I had intended to blog regularly while Beth and I were in Uganda. But after we left the lodge for Kampala, our days were so long that by the time we got to our hotel our guest house, we were totally exhausted and went to bed. We had to arise in the mornings between 5:00 and 6:00 every day (one day we slept in until 6:15) and head out so I had virtually no time to blog. I hope to write several blogs now that I am back and share some of our experiences during the remainder of the trip.
Our driver for the gorilla trek was a Muslim man named Sula. He was 75 years old and had 16 children. The oldest was born in 1957 and died sometime in the 1990's and his youngest child was 3 months. While I never asked, I assume that he had several wives. Later I talked with someone who told me that Muslims frequently have several wives, and that Mohammed thought the ideal number was 4. I did not do research to verify that this is true.
In any case, Sula was very nice and we had a good time talking with him. He ate meals with us, and before each meal we would say a prayer. He seemed a little uncomfortable at first, and when I invited him to say a Muslim prayer, he declined. But a couple of meals later, he did say a prayer. In fact, after that he was the first one to reach for our hands to hold for the prayer after that.
Almost every one in World Vision Uganda is young, and it was interesting to talk with someone who was 22 when Uganda gained independence in 1962 and someone who had lived through Idi Amin's reign of terror. When I asked him how things changed after independence, he said that things were better when the British were in charge. After independence, the only people who benefited were the wealthy and there was much more corruption. When I asked him what is was like to live through Idi Amin's rule, he said it was terrible. He said that their were dead bodies everywhere.
He dropped us off at a guest house in Wakiso, a village northwest of Kampala where Fulukas and Miriam live--the couple involved with Amilia's Light. We said our good-byes to Sula and eager to spend time with Fulukas and Miriam.
Beth and I will never forget today's gorilla trek. Yesterday's trek was great, but it was incredibly easy compared to today's trek. We started at a different place in the Bwindi National Forest. In the area we went to today there is only one gorilla group and there was one other couple on the trek with us. Yesterday we headed out around 8:45 am, immediately started climbing a mountain and arrived at the place the gorillas were feeding in a little over a half hour. We were back at the center by 11:00 am. Today we headed out on the trek around 8:30 am descended the mountain we were on and didn't get back to the center until around 3:00 pm. And boy were we tired. We spent most of the time on the slope of the mountain on which the gorillas were feeding and the slope that ranged from 45 to 70 degrees. They call it the impenetrable forest and now we understand why. I have never been in such a dense forest--vines, branches, and trees and the guides used machetes to help clear the way. But since it is the rainy season and everything is wet, the footing is treacherous. We were always standing at a steep angle either on slick mud or on branches and vines that were slippery with rain.
It took us about two hours to reach the location of the gorillas. Probably 1 1/2 hours were on a steep descent on very slippery clay and rocks. (We were on a trail on our descent and the clay and rocks is similar to Rocky Woods if you have ever hiked there.) After ascending for about 1/2 hour we arrived at the gorilla group. They were all lazily munching on leaves and vines. The family consisted of 10 gorillas: two silverbacks and two babies. Below are two pictures of the silverback who is the group leader.
After about 1/2 hour of watching them and following then as they move, we found ourselves in the middle of the group. They were feeding on all sides of us probably in an area 40 yds X 40 yds. At one point the six year old gorilla came hurdling down from above us and brushed up against Beth and me as he went by. About 15 minutes later, Beth and I were standing next to the tracker at the side of the silverback in the pictures above. We were about 12 to 15 feet to his side. When the tracker slowly reached out with his machete to pull back a few vines, he made the silverback angry and he charged him. It was amazing how fast he was. It wasn't a real attack, only a display of power to have him back off. You are supposed to just step back and avert your eyes. However, because we were standing at a 50 degree on the side of the mountain, Jonathan lost his footing and he tumbled down the slope 20 to 30 yards. Beth was right next to him, and she fell back against me. The silverback immediately went back to munching on leaves. Our other guard, Daniel, had a good laugh at Jonathan who we could see after he stood up. We continued to follow him and the others for another 15 minutes or so.
