Saturday, June 7, 2014

Why Would Anyone Ever Want to Come to Africa?

I mean besides some of sweetest people on earth, beautiful country, great fruit, tropical weather, big animals and of course GORILLAS,  why would you not come to Africa?  I have to warn you, this will be a travel blog so just skip to the pictures if you are easily bored.  What, did someone say pictures...oh sorry, I got distracted.  Elder and Sister Wallace are the office couple in our mission.  They had a long weekend in April, because of some Uganda Holidays, and went to the gorilla park in the Southern point of Uganda.  They loved it and so they went to all the work of setting up an opportunity for all the senior couples in Kampala along with President and Sister Chatfield to go back down and do the same type of trip.  They went further South and had to hike for 5 hours to get to where the gorillas were.  We went to the northern part of the park where there were some shorter hikes. The park is the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.  It is on the border with Rwanda and DR Congo and with some of the gorilla families will cross back and forth across the borders and if they do, you can't follow them into Rwanda or the DR Congo.  Our gorilla families were safely in Uganda. We had to go in May because the rates are half in the rainy season (April, May and November). 

The drive is about 250 miles and it took us 12 hours one way to do the trip.  It was good road for most of the way but the last 100 miles was under construction or just plain dirt roads.  It was a bone jarring experience but the scenery was fantastic.  Mountains covered in tropical foliage or cultivated with bananas, coffee beans, tea plants or other fruit and vegetables.  Our trip started out with a bang as the van with 5 senior couples started up our steep hill and could not make it up.  They tried to vote me off the island (because of my overactive thyroid that causes weight gain ;)) but we finally negotiated to ride with President Chatfield who was planning to only drive part way then go in the van with us.  With Sister Squire always a possibility to fill a blue vomit bag if she gets car sick, it was a great alternative and so we took two vehicles.  I tried to sing "100 bottles of beer on the wall" with President Chatfield to pass the time but he wasn't at all impressed so I had to quit. 

We finally pulled into the Engagi Resort Lodge at 8 PM where we had a wonderful four course meal and off to a great night's sleep.  We were up at 6:00AM for breakfast so we could be on time for the gorilla briefing by 9:00AM.

The very nice bungalow we had to sleep in.  It would have been nice just to spend a day here.  This is a wonderful place with good food and lodging.

Another bungalow, lush forest all around.

The Park ranger giving us the briefing.  You are not allowed to touch or get within 7 meters of the gorillas because of the risk of infection (to the gorillas).  There are around 950 mountain gorillas in the world and over half are in Uganda. 

I told the group that I love nature and would probably only wear a loin cloth out in the wilderness.  Several of the group wanted to back out of the trip but the money was non-refundable so they figured they could just wear dark glasses and avoid any line of sight issues.  I think some of them still are having nightmares...

So, there are rumors that man descended from the decide...

We could only have four of our party go on the close hike to the gorillas.  The rest of us had to drive another 1 1/2 hours to get to the trail-head.  Sister Squire went on the close hike with Sister Hansen and Elder and Sister Hannan while myself, Elder Hansen, Elder and Sister Story, President and Sister Chatfield along with two girls from Ireland and Norway living in Uganda went in the van.  They only allow 8-10 in every group.  So after the briefing, off we go.  It was another long and bumpy road but the scenery was wonderful.  This is a very beautiful part of Uganda.

The boys: Elder Story, Elder Hannan, Elder Tarzan, President Chatfield, Elder Wallace, and Elder Hansen

The girls: Sister Squire, Sister Hansen, Sister Hannan, Sister Chatfield, Sister Wallace, and Sister Story

These were all the people waiting to see if we would need any help as porters.  I took the picture from up the road a ways after we started to walk.  It was a steep climb.  There are not a lot of jobs in Africa and so they look for any way to provide for their families.

A shot of the cultivated hillside where they grow what they need to eat and what they can to sell for the extras they need to exist.

Some of the family working to pick tea leaves they later load and ship to be processed.

No entry is complete until you get some of the kids.  After we got to the top we had kids waiting for us to give a smile and wave.  We were wondering if these kids will ever leave the mountain or if they would spend their life here on he mountain in the fields.

We took these pictures on the way up the mountain.  When we came back down they all had hand-drawn pictures to sell and some rudimentary gorilla carvings.  We didn't have any small bills so we were not able to help.

We finally made it to the top of the mountain and it looked like the Unitahs with lots of pine trees.  The guard carries a gun because there are 50 attacking mountain elephants in the forest and they do get scared off by firing shots in the air.  Bummer that we didn't see one.

Ok, thanks for the patience, I think it is time for some really cool gorilla pictures.  Sister Squire had the opportunity to go on the hike close to the resort.  They left from the park briefing point and hiked around 30 minutes to where the gorillas that had spent the night up in the trees.  They were met with poop and urine dropping from the sky.  I bet you learn fast to never sleep under another gorilla.  After 45 minutes they started to come down out of the tree to move along to their daily rituals. 

Before we get to the gorillas, one last shot of me sitting under a tree thinking how cool it will be when I finally get to see a gorilla.  I couldn't help but think if they really do look and act like us?

This is how you climb out of the fig tree where you just spent a wonderful night.

Sun light, sun bright, first sun I see today, may I have the wish I wish today...

Don't you just love the expressions?

Someone forgot to comb their hair this morning...

Meanwhile, after our van parked we started up the hill and spent the next 2 1/2 hours hiking to where the trackers said the gorillas would be.  The trackers get to spend 8 days at a time following the gorillas so they can call on the radio to our tour guide so we can find them the next day.  After they work the 8 days tracking they come back and then work three more days at the park then they get 7 days off.  We were getting close and then the call came they had started to move so we had to backtrack and head down the mountain to where they had moved to.  It was fun having our way cut through the jungle so we could follow where they were moving to.

Finally, we found our family. 

Just laying around eating a few fleas and leaves.  Gorillas are vegitarian with a few execptions.  They do eat ants but mostly leaves and fruit.

Our big silverback gorilla.  Around 10 years of age they get the silver back and they will live 40-50 years. 

Happy thoughts...

You don't even want to know where his finger was before he put it in his mouth.  Lets just say that I have seen my grandkids do the same thing...

Hey, mind if I pick a few critters off your back and eat them?  Nope, don't mind a bit.

Hey mom, how long we going to be hanging out here?

They are so gentle.  The kids are climbing all over them and they just enjoy it.

I think I could take him...

I know, too many pictures of the cute kids but I can't resist.

 This is how gorillas play

Who ate the last piece of cake!


Ok, scram, party over... and off they went back down the mountain

Lots and lots of great pictures, great time with people we have come to love and who can ever get enough of road trips.  The lodge didn't have anyone coming in the next day so we were able to keep our stuff in the room and when we got back a bit after 4PM we took a quick shower (tender mercy) and off we went.  We traveled back across the dirt roads the long way because the bridge was still out and got to our hotel after mindnight.  We had to get up early again because we still had a 2 hour drive to Masaka where we would attend church.  It was good we took the time for a shower at the lodge before we left because this is what we found when we turned on the faucet in the morning for our shower.

Don't let that distract ya, Africa is great place where you can find anything you really need.  We love the work and love Africa.  Why would anyone NOT want to come to Africa?


  1. So still looks fantastic, except the gorilla poop and urine! Happy Birthday to Nancy tomorrow! Can't wait to see her sweet tattoo!

  2. Those pictures are absolutely amazing! What a neat experience!

  3. Those are some fantastic pics! Awesome!!