Captain’s Log-14 April 2012- Slapped and Kicked by Gorilla

The casual relaxing of rest time among the gorillas in Congo.

The next day, Lu’s actual birthday, broke clear as a bell.  All the volcanoes were crystal clear and we could even see Lake Edward off the veranda 50 miles away.  We loaded into a big AWD lorry and Roy, the driver, bounced us up the mountain on one of the worst roads in Africa.  I think it is 12 kilometers but it took us a good hour and a half.  What is that?  Less than 2 kilometers an hour!  We walked up through the forest with our guide, John, and a couple other rangers for almost 2 hours and finally came upon a group of gorillas having their rest time.  We could smell them before seeing them and the vegetation was so thick that the gorillas were no more than 2 meters away when John first spotted them.

I stand close to a big silverback with my sister Lu on her birthday.  A wonderful time with gorillas.

We were all wearing masks and were supposed to keep a 7 meter distance for the gorilla’s health safety and our general safety.  So we backed away a bit.  The size of this big silverback we were so close to was astonishing.  His head was huge.  I doubt I could have got my arms around his chin to the crown of his head.  Bukima is the dominant male of the Rugendo family that we were among and he seemed very comfortable with us for a long time.  Then he must have noticed himself reflected in the large lens of Lu’s camera.  He sat up and stared intently at it and then got up and headed for us.

Bukima, this Big Silverback, is strikingly huge. His head and hands amaze me.  And when he looks into your eyes with his yellow-orange eyes he can really get your attention. This is just before he came at us.

In a situation like this you can try to back away, but there is not always a place to go and this guy can cover some ground quickly.  After a couple times of this he settled down again and we went on to a gorilla mother and baby.  The mom slung the baby on her back and went off under some low lying bush and sat down.  But the baby was very curious about us so it slowly ventured out and back until we were finally forced to move off because it would have been right in our laps.

This little baby came right up to my feet and I think he would have climbed into my lap if I hadn’t backed away.

We spent time with different animals, watching them eat bamboo and groom each other.  At one point Noel, one of the females, came at us very quickly.  With no place to go, I just stepped off the path and as she passed me she gave me a slap on the back.  Lu and John were a ways away from the other guard and me then, so we took some nice pix of the gorilla and each other.  Then the gorilla thought she would wind us up again.  She came rapidly toward me and as she passed, lifted her leg and kicked me in the calf.

Not the best picture but very close as Noel kicked me in the calf as she passed. What a fun tactile day with wild beasts.

It was all in fun I am sure and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  This group has 3 big silverbacks in it and as we watched “Kongomani” he also decided it would be fun to get a closer look at us and ran toward us at speed.  We had no chance to do anything but turn our backs and get as far off the trail as we could.  As soon as he passed us only inches away, he stopped and lay down with his bum in the air as if to say…well, I don’t know what he was trying to say, but it didn’t seem polite in our culture.  I guess I have now been mooned by a Silverback Gorilla.  It was a fabulous day and completely different from my other Africa experiences with elephants, buffalo and lion in the savannah or bush.  Many thanks to all my friends there at Virunga National Park for a wonderful time.

Lu takes a picture as Kongomani stops to moon us after rushing by only inches away- just to give us a thrill. It was a wonderful experience with the gorillas of Virunga .

One of our guards with his serious face and FN rifle and Mount Mikeno in the background.  If you look closely at his elbow you will see the scar from a passing bullet. A rough life in many ways.

Bukima stops after coming very close and lays down casually to let us take some nice pix. He reminds me of a man I know.

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14 Responses to Captain’s Log-14 April 2012- Slapped and Kicked by Gorilla

  1. Rich Carlson says:

    My, Jon, your recent adventure seems much more dangerous than flying. I am obviously not so at ease with gorillas as you are. However, they may be more predictable than people. Kids in SS class will love those pictures. Praying. Rich

    • jcadd says:

      Hey Rich, What you say is not too far off. We are having some violent people in this same area. Sometimes people are not as easy to love. Gives you a whole new appreciation for what Christ did for us on the cross. Thanks for your prayers.

