I hadn’t expected the bamboo forest to be so green. I had pictured the light brown/tan stalks that I had always seen in bamboo thickets, and of course the green leaves. But the stalks here in the forest were green, and huge. Some were too large to fit two hands around. And the gorillas, especially the silverback, were able to just reach over and pluck a stalk for munching.
We had been walking for more than an hour and I was elated. The first group I had been assigned to was selected for me because of my age, I am sure – they were a wimpy man and a group of not so adventurous looking ladies. I didn’t want to be with them; I wanted to be with the young folks and I was lucky enough to have met one of the staff workers the night before at dinner. So I asked him to switch me and he came back a few minutes later directing me to a group of mostly people around my age, or at least the age I feel. I am lucky to be much stronger and fitter and youthful than my chronological age would indicate.
So we set off at 7am. The trackers were already out in the jungle, having risen at dawn to find the last place the gorilla families had been the day before. All the groups set off in different directions, each toward the likely environ of their particular gorilla family. Once the trackers found the gorillas, they would radio our leaders so we could go meet them. The group leaders were lovely – one was older and he had been one of the people to actually habituate the gorilla family that we would meet that day. The other was a young guy, full of beans, as I told him. Always with a joke. You are full of beans, I said.
We also had a couple of trackers with us, who used machetes to break through the tougher underbrush. But mostly we just walked. The rolling hills, nothing too steep, the verdant vegetation. It didn’t quite look like the African jungle I had imagined. It was not foreign.
Then we got the radio. They had found the gorillas, who were hanging out in a bamboo forest. It was the bamboo forest that made me realize I was far from home.