“I spent many years longing to go to Africa, because of what that continent offered in its wilderness and great diversity of free-living animals.  Finally I realized that dreams seldom materialize on their own.  To avoid further procrastination I committed myself to a three-year bank debt in order to finance a seven-week safari throughout those parts of Africa that most appealed to me…

Two of the main goals of my first African trip were to visit the mountain gorillas…and to meet Louis and Mary Leakey…(Days after breaking an ankle with the Leakeys) and aided by a walking stick carved by a sympathetic African encountered along the road, I, the hired driver, and a dozen porters carrying the basics of camping gear and food began the arduous five-hour climb to the remote Kabara meadow…I shall never forget my first encounter with the gorillas…

…I felt a sense of panic while watching Alan fade into the foliage near the descending edge of the Kabara meadow.  He was my last link with civilization as I had always known it.  I clung on to my tent pole simply to avoid running after him.

…After several days of interrogation in Kisoro, where the word had been relayed that I would be shot on sight if I tried to go back to Zaire, I drove to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda for further questioning…In Nairobi I learned that I had been declared missing and assumed dead by the United States Department of State. …

…Whenever approaching a group for a contact I always tried to select an observational point containing a good solid tree for the gorillas to climb.  There were many times, however, when logistics gave way to fatigue.  This was especially true after I had climbed for several hours up forty-five-degree slopes, had waded through a morass of muddy trails, had to hack my way through pillared vegetation, or had been crawling on my hands and knees for a length of time through punishing foliage like nettles.  My nose, a most protrusive one, suffered more nettle stings than the rest of my body, which was protected by heavy gloves, long under wear, heavy jeans, socks, and high boots.  Most people, when thinking of Africa, envision dry plains sweltering under a never-ending sun.  When I think of Africa, I think only of the montane rain forest of the Virungs–cold and misty, with an average annual rainfall of seventy-two inches.”  (Dian Fossey was later murdered in Africa because of her commitment to the endangered species she studied.)

2018-04-15T09:10:48+00:00

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