Monday, January 18, 2010

Monkey Tricks

(View from my bed, no elephants for us this time unfortunately)

After a night in Fort Portal we set off for Kibale. This one is really not a popular route, so the matatus in this case were normal sedans rather than vans. In typical fashion they crammed as many people in as humanly possible, so we were flying around on dirt roads in the mountains with 9 people in a Corola- including 2 in the driver's seat. We got to Kibale and checked into our guesthouse. We had reserved the"the tree house," sight unseen so we didn't really have any clue what to expect.

As we were checking in, the woman explained that "you might want to eat and shower before we show you to your room, because it's a kilometer away in the forest." Wow. The tree house was quite possibly the coolest place I have ever slept. It was nothing more than a simple hut perched on top of a tree, in the middle of the national park. No electricity, no water, no window panes, no problem. Did I mention it was in the middle of a wildlife preserve overlooking an elephant wallow in the Equatorial African jungle?

(Don't trip)

As we were being shown to our room, the guy kept stopping along the way to tell us where we might find different types of wildlife if we are lucky- monkeys, chimpanzees, elephants, and birds. Then he stops dead in his tracks and tells us to listen to the crashing in the bushes ahead. We crept around the corner and found ourselves face to face with two chimps, I guess they too use these jungle paths. Caitlin is Junior Miss Jane Goodall, having studied primatoloy and spent months tracking monkeys in South America, so needless to say she just about lost her mind. The guide wouldn't let us stop for very long to watch the chimps, because it's supposed to cost $100 per person to see the chimps. Later in the day we were talking to some other people who were talking about having to hike for like 8 hours with a guide to see chimps, they were a little annoyed to hear that we found them on accident- for free.

The night was great, though I have never in my life been so thankful for a mosquito sechurity net. We woke up with the sun to watch for elephants, but no luck. For some odd reason the park/hotel staff either assumed that a) we knew how to take care of ourselves or b) we weren't dumb enough to set off without an armed guide. Whatever the case, we set off on our own to do some illicit chimp tracking. I don't really know where wandering unaccompanied in a forest full of fresh tracks of elephants and large primates falls on the scale of ill advised decisions, but I think somewhere between "drinking the water" and "pulling a tiger's tail." We were wandering down the path and I caught the apparently unmistakable odor of elephants. I didn't know I knew what elephants smell like, but I instantly knew without a doubt that I smelled elephants- I don't know whether it's from the zoo or 10,000 years of swinging through the jungle. Unfortunately no pachyderm sightings, but we did see baboons, Colubus monkeys and some certain birds.

(Monkey in the middle)

In other news, I decided to stay in Africa. My plane leaves the day after tomorrow and I will not be on it. Instead I bought a tent and sleeping bag and gave away everything I can't carry on my back. I am leaving this week to go wherever I go until I run out of money or decide its time to go home.

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