In Search of Mr Humble
Audley client, Annette Beach, describes her encounter with mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda.
Silverback gorilla in Volcanoes National Park
Mr Humble approaches slowly through the undergrowth. "Just stand still and relax", says Edward, our guide. By now my breathing is a raspy affair due to the altitude, but the trackers assist in the uphill climb, their pangas clearing the route.
Hagenia trees surround us, each resembling an unkempt elderly person; but the gorillas favour the multitude of epiphytes supported by their limbs. Goodness knows how the giant silverback came to be called Mr Humble, but I certainly feel very humble as he walks within five feet of me!
Nothing can prepare one for the sight of the Kwitonda Group of twelve gorillas lazing about in the nettles and bamboo, chewing on giant thistles.
Suddenly, the rain in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda eases and a misty landscape of sun and shadows appears. An echoing call of "ooum ooum" is heard, like a baritone clearing his throat.
Mr Humble rolls over on to his back, relaxing in the sun, as if on a sun bed, clearing his throat. This indicates that all is well, for it is the sound of inter-group communication expressing contentment.
To my right is a mother with a ten month old infant, intent on rolling through the undergrowth towards me. Six other females come into view, playing gently, and enjoying the fact that the heavy downpour has stopped. Mr Humble rolls over on to his back, relaxing in the sun, as if on a sun bed.
Squelching through ankle-deep mud we follow the alpha male as he prepares to enter the bamboo forest. "Hurry", says Edward, "move quickly and quietly" (not easy through the bog). My group of five guests are trying not to giggle with excitement. However, the best is yet to come.
The gorilla stands up to his full height, raises one arm and proceeds to ascend the bamboo mountain. What a spectacular sight as he gingerly climbs in search of minute delicacies and a harvest of virgin shoots. He takes one last look at me and disappears. Amazing!
Now I am the humble one.