Saturday, 25 April 2009

Arrival in Rwanda

We were all really sad to leave Martha, the gorillas and the beautiful forest. We trundled off in two wagons and headed south to Rwanda.
Extraordinary landscapes unfolded as every inch of the impossibly steep slopes was farmed and tended. And all this beneath the shadows of the ever larger volcanoes.
We thought it looked like Gods gran had sewn a giant patchwork quilt and thrown it over an orgy of well endowed ladies!
we bumped our way on dusty tracks to the border and after an hour of bureaucracy we climbed onto the well maintained tarmac roads of Rwanda.
Suddenly there were people everywhere, which was quite shocking. and i couldn't help but have flashes to what this road to Uganda must have looked like in 1994. There are memorials to the genocide everywhere.
Ruengerhi seems like a gold town, with the precious metal being the gorillas, with silverbacks adorning the sides of every ngo landcruiser we pass. and above the few dusty craft shops.
We are staying in a hotel on the edge of town. After 3 weeks in the forest this is really quite hard. the luxury of a shower is nice, but the noise, bustle and fumes aren't.
We will spend the next couple of days meeting the 'players' in the Rwanda gorilla circles and looking for a house to rent.
Finn as per usual is taking it all in his stride and is as happy as a sand boy cos there's diggers outside!

Piccies from Rwanda

Finn makes friends as we search for a house in Ruengerhi

hanging out down town

on days off, my assistant takes over

more Uganda piccies

Bec's and
Rosie sweat
it out

Me and Nigel
wait for little
pinoco to reveal

fuzi having his lunch

Byiza keeps
an eye on us

some piccies from Uganda

waiting in the

torrential rain

as we search

for the group

Jonny and

Rosie the

forest fairies

Fuzi kindly

eats right

infront of us




supper in

our Bwindi


Thursday, 23 April 2009

Bec's and Finn arrive

Finn and I drove up to the BBC to collect Nigel and head for Heathrow. After a week of admin and packing it was so exciting to finally be on the road. Finn travelled like a dream, he loved the overnight to Nairobi, hogging three seats as he sprawled in his sleeping bag leaving me to awkwardly slump next to him to make sure he didn’t slip onto the floor… The changeover in Nairobi was great, just two hours then a short flight to Entebbe in Uganda. We were met by Kicungo our driver who's a great guy, and after loading up we set off for the second leg of our travels. A long seven hours crossing the country passing through stunning lush scenery and busy small villages and towns. Again Finn was just a real travel dude, he slept lots and giggled all the time whilst awake. At lunch he shared a chicken curry with me which he loved and when we finally reached our hotel we were all really weary. A few power cuts caught us unawares, Finn was a little frightened by the first one as he was on the loo at the time and I couldn’t find the torch but by the third one he thought it was great fun.
16th april
Finns birthday. We woke early, did some shopping, local bakers fruit shop and small stores, then the brewery where a fight was breaking out… and set off for the forest. 2 hours through more lush country and we were at the research station based at 2500 meters and in dense forest. We found toby who had the day off and all opened pressies. Finn was totally excited about everything, and now has a well stocked travel toy box. Lorren had brought balloons and a birthday banner and rosie had made jelly so he felt really special.
We had a day of sorting kit and then I had my first day out with the Gorillas. It is a stunning walk to the trackers camp in the forest and then 2 and ½ hours tracking the Gorillas. The guys take us to where they nested the night before and then track their trail through really dense vegetation and steep gradient until we find the group. It was really humbling to be right amongst a group of wild Gorillas, and Rukina the silverback is just amazing, really huge and so gentle. The undergrowth is so dense you cant see where most of them are at any one time which is quite unnerving. We had 4 hours moving around and filming before trekking back.
I was seriously washed out by the time we got back and pucked quite a bit that night from exhaustion and a bit of altitude but felt great the next day! The next few days have been just magical spending time in the group and getting fitter very fast!
Finn has been really happy with lauren in the day, they’ve been making bread and cakes in a camp oven, been on walks to the village and played loads.

The inpenetrable forest

Apologies for the three week absence. Internet connection in the ‘impenetrable forest is limited’.
It has been an extraordinary time.
Our days have started at 6, when we wake in the chill air and shovel down some porridge and tea. Then its gaiters on and kit prep. Day 1 we had two porters and more filters and polorizers and sun cream than you could shake a stick at. Day 2, 4 porters and half the kit!
The walk in was ……hard. First we descended about 300 metres and arrived at the guide’s camp. Here we met kaleb, Dennis, Ambrose and Gad. Then we walked for two and a half hours. Up hills that went on for 45 minutes, up ridiculously steep slopes and then descending gradients that required hanging off vines. We were also at an altitude of 2500 metres.
I was HANGING. But oh so excited.
But then we got to the gorillas. The first I met was Rukina, the silverback. He was MAHOUSIF. Really quite an impressive being. He then ambled off and we followed and there we saw the rest of his gang of 12.
Our main characters are of course Rukina, then there’s Happy and Thursday the two toddlers. Tindermanyere the mum with pinoco the tiny too cute infant! Matu the old lady of the group. Biazu the black back male who loves to sing and fart and one to be wary of. And Marembo the good looking teenager.
They are gorgeous creatures who are wonderfully laid back. Filming is a horror, when you’re off the track your dragging camera and tripod through 6 ft vines down crazy slopes, then you’ll spot something and desperately try and set up quickly to film through whatever leaves and branches are in the way.
But we have seen some incredible stuff. Lots of playing, grooming, feeding, tree climbing, sleeping and even Rukina mating with a female called Siato!
Are expert and guide has been Martha Robbins a Gorilla scientist par excellence. She has been amazing and great fun. More importantly she makes excellent coffee and pancakes.
We have been living just within the boundaries of Bwindi ‘The impenetrable forest’ on the outskirts of a lovely village called ruhija, which is perched along the spine of one of the exquisite hills that roll away to the distant volcanoes that sit astride Rwanda, Uganda and Congo.
Finn, Becs, Loren and Nigel turned up after a week on Finns birthday. It was wonderful to see them and we had a lovely birthday tea.
Finn has taken to here like a fish to water, him and Loren go into the village every day and get gawped at and watch the monkey's that nick Rosie's pants of the line! There are making fresh bread and cakes and keeping morale high.
We are living in two cottages, one with an open fire which we congregate around in the evening to drink beer and eat beans cooked by Valentine and Alex.
Well tomorrow we head off to Rwanda for the second stage of our trip. Hopefully the internet will be slightly easier there.

Monday, 6 April 2009

arrival in uganda

just arrived. i had forgotten how green it is here. it reminds me of the amazon its  a real lush damp earthy smell.
marabou storks and egrets patrol the lawns and vervet monkeys head off to cause touble along the fence tops.
this morning we need to pick up supplies and a generator before heading west.
its all getting massively exciting the thought of spending 6 months with one of the worlds rarest and most incredible creatures is just amazing.
we will be filming on HD and it will we three, one hour programmes for the BBC.
i cant wait to start climbing into the mountains, and the thought of that first glimpse of a mountain gorilla is still too big a thing to comprehend! 

Sunday, 5 April 2009


5th April 2009 Toby sets off for Uganda

Toby flew to Uganda this morning, hell have a week with the rest of the team to set things up, meet the gorillas and make sure hes happy with the security on the ground before Finn and I fly out with Lorren and Nigel on the 14th.
Im working my way through trays of admin before we leave and going for as many runs as i can in a last minute effort to up my fitness, all the time daydreaming of trecking high in the Viringus and that first siting of the mountain Gorillas, makes me tingle.