We were toward the bottom of the mountain and began to trek up shortly after leaving the gorilla family when it started to rain. Actually, there were thunderstorms, and it rained for 1 1/2 hours. We had a long way to go up the side of the mountain in the pouring rain. We had to work our way up slowly because it was so slippery. We were thinking when we finally reached the top, we would be close to the place we had started. Silly us! We had a long hike back but at least most of it wasn't up steep slopes. Thoroughly soaked but totally psyched about our adventure, we arrived back at the center ready for our hour long ride back to the lodge. It was the most challenging hike either of us had ever been on, but well worth it. Below is a picture of one of the babies.
Before heading up to Gulu, Beth and I are taking a little vacation to visit part of Uganda that I have never been to. Beth has wanted to do a gorilla trek since she found out about them a number of years ago, so we decided to go on one. In the southwestern corner of Uganda at the borders of Rwanda, the Congo, and Uganda are mountains where the only living mountain gorillas live. Naturalists estimate that there are only 700 of them remaining in the wild, about 400 in Uganda and the rest in Rwanda and the Congo. They live in families from approximately 8 to 20. Over the course of years, naturalists have habituated the gorillas to human beings. They are naturally afraid of humans, but because of the habituation process they view us as neutral animals.
The way the gorilla trek works is that trackers go into the woods around 7:00 am (gorillas make "nests" of leaves on the ground and sleep from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am) at the place they saw them the previous day.They then try to find where they have moved and when they find them they radio to the head guides their current locations. Those going on the trek are at a central meeting point gather at 8:00 am where we are briefed about mountain gorillas, the trek, and the do's and don'ts of the trek. Then we are divided into groups no larger than eight--there were only twelve this morning so we were two groups of six. (The maximum number of people allowed trek each day is forty.) We then head out tracking different gorilla groups.
The first person is an armed guard then the head guide, followed by the trekkers and porters (people to carry your back pack, etc.) and the last person is an armed guard. Both guards have a machete to cut vines and branches as you proceed. There are mountain elephants and leopards in the forest so the guards are there to protect us should one appear. They would shoot some warning shots to scare them away and only in the most rare circumstances would they actually shoot the animal. I haven't heard of that actually happening.
We ascended the mountain which must have been at a 45 degree angle. We started at around 6000 feet and I don't know how high we went, but we might have ascended 1000 feet or so. It was very slippery because it is the rainy season and it rains almost every day. You can go 1/2 hour and find gorillas or three hours and find them. We were fortunate and found the group we were looking for in 30 to 45 minutes. They were were all feeding on berries in this very tall tree on the slope of the mountain. This group had about 10--two silverbacks and two babies. After about an hour (the length of time permitted to observe them) they came down from the tree and started feeding on the ground. We carefully approached where they were eating and came within 10-20 feet of them. Below is a picture of the silverback leading the group and I took this picture with my iPhone at a distance of 10-15 feet. It was pretty cool!
During this morning's sermon I talked about the importance of the Old Testament and how Pastor Karen and I believe that we have not preached enough on texts from the Old Testament. This sense has only increased for me since beginning to read, "Do We Need the New Testament: Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself," by Old Testament scholar, John Goldingay. He is an OT scholar for whom I have great respect. He uses the provocative title to make an important point. He begins the introduction with, "Yes, of course,we do need the New Testament, but why? Why is the Old Testament not enough? By asking that question, I am reversing the one Christians ask under their breath, the question whether we need the Old Testament, or whether the New Testament isn't enough." As you can imagine, he makes a very powerful case for the importance of the OT for Christians.
This is a book I highly recommend. It is very readable and will give you a far better understanding of how essential the OT is for Christians.
I want to thank Kevin Holbrook for getting me up and running on Weebly so that my blogs are easier to access. It took him about 10 minutes to use the necessary magic to create this blog, and it would have taken him 5 minutes if I hadn't been there to ask him questions. In any case, I hope to start blogging more frequently and hope that this new blog will make it easier for everyone. A number of people had difficulty making comments on my old blog and Kevin assured me that this site would work much better.
The Rev. Dr. Phil Bauman has been the Senior Pastor of UCC Medfield since 1996. He served as the pastor of the First Congregational Church (UCC) in Clinton, MA from 1981-1988, then attended Boston University where he received a Ph.D. in Pastoral Psychology in 1995.
My old blog "Poetics of Faith"
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