My very dear bookselling friend, Chris Page, recently send me a short report of her trek to see the gorillas in Rwanda. I enjoyed it so much I asked Chris if she would become a guest contributor. She agreed, and her first story is here.
I should not have undertaken the Gorilla trek. All the warning signs were there. First I am seventy and I have never ever worn hiking boots. I do some walking, stretching or yoga. Sort of… Another woman on the trek said she had walked 5 miles every day for a year and nothing had prepared her for this climb. She was vomiting at the time. I was crying but I had done that on the climb up to our five star hotel. By the way it was fabulous, open fires in our rooms, good food and wine. I didn’t want to leave. What gorillas? They had books on gorillas, big glossy photos and I do have an imagination. I yearned just to sit by that fire and read.
People blame the altitude and yes I couldn’t breathe but really I’m seventy! The porters come guides pushed me and pulled me and at times carried me. It was sort of raining and muddy and therefore slippery and it was up a mountain. Did I mention the humidity? Another thing. I am walking, no staggering through the impenetrable forest holding hands with a stranger! A Rwandan man with a machete in his other hand. I am caught up in some twisted version of a Grimm’s fairy tale. Did I mention the machetes? These were to hack a path through the bamboo, vines and spikey stuff. I tried not to think of our visit to the genocide museum. I tried to enjoy the forest but this is hard to do while trying to breathe and walk at the same time.
We made it and it was incredible but I was bent over most of the time trying to get my breath back, consequently photos were out of the question so I can’t even prove it. Except I did get a certificate which I think should be given to the porters. These guys are ex poachers by the way and know how to find the gorillas. So why did it take them four bloody hours, uphill? And soon I had to climb down and then I stepped in gorilla poo! (My loving, caring husband) Phil said it was buffalo poo. I smiled at him but he knew it wasn’t genuine. I whispered to him, since when have you become the David Fucking Attenborough of shit. This is not turning out to be a spiritual meeting with nature.
So I am leaning on a large bamboo tree when a baby gorilla swings up on some overhanging branches and crashes down! What fun! How sweet! Oh No! The gorillas have started to move. Uphill of course. I want to say I have seen enough but the others in the group are verging on delirious or is it just me? More climbing, more mud, more fucking bamboo. Why did I do it? To say I did it! So the local people in the fields could stare at me in awe? Then why are they laughing? Such happy people, even after such terrible recent events. One of the smaller gorillas stares at me and starts to pick out lice or something from between its toes and look at it. Have I come all this way to witness this? They are not interested in us at all. I bet they wouldn’t climb a mountain to look at us. I stop at the bank on the way back to pay the porters for carrying and pushing and pulling. I really shouldn’t have done it. Except I do feel a little proud. But back to the fire and books.