Dispatch from Rwanda – May 22, 2022

Having followed a female tracker (wearing a Coco Chanel backpack and carrying an AK-47) and a former poacher turned porter who hacked through tangled jungle up the flank of a volcano with his machete, our legs and arms burning with stinging nettles (and a spirit level of burst blood vessels bisecting my right eye where I’d caught a whipped branch) – at the portal to a densely thicketed enclosure near the tripartite juncture of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo – a 500-pound gorilla named Agashya stood in front of us and basically said, “I will fuck you up.” The guides vocalized gorilla sounds for a while. He thought about it and replied with “fine.” Then trundled off and let us hang out with his enormous 23-individual family without beating us to death.

So, permission asked, and explicit consent given.

Photo by Nicky Twilley.

Throughout the experience that followed we made noises like we were clearing our throats, to indicate we were homies. Whenever the babies got too close, we made a different gorilla noise to indicate they should move away. They mostly did.

Gorillas getting pissed.

That said, I was playfully, repeatedly, punched and kicked by the larger juveniles feeling their oats. All of them were drunk as lords from chewing bamboo shoots that ferment in their guts. As I told Eva, who asked if they were scary: they were, sometimes, but they were also tender, and mischievous, and – at the risk of mistranslating their emotions into our own based on false cognates – loving. Of each other – not of us, of course. We were just a troop of scrawny, wretched-looking, occasionally amusing primates they put up with during their siesta.

After an hour, it was time for us to clear out. The second largest silverback, who the guides call “VP”, let us know this in no uncertain terms. First by charging me.

Wait for it…

Then, his final pronouncement. Crank your audio for this one. It might win me a Pulitzer.

2 Responses to “Dispatch from Rwanda – May 22, 2022”

  1. ekb Says:

    Love love.

  2. prudenceinhell Says:

    I unreservedly admire you both.

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