Before you seek the Mountain Gorilla

Getting ready to hike the mountains in search for the Mountain Gorilla takes some preparation. Photo: Viruanga Mountain Range

Getting ready to hike the mountains in search for the African Gorilla takes some preparation. Contrary to the belief of many a mistaken traveler, flip-flops and a t-shirt are not going to work in the unpredictable climate.

Something about the word “rain” in “rain forest” and “wet” in “wet season” almost fell on deaf ears as I put the final touches on my packing before the 30-hour trip across the globe to Rwanda. 

As it turned out, the high top New Balance hiking shoes I had put on that day were more than perfect for the trek. 

Equally so was the Frogg Togg rain suit, which guaranteed to keep me completely dry no matter how torrential the downpour. 

While I was packing, such bulk had felt slightly over-cautious and unnecessary, especially given the limited space in my suitcase and short time I would be visiting the country. 

Not only was equipment important, but phsyical fitness was as well. Thankful to have spent many months prior in the gym, the steep incline was manageable. Water also a must. 

As the rain began to fall with renewed energy, I was glad I had chosen to deal with the added bulk. 

Returning to the mountain base our car waits for us in a small village on the edge of the park. Outside a tiny weathered blue building, several young kids see us and quickly bring out a table of tiny hand carved gorillas for sale.

They stand in the rain trying to get us to buy one of these little replicas.

I hold one of the crudely carved statues and think of my own endless quest to find a gorilla and how somehow, at least as a two-year-old, no matter how lost the gorilla may have been it managed to reappear.

So from a table of eager-eyed youth, I buy one of the little statues for my own two-year-old nephew hoping that it will generate a love similar to my own for these handsome beasts.

As long as there is love, passion, and most important, awareness, gorillas will continue to matter and, hopefully, thrive.

Pocketing my nephew’s gorilla, I think of my dad and how when one vanished he could always produce another so I pull out another five thousand francs and from the Rwandan children making our experience with the gorillas a more meaningful, one, I buy another. 

For information on guides, hotels, and general information, contact Volcanoes Safaris.  For information on travel to Rwanda, visit Rwanda Tourism’s official web site. Americans traveling out of the country should always first visit Travel.State.Gov for travel alerts.

For details on traveling to the Viruanga and the Sabyinyo family, visit Africa Travel Resources where you will read that “Only 56 gorilla tracking permits are issued each day, so you need to book extremely early and pay up front to secure a spot.”

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Matt Payne

Matt Payne has lived and worked as both a television writer and producer in Los Angeles for nearly ten years.  Matt grew up in Oklahoma City and began his career with a degree in Film and Video Studies from the University of Oklahoma.  Since then, he has worked as part of writing staffs for such hits as 24 andWithout A Trace. Most recently Matt wrote and produced episodes of CBS’s The Defenders starring Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell and Memphis Beat, starring Jason Lee, which is set to air on TNT in August of 2011.

In addition to a successful television-writing career, Matt has developed features with major production companies and continues to work as a freelance script analyst for Relativity Media, the production company behind such hits as The Fighter, Zombieland, and Catfish where he has provided script feed back on nearly a thousand features.

When he is not writing and producing television, Matt works as contributor to the Washington Times Communities Travel section, where he has writing skills have taken him from the top of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpar to the jungles of the Philippine Islands.  New York City’s finest restaurants to the earthquake ravaged Port au Prince Haiti. 

Matt was the winner of the 2004 Comedy writing award for Scriptapolooza, a finalist for the Warner Brothers Television Writer’s workshop, and is an active participant in Los Angeles’s Young Storytellers Program.  

Early in his career, Matt spent two years working as an assistant the Endeavor, which is now part of WME, the second largest talent agency in the world, working closely with such talent as Christian Bale and Michael Douglass.

Matt  is a member of  the Writer’s Guild of America and the Screen Actor’s Guild.

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