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THE EAST AFRICAN SERIES, DAY 6

Bukavu – Goma

Gorillas & sleeping with the general’s wife. It was only 3 days ago I knew I was going Gorilla trekking, it wasn’t part of the activities or itinerary I requested.

THE RANGER WAS AS CALM AS COULD BE WHILST THE GORILLA CHARGED AT US.

However, as part of getting the visa with a fixer it comes as part of the $500 fee, result!

People here work the most horrendous jobs I have seen. Maybe it’s no different for them but seeing people unload a boat full of sand with their bare hands did shock me. It’s only manual labour but seeing how far this country is behind the rest is incredible.

WHERE IS KAHUZI BIEGA NATIONAL PARK?

Kahuzi Biega National Park

TRANSPORT

As we got further and further away from Bukavu so did the clocks. This is nothing new to the travel community but it’s crazy seeing lorry loads full of people thrown in the back.

Gorillas & sleeping with the general’s wife

DAILY INFO… DAY 6

  • HOTEL – Overnight boat
  • RESTOS – Salt & Pepper (Bukavu)
  • FOOD – Chicken Biryani
  • ATTRACTIONS –
    Kahuzi Biega National Park
    Natural Research & Science Centre
  • STEPS – 18,000
  • MILES COVERED – 62 miles

GORILLA TIME

We arrived at the NP and was given our briefing before setting off for the Eastern Lowland Gorillas. With the rangers tracking each group everyday they are easily found ahead of our arrival and even better they were only 15mins drive and 2 minutes from the road.

There wasn’t much movement to begin with and they were all under the bushes for shelter. They have many similarities with humans and another being the distain of rain. The group consisted of 1 silverback, 1 female, an elder son and 4 kids including 2 baby twins, very rare in the gorilla world.

Gorillas & sleeping with the general’s wife

RANGERS

Thankfully the rain soon died off and with the rangers making sure all gorillas were in the area it got the gorillas on their hands and feet. But f**k me one of the rangers wasn’t afraid to get close enough to instigate a face off with one of the males who soon walked off on the huff.

We then noticed the silverback had moved out of his hiding spot so we made a beeline back to our starting point and of course there he is munching away on his leaves. But trust the female to take issue, with a pair of twins I can hardly blame her but there was a time I thought either her or the silverback was going to make a run at us.

FLAG….

  • Blue represents peace.
  • Red stands for “the blood of the country’s martyrs.”
  • Yellow the country’s wealth.
  • The star a radiant future for the country.

STAND YOUR GROUND

I was aware you need to stand still don’t back off suddenly or turn around and run but I couldn’t help but make a backwards step…one single step! But the ranger was so good. Whilst always keeping his eyes on the gorillas he reached back and took my arm. An action that said, stay where you are.

But the best part was the silverback then just walking past us, probably well aware we are no match for him.

CAHONAS

Not knowing if it was a good idea or not but we continued to follow them. That ranger has some set of balls. I was unsure about being second but being at the head of the group would have been something else, even my DRC guide was keeping well back.

After a few more photos it was decided to let them be, what a show that was!

Gorillas & sleeping with the general’s wife

NATURAL RESEARCH & SCIENCE CENTRE

With missing our 11am boat (it takes 2 hours) we now had to get the overnight boat (12hours) but that’s another experience to add to the list.

So with 5 hours to kill we headed to a monkey sanctuary/orphanage. For a monkey to qualify to be taken in here they would have to have the rest of their family killed, not by other monkeys but by humans. Monkeys are often killed around this part of the DRC for their meat, any type of food is valuable here.

TRAUMATISED

Some monkeys are still clearly traumatised. Not only did they have to endure seeing their family get killed but then end the rest of their lives in relative captivity. The areas aren’t small but they are contained and you can see their only interest all day are the humans that wave and take photos.

However I did enjoy seeing a older chimpanzee who had 2 bodyguards constantly walking alongside him and keeping an eye on him.

Gorillas & sleeping with the general’s wife

QUARRIES

Everyone knows a quarry when they see one but we all take it for granted than these big stones are literally thrown into one end of a machine and they come out the otherside a completely different size.

Any idea how they are cut down in Bukavu? By hand, Yes, by hand, every single one of them is cut by hand. Being involved in construction and knowing the quantity of stones needed for even the smallest of jobs I was speechless.

OVERNIGHT BOAT

After heading back to Salt and Pepper for some Biryani and the last 10mins of the United game we headed to the boat.

I had no idea what to expect here but it was much better than even my wildest expectations. The boats new which helps but the seats are as big a recliner as you can get. Think 1990s lazy boy chairs, what a dream.

VIP SUITE

However my room had to have been the best available, it was only 1 of 2 that had a balcony and faced off the rear of the boat. It was here I stood on the balcony and enjoyed the view for the first time camera in hand of people going about their business in Bukavu.

THE GENERAL’S WIFE

It wasn’t long until a 4-car escort came into the car park, with 3 pick ups full of soldiers loaded to the hilt. I counted 20 soldiers making sure someone was kept very safe.

Then me being my mothers son (she’s a nosey wee b*tch) I kept my eyes on the group and noticed one of the run arounds go into the room beside mine.

“Is this a senator”

“No, the General and his wife.”

I wasn’t sure if this was a good thing being so close to someone who felt the need to have so much security. It’s in the movies where the first step is to get control of the room next door!

Of course I attempted an awkward hello, but these folks don’t say much to anyone outside of their bubble, everyone else is virtually shit.

THE CLUB

It wasn’t long until we headed to the club. It reminded me of the bar in titanic, less people sipping cocktails and more people drinking the hard stuff. No doubt in a few hours this place would be a riot.

There are plenty of people here that don’t bother getting a seat and instead stay in the club for the full 12hours. I’ve delved into all day parties before but never in the one club and one of the smallest I have seen. It would have been good to see a few locals loosened up.

SUMMED UP….

  • MVP – Gorilla Guide
  • HIGHLIGHT – Seeing the power of the Gorillas

AIR DRY

There are heaps of faculties on board including a hairdressers which had every seat filled. But that was the end of my boat tour and I made my way back to my luxurious suite.

It was hard to know whether to have a shower or not. For a start it stank of piss, no doubt from the public toilet beside me. Then I realised there was no hot water and thirdly no towel. Air drying was an interesting experience.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Gorillas were incredible but my thoughts have been firmly stuck on the guys who have been washing themselves in the harbour water full of rubbish, oil, piss and likely shit! How lucky I am…

NEXT UP

Off to Masisi the absolute middle of nowhere!! Click to read.

SAFE TRAVELS, DS x
154/229

This post is part of The East African Series, for the entire series click here or for episode 1, click here.
To watch the video of my trip, head to my highlights on my Instagram.

Question Time

  • Have you taken an overnight boat before?
  • Where was it and what did you think?
  • What do you think is the best way to meet locals?

Let me know in the comments below . . .

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CAUGHT FILMING AT THE DRC BORDER
DEEP INTO THE DRC

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