December 7, 2011
Gorilla Trek Winner Shares Her Experience
Kathleen C. Rautiainen of Canada won the drawing for a free gorilla trek, donated by Fossey Fund supporter Baobab Expeditions, when she registered for our new website last year. Our only condition when we awarded the prize: That the winner send us notes that we could share with the rest of you on our blog. Here are some highlights from her Dec. 3-6 trek, starting with her thoughts on the plane to Africa:
Work and theatre have been so busy lately that I didn't have any time to get myself organized. I literally packed the night before (last night) and finished up this morning. For the first time, I actually started feeling stressed about the whole thing until I reminded myself why I was travelling to Rwanda. It was to see my favorite animals…primates! Mountain gorillas don't care if I keep wearing the same pair of pants! Chimpanzees don't care if I'm having a bad hair day (which is frequent now that I'm growing in the post-chemo hair). Golden monkeys certainly don't care if my shoes match my…well, you get the idea. So, I stopped stressing, I threw a bunch of things in a bag and off I went.
Anyone who loves animals as much as I do (is that even possible?) would be extremely excited about going on this type of trip. Seeing any animals in their own environment, healthy and thriving, is amazing but being lucky enough to visit an animal that is barely 800 strong is special. Mountain gorillas are in the wild only in Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. Their numbers are looking brighter thanks to the work done by organizations like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Looking into the eyes of these great apes is enough to make anyone melt. You would think that you were looking at a human. Hmm, it sounds like I am speaking from experience, right? Well, I was fortunate enough to see these gorillas in Uganda in 2007. I went two days in a row and both experiences were amazing. It was the toughest trekking that I have ever done but that quickly went away when I saw them in person, especially the little babies.
Standing about 10 feet, if that, away from a silverback is awesome! Dealing with wild animals means that you have no control over anything. They go wherever they dang well please with no regard for how difficult it might be for us two-legged beings! Even though I saw two different groups of gorillas, each group decided to go the farthest away of any groups on the days that I was assigned to them. I'm hoping that my two groups this time will be far more cooperative. I am, after all, four years older, post cancer treatments and full of arthritis in both knees and both hips (that's another story!). I will push myself to get to the gorillas but I just might tell the guides to leave me behind instead of enduring the climb down! Maybe my "monkey whisperer" vibe will work on them and the gorillas will adopt me! 🙂
I also went to Rwanda in 2007 but I actually didn't do any animal excursions. I went for the culture, to learn about the genocide and to see how this beautiful country and amazing people have come through. I can't wait to get back there. . . My heart, mind and eyes are wide open to the adventures that await me in the land of a thousand hills. In about 10 hours I will touch down on my favorite continent. I will work through exhaustion and pain to do what I love best…living!
Kathleen C. Rautiainen
To be continued. . .