The Great Gorilla Grab
Updated: Jun 14
Many of you have probably been wondering, “Why hasn’t Joanna posted anything about the Gorillas?”
Surely a bucket list trek paired with a gorilla attack might possibly warrant a blog post?
BUT… although my time in Bwindi was both an exhilarating adventure AND a terrifying encounter… I have chosen this particular experience to be a piece for Verge Magazine. Had to be done. The article has been written and submitted... and I promise, as soon as they publish it on their end, it will be shared thoroughly.
It’s difficult for me to have patience… especially when I have such an UNIMAGINABLE story to share!!! I just want to TELL EVERYONE about my wee primate rendezvous...
A GORILLA GRABBED MY LEG!!!!!
An ADULT gorilla.
A full grown adult gorilla.
GRABBED my LEG.
It ran at me… screaming in a high pitched shriek... AND GRABBED MY LEG!!!!
I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.
No one would believe me.
I am delighted to announce though... thanks to the superior filming performance of some of my Nomad crew, a smidgeon of the seize has been captured on video. You can't really see me being grabbed, per say, but you do see the gorilla spurt through the bush, you do hear her screech, you do see the shock on everyone's face... and you do hear the ranger attempting to keep us all calm and still.
Cinematic masterpiece... starring me... although I'm not actually in it much.
No biggie... really... a gorilla probably charges and grabs a human everyday.
Of course, if we're being honest, it wasn’t an aggressive grab. She didn't mean me any harm... I hope. It was more like a ricochet. It was as if she didn't expect me to be there... and she rebounded off my leg. As quickly as she had grabbed me… she let go and shot back into the rainforest.
So it wasn't an attack... it was more like a touch & go.
Was I terrified? Uh huh.
Did I tremble uncontrollably for about 20 minutes? Yep.
Did I survive? Yes.
Do I have an “I can top that” story for the rest of my life? Damn straight, I do.
My favourite line of the day…
"You lucky she didn’t take your leg."
I guess I am. It would have been a clean break, considering I was straddling a rotten log.
But... always a positive side to be seen.
Speaking of submitting to Verge Magazine, when I write for them, I am tied to a specific word count, which means I am unable to include every single detail of my babble that I otherwise might include on my end.
Things such as… Little Voices insisting on running ahead on the trail because she’s a MOUNTAIN GOAT. Self-anointed nickname, I might add. Mountain Goat. Actually, the nickname fluctuated between Mountain Goat and Mountain Lion, which just served to annoy me further. Again… I cannot make this shit up.
As per the norm, in any hiking group, there are always those that are a bit slower. Our gorilla trek was no exception. We all plodded along at our own rate… making our way up the mountain slowly, but surely. The gorillas weren’t going anywhere… and none of us had anywhere else to be.
Except obviously… Little Voices.
Apparently her body doesn’t “allow her to go slow” and off she scurried up the hill, past the ranger and the trackers. Every time the group caught up, she would give us some nonsensical lengthy drawl about how naturally fast she was.
It was embarrassing.
It was embarrassing for the slower crew who were suddenly challenged with the additional pressure of getting a move on. It was embarrassing for us, watching the guide and the trackers have her bound past them, like she'd been raised in the rainforest... only to have to stand and wait for us all directly around the corner.
Definite clown move.
Disrespectful and absurd.
I don’t know. Maybe the Little Voices inside her head were telling her to go fast. Who knows?
She was certainly whistling a different tune when it came time to walk downhill. Then she was molasses… because she has knee issues. She even fell a few times, but lapped up any attention she could get.
Bizarre character, that Little Voices.
My knee, on the other hand/leg, was surprisingly ok. I actually impressed myself with my trekking ability. I had been quite frightened it might give out or cause me some kind of problem. Of course, I had my knee brace on and I’d loaded myself up with anti-inflammatories and T3’s & codeine before the trek… just to be safe.
It did the trick... and the trek!
There was one English gentleman, who had been traveling with another Nomad tour, and had sprained his ankle a couple days prior to the trek. Much to his dismay, he was on the verge of cancelling altogether. It was a shame considering he’d come so far… and paid so much.
But, unbeknownst to the rest of us, there was light at the end of the tunnel for him. Just as there were local porters for hire to carry our things and help us through the treacherous bits of Bwindi… there were also porters to CARRY those who were unable to make the journey on their own.
For a whopping $300US, he was carted UP and DOWN the jungelous mountains, on a palanquin! For anyone that doesn't know what a palanquin is (which I didn't either), it is a type of human-powered transport. It can be called a palanquin or a litter. The explanation I found on Google was 'a portable bed or couch, open or enclosed, that is mounted on two poles and carried at each end on the shoulders of porters or by animals.'
No animals were involved... just to clarify.
It took a full team of 16 porters to carry him, each of them taking turns throughout the journey.
According to him, it was the most terrifying experience of his life. I can well imagine. The steep bits were... quite steep… and muddy.
I didn’t opt for the porter option. I had originally thought I might, out of an obligation to support local, but unfortunately I didn’t bring any money with me, and I only had a small nylon pack for my water bottle. There were times that the porters came in handy though… for me anyway... and the multitude of occasions I went tumbling to the ground.
I can understand the gloves, the long sleeves and the long pants now. When we finished, we were all covered from head to toe in Bwindi mud. Melissa had been very kind and loaned me a pair of pants for the day, as I had absolutely nothing that would even warrant being acceptable.
Who goes to do gorilla trekking without pants? Me.
When I’d first taken them from her, the night prior, I reassured her I would definitely wash them before handing them back. She was quite insistent that I needn’t bother. Sodden, sloppy, sweaty and evidently mud-ridden at the end of the day, I tried to reconfirm our agreement of not washing them???
... that option was no longer on the table! LOL
When we had eventually made our way down the mountain, each and every one of us was on a high like we’d never known before. We had each lived our dream. Our dream of sharing a moment with the wild Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat.
There is really SO much more I want to share... but I guess we all must bide our time and patiently await my article...
When we reached the bottom of the mountain, we were each handed a Bwindi certificate, verifying us all as gorilla trekkers.
Successful in the trek ✔️
Successful in the find ✔️
I failed miserably on the money portion of the day. Due to the outrageous price of the permit, I naturally assumed all would be included.
I was wrong.
Every time I turned around, there was someone else I felt an obligation to tip.
~ The ranger.
~ The three trackers.
~ The two guys with large rifles that accompanied us on the trail... apparently there to shoot wild elephants should they attempt an attack. A daunting thought... and luckily, we survived unscathed.
~ Our driver.
After I'd drained everyone else of their local currency and tipped everyone as appropriately as I could... we headed back to our accommodation on the edge of beautiful Lake Bunyonyi. This place was absolutely stunning, but it was about 2 hours away from the national park. I had naturally assumed it would be directly beside where we might start the trek. Like a ski-up lodge.
Walk out your front door and go see the gorillas!
Anyway... the full article will be coming soon! Thank you for your patience... and never forget- I WAS GRABBED BY A GORILLA!!!!!!!!!!!!!