Woke up a few times cold or sore from sleeping on a rock, but all in all slept very well. Got up, picked up a to go lunch from the canteen (4 eggs, 3 bananas, and a chipote). Went to the park headquarters and met the other tourist here. The German guy I was told about is actually a Japanese woman. The Gorilla tracking party consists of us two, two trackers, a guide, and three heavily armed soldiers (glad to see they have grenades).
Took off through the Impenetrable Forest. "Impenetrable" is an exaggeration - but not much of one. We head straight up the side of the mountain. Within thirty minutes my heart is pounding and I'm panting - this is tough and I am still out of shape! On our way to where the Gorillas were seen yesterday to begin tracking we get lucky and find signs of them only an hour and a half in. Unfortunately it's through an amazing assortment of thorny plants - even with the guides steadily hacking away with machetes it's difficult going. Within a few minutes of following their trail we find stripped sticks and droppings. Thirty minutes later we see our first gorilla!
The troop is supposed to consist of twenty three gorillas. Unfortunately the bush is quite dense here and often there was a gorilla no more than ten feet away that we could barely see. Luckily the young ones seemed a lot more courageous so we had a couple of them go on feeding on top of a bush maybe twenty feet from where we were. Caught a glimpse of the gray back through a bush (again maybe ten feet away), then very briefly again chasing off one of the youngsters. Moving around the troop for an hour (maximum time you are allowed to spend with the gorillas) we saw or caught glimpses of maybe twelve different animals.
I'm glad I did it - I don't regret it at all - but I don't think I'd do it again. I was a bit disappointed - I've talked to so many people who talked about what it was like to look into the eyes of something so human like - I didn't feel it. It was fairly amazing to be so close to such giants though.
An hour and a half hike back to the camp (I fell a dozen times - this is still not easy hiking). I packed up my tent and other gear and took an icy but very needed shower and headed for Butogota. Luckily I was able to hitch a ride on a military transport right from the gate so I didn't have to walk to far. In Butogota there's not a whole lot to do and the bus doesn't leave until tomorrow morning (early!) There's no electricity or running water in town - so I can't even have a cold Coke.