  2. Jack says:

    Hello, Again and Again, great story. I already wrote you, but I still have lot of question I want to ask you. I try some of theme. As i said I am from europe, but bush flying in Africa is my big dream, but many people from here keep telling me, “Africa is not a good place to live, lot of illnesses and wild toxic animals, better be here and fly with Boeings” – I dont belive that, I know that its not so easy to live there, but it must be amazing, living and flying, not easy, but just amazing. Can I ask you, if some new pilot come to Africa how long he or she often stays there?, I know its individual , but do they take it as one year eperience, or are there pilots who decided to live there for long time or forever maybe?
    And one more question – You wrote me that there are lot of working flight schools around, Is it possible to be an flight instructor if I am a foreigner? And can you do this for living as full time job? What do you thing about this flying and living this way?
    Thank you very much for your answer, it will be very helpful. Next year i am doing my CPL licence, so I hope i will come to Africa very soon. 🙂 Wish you beautiful day

    • jcadd says:

      Hi Jack,
      Flying in Africa is not for everyone. It is hard and the pay may not be as good and there are illnesses and bad people “toxic animals”. I think a lot of your decision should be in your purpose for life. If you want Money and stuff and ease and security….this is not the place. If you want to make a difference in peoples lives and get into interesting cultures and help people and maybe even make some differences of eternal significance…this could very well be the place for you. I have been shot and bit knocked down by buffalo and charged by lion and elephant and robbed and had malaria and dysentery and lots of other tropical things, but it is life here and all part of the adventure. I am not like everyone but whatever you do, make your life count for something more than yourself. There is great joy in that. Cheers,

  3. Kathy Love says:

    What wonderful pictures… I enjoyed them thourally.. You are so lucky to live near these beautiful animals.. I love reading your blogs and have read them all… I loved the story about the elephant that tried to reach up and catch your plane out of the air at the air strip….that was scarey!!
    I am from Eagle Point , Oregon..and go to Trail Fellowship… I saw you speak when you were here a few months ago..We’ll be praying for you… Kathy Love.

    • jcadd says:

      Hi Kathy, So glad you enjoy reading the blog. We love Trail and are can’t thank you enough for the all you do fur us there. Thanks for writing in. Jon

  4. LuAnne Cadd says:

    That was a seriously fun day, Jon! And by the way, I found out Noel is a boy. It figures, doesn’t it, with his behavior, like a teenage boy giving the tourists a hard time.

    • jcadd says:

      Hey Lu, What a day! I will always remember it. Yes, it is more in character that Noel is a male. I loved the interaction with him especially. I didn’t even tell about the time he was coming up so close and we kept moving away but he reached out his hand to me, only inches away giving me the opportunity to do the same.I actually slowed down to let him touch me if he wanted but he stopped and left his hand there so that I would take that step to reach out as well.It took everything in me to be a good boy and not reach out as well. A moment in time I will always cherish. Thanks for that day. It was amazing.

  5. Karen says:

    I love reading your posts. This one really got my attention. Would love to go there someday with you and Cher. Lots of love and prayers for you guys. Karen B

    • jcadd says:

      Hi Karen, I am telling you, it is worth the trip. I loved the interaction with all the creatures great and small. And knowing that the Lord God made us all is a wonder.

  6. Paul White says:

    Happy birthday to Lu and what a great way to spend your time. I visited the gorillas in Rwanda some years ago, a truly memorable experience, one that will always stay with me. There is a definite link that we share with these creatures, they are so like us in many ways. Interesting to see the face mask approach which has been adopted, there was concern when we went that you should not visit if you were ill in any way but it was very difficult for the guides to monitor in my opinion and there was no protection from human infections.

    • jcadd says:

      Hey Paul, It was one of the coolest days. At one point after I had been kicked by Noel, Lu asked me if I enjoyed that. I had to take the mask down to reveal the permanent smile that was on my face. I love being interactive with nature. Virunga works at keeping the gorillas safe and healthy and I really appreciate that as well. In a wild place like Congo it is not an easy job but that is one of the reasons this place is so special.

      • Paul White says:

        Finding the time to go back to nature can be so rewarding. I envy you, even though I have been before, but I still enjoy looking through the vast collection of photo’s I have from our visit. Let us hope their numbers increase to sustainable levels again and pray there is no further serious conflicts affecting their beautiful existence.

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