Road Trip Africa: Gorillas in the mist

Mountain gorilla, Africa, August 2019. Photo courtesy of Michelle Duprée Harris
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Editor’s note: Former Morristown Councilwoman Michelle Duprée Harris is spending 56 days in Africa. Here is her second installment from this once-in-a-lifetime journey. Transmitting text has proven tricky, but some great photos have arrived.

Arrive in Nairobi, Kenya, Aug. 3, 2019:

Made two new friends, Cindy from West Virginia, who spends three weeks in three towns providing free dental services with her company.

Christabella returns home from living in Boston so she can empower and cultivate female Kenyan entrepreneurship with the United States.

First night, I stayed in a dorm-style hotel at the Kenyan Comfort Inn. Now listen, hold on, the camping experience is not too extreme, as 15 others checked in with me from Australia, Germany, Canada, UK, New Zealand and the US.

Quick orientation and briefing as we hit a local market for water and snacks.

Aug. 4: Brushy Brushy and a Jumping Dance

We leave about 8:30 am to travel to meet the Masai Mara village people in an oversized green truck that carries water, food, tents, tables, chairs, and a load of people and their stuff.

Aloise is one of the tallest and best defensive drivers I know. Duncan our cook prepares three meals easily, whipping up whatever he finds from stops at roadside markets and stands.

Venranda, our tour guide/organizer, keeps us all straight by guiding everything, from what time we leave to when we stop along the way for brushy brushy (pee stops behind a brush).

We’re welcomed by the Marai men, who demonstrate a Jumping Dance that determines which male is strongest. Up until the early 1970s, Marai males who turned 19 would kill and behead a lion as a warrior rite of passage.

Next, we participate in a Wedding Welcoming dance, which is  performed for the new bride of their village. Their community appears to be one big, happy polygamous family.  Their three-room homes are constructed by village women from sticks, mud and cow manure.

So, you guessed it, they are the  hardest workers. Smile. Lastly, dinner, drinks and rest at the campsite. Oh, by the way the campsite has a recreation component including a bar, pool table and internet.

 

 

Aug. 8 through 11: Kampala to Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda.

We leave Kampala in the early morning to arrive at The Lake Bunyonyi Resort. Lake Bunyonyi is the deepest crater Lake in Africa. It is abundant with various birds and is the base of where we see the endangered berengei species of Mountain Gorilla in the Bwindi National Park.

I visited the Little Angels Orphanage founded by a young man named Duncan Musinguzi Nelson seven years ago. They are in such need for everything. Check out his website. Donations and sponsorships are needed.

The gorilla trek was awesome. There were four campers in my group. The hike was 450 feet down into the jungle. Slipping in mud, trapped in large vines and holding on to anything and everything to avoid stepping into holes. Just know that at the end I was completely soaked in sweat from head to toe.

I attended church with the local kids and the secretary of the orphanage. Stopped by the school and observed a 7th grade class studying for a country exam. Just think…on a Sunday.

Africa, August 2019. Photo courtesy of Michelle Duprée Harris
Africa, August 2019. Photo courtesy of Michelle Duprée Harris

At 5:30 am on Aug. 10 we split up in Jeeps departing for the gorilla trek, a two-hour journey. There’s no sleeping as we travel the pitch-black mountains on dirt roads.  Quick breakfast, packed my lunch. Arrived to see the mountain gorilla, at 524 feet above sea level. The gorillas have 19 families here.

Africa, August 2019. Photo courtesy of Michelle Duprée Harris
Mountain gorilla relaxes, Africa, August 2019. Photo courtesy of Michelle Duprée Harris
Africa, August 2019. Photo courtesy of Michelle Duprée Harris
Mountain gorilla, Africa, August 2019. Photo courtesy of Michelle Duprée Harris
Africa, August 2019. Photo courtesy of Michelle Duprée Harris
Visiting mountain gorilla family, Africa, August 2019. Photo courtesy of Michelle Duprée Harris
Africa, August 2019. Photo courtesy of Michelle Duprée Harris
Family of mountain gorillas, Africa, August 2019. Photo courtesy of Michelle Duprée Harris
Africa, August 2019. Photo courtesy of Michelle Duprée Harris
Africa, August 2019. Photo courtesy of Michelle Duprée Harris
Africa, August 2019. Photo courtesy of Michelle Duprée Harris
Africa, August 2019. Photo courtesy of Michelle Duprée Harris

MORE FROM ‘AFRICA: 56 DAYS AT 57’

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