Just Me and the Mountain Gorillas

“You are very lucky!” my guide told me. “You will have the gorillas all to yourself!” He seemed pleased for me in my rare situation of being the lone tracker to see one of the habituated gorilla families in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Typically there are 8 people per outing, and they have booked their permit ages ago, battling other safari company clients to clutch one of the limited permits in their sweaty hands. But through a happy set of circumstances, it was just little ol’ me and 12 mountain gorillas quietly passing the time together in a small ravine. Suddenly a loud crack above me and the brief whooshing sound of air rushing through leaves as my guide and I looked up in time to see the tree falling as if the gorilla had precision-aimed it right at our heads. Fortunately, the gorilla misjudged the length of the tree and it stopped short of our fragile craniums. Then he casually ambled down the slope and sat down a few feet away. He gazed rather stoically at his handiwork and I tried to catch his eyes with mine. He didn’t mind letting me peer into them, searching for his soul. Naturally, I couldn’t quite find it in such a short period of time. But I definitely found something rare and intense, standing in the jungle, eye-locked with a mountain gorilla, and nothing between us but a few swarms of flies.

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