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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

The Long Road to Rushaga


Stopped outside a village so Colin could check the directions, we attracted a crowd of curious children. Photo by Kate.


After three nights at Queen Elizabeth National Park, we headed down to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. That day turned out to be longer and crazier than we ever could have anticipated! First we drove several hours to Buhoma only to realize that Kate, Elliot, and Spencer were signed up for gorilla trekking on the opposite side of the park, at Rushaga—meaning that we’d have to drive all the way around the park to get there. “Buhoma,” Spencer sighed. “The campground of lost dreams.” (Several days later we realized how this mix-up had occurred: Dorcas, our travel agent, had explained the arrangements to Spencer when she’d woken him up one night at 3am California time. I wouldn’t have gotten it straight either.)



The second snafu happened an hour or so en route to Rushaga. It became increasingly clear to Colin and Elliot that the brake pads needed to be replaced, and when we pulled over (in the middle of noplace, mind you) it seemed like we were as good as broken down. The kids had to face the possibility that they’d lose $500 apiece (gorilla trekking ain’t cheap, which is why I opted out), and the prospect was a tiny bit painful.




Then another van came along with only two passengers—a honeymooning couple from Spain—and even though their guide saw our predicament as an opportunity rather than genuinely wanting to help, he got the job done. Jill and I said goodbye to my sister and the guys, figuring it would be at least twenty-four hours before we saw them again.

Colin wanted to press on—to find a town with a mechanic—so we got back on the road not too long after they did. What’s the worst that can happen?, I thought. We spend the night in the car. No big deal.




It was a strange afternoon and evening. Even though we really missed the kids, driving all that way through some absolutely gorgeous mountains with a squeaky brake was a weird sort of bonding experience for Jill and Colin and me. I felt calm because I knew everything would be fine. “I will get you there, and I will keep you safe,” Colin said. And he did.



The Nshongi camp is nestled in this valley, just out of sight.


We arrived at Rushaga after nightfall, and walked down to the Nshongi campsite with our bags. The place was packed with a large tour group who’d done the gorilla trek that day, so much so that when the kids showed up the staff initially told them there wasn’t any more room. We found them putting up their tents on the edge of the site, and Kate jumped in surprise when she saw me. It felt so good to be reunited much sooner than we’d anticipated.




We didn’t get even one proper meal that day, but we made up for it the day after—and the kids got to see their gorillas!



Photo by Kate.


There’s much more to tell you about Rushaga, of course—Jill and I took a tour of the village, which was really lovely, and late that night we got the fright of our lives!


3 Comments to The Long Road to Rushaga

  1. November 5, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Amazing! How wonderful to see gorillas in their natural habitat.

  2. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    November 5, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    What a great quote from Spencer. Uganda is an amazing country that even with all of the setbacks it was an amazing and beautiful day!

  3. Mama Jill's Gravatar Mama Jill
    November 8, 2013 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    One of my favorite days of the trip. Bonding, beautiful country, plus we had to deal with snafus and we dealt – and that made me feel ALIVE and proud of us all! Thank you Kate, El, and Spence for talking us into the campsite, thank you Camille for being such a calm, delightful companion, thank you Colin for getting us there safe.

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.