Nomad Tours. Masaai Mara & Gorillas 2014

Gorilla Trek. Confessions and Adventures of a drama queen

In one of my pre trip posts I expressed my over the top concerns for possible “wildest Afrika like ” things that could happen to me. 9 concerns of a drama queen

In response to that post I have to confess to the following.

1. I did not get lost in Nairobi, but I almost missed my flight to this hyperactive city.

My mind does not process flying times. It locks onto the departure time without considering the fact that prior to take- off, I need to check in and board the plane. I also just love airports and could spend all day wandering around, shopping and of course finding the smoking lounges. This is where I usually emerge from and hear the dreaded announcement “this is the final call for passenger Brown”. Hearing this I then generally blush profusely and start to run.

However, this time, I never even heard the announcement, and was looking at  a delightful collection of shoes before wandering to the boarding gate, thinking “oh, no queue, good for me, I am early”

Then a really nasty and mean official informed me that the gate had closed 3 minutes ago and my bags were being taking off the plane.

I went cold, then hot, and fought the urge to cry. Fortunately Liz, my travelling ninja friend went into assertive mode and told the official to stop being ridiculous. A few firm comments later and we were ungraciously told to get on an empty bus to be taken to the plane. The bus did not move until I asked the driver to please drive, which he did rather grudgingly.

We then collapsed into a heap of nervous giggles, shaking, crying and laughing, and vowing to be first in the boarding queue for all future flights. ( Proudly, we achieved this on both  return flights)

2. No animals had me for lunch, but I could have been pudding twice.

We are in a private game viewing vehicle about to cross a really narrow road over a river when we spot  lions. Wide eyed, we leap up, cameras clicking frantically.(after I found my reading glasses so I can adjust my camera settings) Then we spot the kill on the waters edge. A half eaten water buffalo. The driver, in an attempt to afford us a better view, starts to drive up the steep embankment, but stops half way up.

Click, click go the cameras, “go higher up, go further back, go to the top” we shout as we all clamour for the best view, the money shot.

And then we are rolling backwards, downhill and not quite in line with the really thin road over the water. And the lions are only a few meters away. Looking at us thinking… hmmm pudding.

By some miracle, the wheels stay on the road by millimeters, the vehicle behind us stops our path as we collide with its bull bar and our vehicle restarts with a roar and we fly up and over the river, the embankment and in stunned silence continue on our game drive.


Almost pudding encounter number two was when we were in the forest with the gorillas. We were standing up against dense foliage, marvelling at this gorilla family who were a mere 8 meters away from us.

They had seemed quite content for us to silently photograph and observe their antics, when a protective mom decided she was not happy with this.

With a mighty fang baring scream she charged us.

We had been briefed and told to freeze if such a thing happened. We all froze except for Maciek, the dentist / photographer, who I swear lept over my head. To their credit, the tracker, ranger and guide acted instantly, pushing us behind them and waving pangas, rifles and sticks while shouting loudly, shielded us from being possible pudding.

The female gorilla came to a halt a meter away from us and sat down. She eyed us for a few seconds before turning around to check on her little one and wandering back to the rest of her group. We all started breathing, videoing and photographing again. Thrilled, petrified and secretly delighted by the experience.

Photograph courtesy Johanna Stenkilsson Steen

Photograph courtesy Johanna Stenkilsson Steen

3. The water never made me sick, but I did not read the instructions on my anti malaria tablets.

It is the morning of day 1. We will be meeting Marilyn our truck, Norman and Servius our guides, and our other travel companions.

We have strict instructions to be ready at 7.40am. Efficiently, we got organised the night before. By 7 am we are washed and dressed and about to head off for breakfast. Being responsible, we take our various tablets required to survive our mature years, and add our anti malaria tablets to the cocktail.

Off we go to the dining room, excited for the adventure that is about to begin.

Then Liz, who is never ill, says to me. “I think I might be feeling a bit funny”

I sympathise and carry on shovelling eggs, french toast, unknown yellow things and pineapple chunks onto my plate. I kindly bring her some black coffee and a piece of toast.

I start eating and my stomach does a little quiver.

I ignore it, but it persists.

I convince myself that it is nothing more than sympathy pain. After all, Liz and I have been friends for 26 years, a perfectly normal reaction to a best friend’s nausea.

Then I can’t swallow and I start to sweat.

By now, Liz is the palest “mzungu” in the dining room. We get up and start walking briskly back to our room to get our bags.

Room checked, heavy bags in hand, backpacks strapped on, feeling pale but brave we walk out the door.

and then

I drop my bags and run

I am impressed by my aim, as from the entrance to the bathroom my last few meals fly  out my mouth, and make it into the white porcelain.

It is noisy, it is colourful, it is extremely unpleasant.

For 10 minutes, all I can do is groan and try not to move, shivering  in a pathetic heap on the floor.

I think I even regurgitated meals I ate in South Africa.

Finally, I feel human, and relieved, shaky, and smelling slightly chunderish, I emerge into the African sun to meet my fellow travellers.

A great start indeed.

TIP: Never, ever, ever take anti malaria medication on an empty stomach.

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