Monday, January 5, 2009

A gash in the earth

Also on our vacation, we visited a place called Kyambura Gorge (pronounced 'chambura'). This gorge has been being dug into the plains by a river for who-knows-how-long, just like the Grand Canyon has been with the Colorado River. Surrounding the Gorge are miles and miles of lightly-wooded brush- and grasslands---the savannahs of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Until you drive up to the Gorge, you'd never know it was even there. Then suddenly, a gash in the earth appears, deep enough that the tops of full-grown tropical hardwoods fail to reach the skyline.

Kyambura Gorge is an attraction primarily for its primate inhabitants: monkeys and chimpanzees. We had seen chimps in the Entebbe Zoo, but never in the wild. This was our chance. We hired a guide who took us several kilometers along the edge of the Gorge and eventually by foot down into it. Every couple of minutes we would stop and strain to identify the calls of the wild. First we heard some monkeys and found them high in the tree-tops. A few minutes later we heard the chimps. Their loud, resounding hollers and tree-pounding reverberated through the jungle and sent chills down my spine. Whether or not you believe we are the 'cousins' of chimps, their genetic and behavioral similarities are uncanny...and fun to observe.

The first chimp we saw approached us and then stopped to relieve himself. He and another large male were skiddish at first, so we didn't get much opportunity for pictures. In fact, they took off down the man-made trails, crossed a man-made bridge, and disappeared into the forest. I love this picture of one of them leaving the bridge because it reminds me of all those mysterious photos of Loch Ness monster and Yeti and UFOs that are NEVER clear. Here in this photo is a chimp on the fly, looking back at these human intruders, and vanishing into the darkness of the jungle, just as the knowledge of our past vanishes the farther back we go.

We followed four chimps of different sizes, all males, for several hundred yards along the trail. Occasionally they would stop, scratch themselves, sit or stretch out for a nap. I think they got a kick out of us, and most of the time I wondered who was really watching whom. As you can see from the photo, Amber may have spent a little too long down in that Gorge among the chimps! :)


Jennie said...

nice, Amber! :) Sounds like a great adventure!

The Reeds said...

WOW- look at you two go! Wish we could be there too.

CDS said...

thought that receding chimp was a gorilla. I guess all that haunting, mysterious distance can actually result in practical confusion.