Being with the Mountain Gorillas . Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Uganda

Into magic and down the mountain, I trek. New crops, a checkerboard of sweet potatoes, beans and Irish potatoes, are emerging from the terraced land’s iron-rich, red soil.

Volcanoes tower above through the clouds. Giant Eucalyptus and flowering trees stretch up through the forest.

We are in the southwest corner of Uganda, a few kilometres from the border with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Arthur, who carries my backpack, was born here. His strength and commitment to conservation is impressive as we track down, down, down, into the impenetrable forest with thick barbed vines grabbing us, and giant anthills to avoid. Listen to the birds, smell the rotting forest.

Impenetrable: solid, thick, and unyielding.

“Stop now.” The head guide whispers after a challenging 2½ hour descent. “Come forward one by one. Be very quiet.”

And there he is. Lying back on a thick hammock on vines about five feet below me is a young male gorilla…young but very large and healthy. He pays no attention to me as he happily grabs delicious leaves and green shoots around him with his large hairy hands and stuffs them into his mouth.

I I have just one hour to be with this family of twenty gorillas. The little ones play, swinging on the branch of a tree until it bends to the ground, disturbing the great silverback below, protector of the family, who growls, telling them to be more careful. The older gorilla children, like human teenagers I’ve known, spend their time relaxing and feeding, pulling giants leaves off giant trees to eat. Two big males follow the silverback, learning their role in the family. Then the big silverback tires, tolls over on his stomach, props his head in his hands and rests.

Mountain gorillas, our human ancestors, were almost extinct a dozen or so years ago. I am in awe of the conservation and education initiative in combination with an effort to improve sustainability of small communities near the National Park that have led to increased populations of mountain gorillas.

Good-bye friends. ‘Till we meet again.

Awesome Alberta

I thought of you as I cycled sixty kilometres along the beautiful Bow River Trail and Elbow River Trail in Calgary last Sunday. Travelling close to home is my goal this summer. Every time I go on an awesome mini trip I  think about sharing it with you and writing Travel Musings. But thinking is as far as I get. Time is a thief.

I’ve taken Travel Alberta’s video”Remember to Breathe” seriously. Hiking, cycling, and breathing in Alberta’s summer have helped me balance the rigors of editing and finding a publisher.

So here is a mini view of my travels close to home. You’ll have to wait until Christmas for “Silk Roads.”

Early in July we rode the forty-five kilometre return bicycle trip along the Trans Canada Trail “Legacy” route from Canmore to Banff and back. The views were spectacular and the trail is a perfect way  to commute from Canmore to Banff. It’s gentle and paved (with a head wind going west) flanked by the busy TansCanada highway on the north side and the CN railway on the south.   

            A few days later we were invited to watch our granddaughter ride in her first rodeo. The setting in the Kananaskis was spectacular and the rodeo, especially the ladies barrel race …well lets just say it gave me warm fuzzy feelings and brought tears to my eyes. I was so proud of Ava and to live in Alberta. 

          We couldn’t miss this year’s 100th Anniversary of Calgary Stampede…the big ladies’ barrel race, the RCMP musical ride, the Chuchwagon races and the Grandstand Show.

           Sunny days and warm breezes leave no excuse to stay at home (and edit.) Top rated hikes for us this year have been Peter Lougheed Provincial Park’s Chester Lake, Banff National Parks’ Helen Lake, C-Cirque, Sunshine Meadows and best of all a 3 day trip into Skoki via Deception Pass and back out by Packer’s Pass. The challenge for me was the  chimney in the rock but Ava (and my ego) spurred me on.

Now it’s time to get back to “Silk Roads.”

Stay with me, the gorillas in Uganda will be my next diversion.