In November, Nancy and I went on a tour by Natural Habitat Adventures to Uganda and Rwanda to photograph mountain gorillas. For native Floridians like Nancy, the “mountain” in the name hints that this would be no ordinary hike, so she decided to schedule the trip before she got too old (since you never know when that might happen). On the trip, we did in fact, hike on slippery mud trails in steep terrain, and Nancy was glad she didn’t wait too long.
Each person on our tour was assigned a porter on the gorilla hike to help with camera gear and stability. I was concerned about our ability to communicate; whatever we said, they would nod in agreement, but they weren’t all that great on the quiz that followed. Still, I had very specific instructions for my porter. These were my intended instructions:
- Tend to Nancy first (since she had more gear than I did).
- If the gorillas attacked –
- Save Nancy!
- Then it would be every man for himself.
- But if it did come down to a foot race between our tour guide and I, kick him in the balls and run like hell.
At this point, we wouldn’t be running from the gorillas because our guide should be keeping them occupied while we escape. We were running because if the tour guide somehow survived, he was really going to be pissed (of course, I would disavow any knowledge of the porter’s actions). And I was so specific about the kick not because I wanted to be overly graphic or crude (I could have just had the porter trip him), but because of my concern about a communication error – if the porter got it backward and saved the guide first, I needed something in the instructions to keep him from executing that last part on Nancy.
Because of those communication difficulties (and time constraints), I never fully explained Rule 2 to the porters. But it was just as well. I later learned that there has never been a case where the Mountain Gorillas encountered on these tours did any harm to a tourist.
As it turned out, the trip was outstanding. We got some great pictures (and we all lived to tell about it). With any luck, I’ll have a few images to show you by the start of our next art festival season.