Where to start? So much has happened in the past week.
I have continued conducting interviews. This week with three formerly abducted persons, each lasting from 55 to 90 minutes. While the research is going well, and I am setting up more interviews with returnees themselves, what I wish to share today is not related to my research.
In the weekend, I went full-on tourist with Matilda (do you remember her from my last post?). On Friday, we went to the Equator and drove through Lake Mburo National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park on our way to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The highlight of the trip was the tracking of the mountain gorillas which can take up to 8 hours! We were very lucky as:
- The weather was amazing (no rain in the rainforest).
- It took us just 1,5 hours to find the gorillas, thanks to the amazing guides!
- The whole family of 13 gorillas was resting at the same spot.
- We found them in open terrain which means that the gorillas sometimes move very close to us when passing.
Within the first five minutes, I was within reachable distance of a young mountain gorilla who felt like passing me and another woman. Of course, you do not touch the animals due to transferrable diseases and safety. The gorillas did not seem to mind us at all! They were resting, eating, playing around, building their nests etc. It was such a breathtaking experience to observe these animals that share 98% of our DNA. After an hour, the silverback rose up and they all left.
After returning to the hotel, we went on a community walk to visit the pygmies of the Batwa community. We danced with them, observed how they traditionally lived, made fire, and hunted. We asked how they felt about being forced to leave their home in the forest in 1991. The elders explained that it was very hard but that they have now managed to adjust to the new way of life and settled in the community. We also visited the nearby school and orphanage for pygmy children. At night, we stayed near Lake Bunyonyi, the second deepest lake in Africa.
On Sunday, we drove back to Kampala and made a small detour at Lake Mburo National Park where we spotted different animals including zebras, gazelles, and warthogs (aka. Pumba!).
Standing on both hemispheres at the Equator.
Zebra at Lake Mburo National Park
Elephant at Queen Elizabeth National Park
Tracking the mountain gorillas in the beautiful rainforest of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
A mother and her baby at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
A young mountain gorilla swinging in the trees of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
The silverback resting (Bwindi Impenetrable Forest)
A pygmy and elder of the Batwa community (Bwindi Impenetrable National Park) in front of their traditional house. The pygmies were forced out of the forest in 1991 as hunting became illegal. They had to find new means of survival and adjust to the life outside the forest. Today, some of their kids have intermarried but the elders still remember the life in the forest where they grew up.
The beauty of Western Uganda cannot be underestimated. It was breathtaking.
The view from our balcony in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Our accommodation at Lake Bunyonyi where we went canoeing in the morning. The lake is the second deepest in Africa with its 900 meters. Still, it is located in the mountains 1962 meters above the sea level.
Follow this link for more pictures and videos of the mountain gorillas.