soon” but never showed. After 9:00 PM we all gave up and went to our rooms to pack for the next day’s exciting gorilla trek.