We had the best sleep of the trip last night. We’re in a deluxe tent with a stone floor, good hot water, comfortable beds, nice cool temps and black darkness. It poured rain overnight, and Maria says there were animal sounds. I slept through it all.
We are in Kibale Forest, which is home to over 1000 chimps, as well as 10 other species of primates. This morning, we went on a chimp walk with Ranger Jennifer, who was toting an AK47, and Linda, Livia and Mike, two sisters and a husband from Germany.
We hiked quite a way through steamy African jungle, cool in the early morning, water drops falling from the trees, and occasional shafts of sunlight. After about half an hour, we started hearing the hoots and screams of chimps. Jennifer led us towards the noise, then suddenly, we heard a bunch of screaming, close, and 5 or 6 chimps came crashing down a trail about 30 feet away from us. As they passed a big tree, each one slapped it making a deep thump. Then they were gone. It was a very dramatic introduction. For the rest of the morning we wandered around the forest, sometimes following trails, other times bushwhacking through the undergrowth. Fortunately, we had our pants tucked into our socks, and had long sleeve shirts. There was lots of unknown in the underbrush.
We walked in circles, even recognizing places we had been before. There was a place where Jennifer led us over a big fallen tree. All except Mike who found a short path around. We climbed over that same tree three times, each time Mike went around. I invoked Dad’s name more than once when we saw mushrooms. Dad would say, “you could probably eat those,” free trumping safety. We didn’t eat them.
We saw baby chimps playing high in the trees. Several times we would come upon a chimp just sitting quietly, watching us, or meditating or just chilling. We could get quite close, once maybe 6 feet away. Even when we thought we were done, heading back in, Jennifer headed off into the jungle and there was a chimp sitting on a boardwalk over a swampy patch, holding his feet, evidently napping.
It was a very eventful morning!
After lunch and a little rest, we went on a swamp walk. It was a lot of birdwatching and monkey watching. Our guide, Joanna, was really good, friendly and knowledgeable. She found lots of birds and was able to tell us where to look. We saw velvet monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, red tailed monkeys and my favorite, red colobus monkeys, who get high on the leaves of the trees they eat. This makes them aggressive and they will attack much larger monkeys and chimps and even humans, which usually results in their demise. Also, they only have 4 fingers, no thumb, so when they are loaded, they jump from branch to branch, miss, and plunge to their death.
It started raining on the swamp walk, and even though it’s the dry season, it got pretty swampy. Fortunately, we had those dollar store plastic ponchos, but still came back to the lodge wet and muddy.
Being in African jungle, we have gotten some pretty heavy duty bug bites. Maria discovered that tea tree oil does a great job of relieving the itch. It totally guess away.
We have a bottle of Johnny Walker with us. Helps to smooth out the evenings after a 20,000 step day.