Today we started our day very early–I woke at 4:15AM. We had to leave the hotel by 4:45AM so that we would reach the chimpanzees by 6AM. After the sun rises, the chimpanzees eat and then they are on the move and we would have to run to keep up. About 30 minutes of the ride to the park was on a very bumpy dirt road–this is called the “African Massage”. It was not relaxing!
We walked about 45 minutes into the very dense Nyungwe National Park before we came upon the chimps. We spent an hour watching as they groomed each other, ate fruit from the ficus tree, and sat in the trees watching us. I am very lucky to have an amazing camera with a telephoto lens (thanks, Dad!), and i took some really beautiful pictures. I posted several on Instagram, so they should appear in the sidebar on the right. This experience was a close second to seeing the mountain gorillas last year, but the hike in and out today was much easier. I hired a porter to carry my bag, so my only job was to keep myself upright on the steep trail that was covered in vines and other vegetation. The temperature was cool but I was covered in sweat after the hike.
After we finished the hike, we went back to the hotel and had a chance to shower and change clothes. We sat on the upper deck of the hotel and had a beautiful lunch of sweet corn soup, vegetable lasagne, egg casserole with vegetables, rice and peas, baked chicken thighs…and then flan for dessert. I hope you were not worried that I would go hungry here!
Our drive back to Kigali will take 7 hours (I am en route as I write this), and we opted to drive through the park to see if we might see more animals. We were very lucky to see Colobus monkey, a white necked monkey, and a huge family of baboons. They crossed the road in front of us (we stopped to watch), and just kept coming and coming–probably 40 in all. One of them stole a piece of fruit from a farm and the the whole group were chased back across the street by a mob of children. A man in a security uniform with a large gun then followed the children; apparently he is hired to protect the baboons. I would imagine that this village’s economy is based at least in part on the presence of the baboons, so it makes sense to protect them.
I am headed home tomorrow, which is hard to believe. I will spend 1/2 day at the hospital, where I suspect there will be a bunch to do since we haven’t been there for 2 days. Will be back with a few more posts so stay tuned.