It was straight to our guesthouse Kinigi right next to the Volcanoes NP office. We checked in and then had plenty time to explore the local area, have a few beers and prepare to the gorillas the next morning. On our wonderings we were highjacked by many a school boy. Some we good at maths, some were less so… We met several 8/9/10 year old boys whose fathers were murdered in the troubles. After a photo shoot with most of the them we made back to the guesthouse. At tea, the big debate was which group to go and follow. I was leaning towards the Suza group because they were furthest away we would get a hike and gorilla visiting in one. Also they are the biggest group. Hillary (aka the ILPH) was silently resisting this because of the hike. Conversation moved on. Around the table it was a bit European Union with two brits (us), a swiss couple and a flemish pilot. We agreed to disagree about Europe and cracked on with beers.
The next morning was gorilla morning. We rose early at 6am as we had to be a NP HQ before 7am. We drove with the swiss couple and arrived with plenty of time. As we were handing in our tickets, I immediately mentioned about the Suza group and he said he would do his best. Within 5 minutes we were signed up to the Suza group and so were the Swiss couple by default (I hope they didn’t mind!). We watched the native dancers and then 10 mins later we were on the road. This involved going back down the mountain, across and back up a rocky track that tested our used and slightly battered Rav4 to its limit. Following us we had a group from the American embassy we had been paired with. We all made to the drop point. A head of us was a steep track to get to the national park through terrace farmers fields. I looked at the ILPH (Irritable Little Pack Horse). This was what she had feared but I was going to coax her all the way up. We set off through obligatory swarm of school children and within 10 minutes everyone was feeling the altitude and the incline. 45minutes of slog and we made it the national park boundary. This was when everyone started to put gloves on. “Why is everyone putting gloves on?” I said. “There are a lot of things that sting you in the there.” I obviously did not get the memo. I continued with my bare arms and bare lower legs. We entered the national park and started climbing further. All the way I was keeping an eye on and coaxing the ILPH. She tried to rebel on occasion but I managed to keep a lid on it. We continued for another 45 minutes until the ILPH had just given up hope and was about to sit down in protest and then we found the group! We readied ourselves then plunged right into the word of the gorilla. As we gingerly walked closer we heard the pops of the chest from a silver back. We could hear and then see some gorillas in trees. There we many gorillas all around in this glade. The first gorilla we saw up close was a middle aged female; she was munching away. Then a double act of two young gorillas came along bouncing off each other. Time was running at double speed. We moved round to try and get a better look at the silverback but he moved again. We crept closer to a big group of what seemed like six gorillas of different sizes intertwined. Then we saw our favourite gorilla who we named Fluffy. It was a little tiny baby gorilla on the baby of his mum who not grown out of his thicker baby fur. He was so cute with his corkscrew ringlets. Again we went on the hunt for the silver back and finally made it right in front of him about four meters away. He was massive. Our time was up and strode down the mountain. Back at the cars an entrepreneur had set up his stall of gorilla carvings and picked up a little one with Fluffy on his mother’s back.