Well…. it’s almost half way through January 2014 and I have no clue where the first half of the month has gone. In fairness I have been busy planning the year ahead and reflecting on the previous year.
The stand out moment of 2013 for me was a simple one, fulfilling a lifetimes ambition. Coming face to face with mountain gorillas in Africa.
The trip had been 9 months in the planning. Fitness had to be worked on for the arduous trek through the Ugandan jungle and lots more that I have since forgotten about. I would be trekking with a small group and didn’t want to be the one slowing everyone down, thankfully the training paid off. For me one of the hardest parts of planning a trip is what equipment to take and as I was trekking through jungle, lightness and compactness were high on the list. But I really didn’t want to sacrifice image quality either so my choice was a simple one. I went with the fantastic Fuji X-Pro1 camera and 4 lenses.
Trekking through the African jungle is just how you would imagine, dense lush green forest, noises coming from everywhere, vines dropping from huge trees, your guide hacking his way through the tangle of undergrowth. You get a brief sense of whats it’s like to be an explorer, being the first to step foot in this remote part of the world. In reality it’s a limited but vibrant attraction. The money raised gives employment to many local people including onetime poachers. Hopefully it goes someway to securing the remaining 880 mountain gorillas further, though they remain on the critically endangered list.
During the trek the anticipation is building. I’m scrambling up and down slippery slopes, hoping that we will find them in one of the clearings. I can hear my heart beating as I’m lost in this almost imaginary world. Quickly I’m brought back to my scenes as what sounds like gunfire echoing around the jungle! We’d been spotted! and the big sliver back lets us know by beating his chest. Now I was close and my heart really was racing. I could hear the gorillas eating and moving through the bush and then finally, they were in sight! We find them in a dense lush parts of the jungle making it hard to get a clear view. This is going to be a challenge go get pictures, but I’m not going to complain!
There are times in your life (even as a photographer) when you just have to put your camera down and live the moment, this was one. Don’t worry, I’m not entirely stupid! I did eventually pick my camera up again. Every minute spent with them is an incredible privilege, after all they accepted us into their world if only for a brief, very humbling moment.
A few days after my gorilla trek I flew to Dubai for a few days of 5 star R&R. And to be honest its not that I didn’t like Dubai, its just that I missed the jungle and being up to my eyes in mud and sweat with the prospect of coming face to face with one of our closest living relatives more. It wasn’t just a highlight of 2013 but a highlight of a lifetime.