Today I went to see gorillas at Bai Hokou, which is called Bayoku. I say going to see gorillas like going to the movies or to the zoo, but it has its process, and here they surround it with a mystique that, the truth is, it deserves it. I have left my offspring, with a shrinking heart and three Hail Marys, with my bosses, and I have gone with the driver and a very nice tall blond Belgian guy who works here. Don’t worry, woman, it’s only four hours, the guy tells me. Four, sure, the first hours, and after those another five. Twenty minutes on the road and we find the first tree blocking the road (wet season has it), back to the village to get the machine saw and a man to handle it, with parsimony, haste kills. Back to the road, machete,machine saw, 30 m more and another tree, and so on about 7 times. It took us three hours to get to the camp, and when we arrived everyone had left and gone to the forest and there was only one lame baaka who, poor thing, took the tall guy and me and a huge walkie talkie and came to the forest, very slowly, on tiptoe and quietly, but first let’s wash hands and boots, after all we’re getting into a virgin forest. Every ten steps he had to stop to reposition his flip-flop and foot scarf, and we were all tense, because when the baaka stops you stop too, lest he has seen an elephant or something. At every intersection he would stop to yell at the walkie something that sounded like where the fuck are you, come and get these tourists, I can’t walk. After a while I was limping with empathy too. In the end he couldn’t take it anymore, so we stopped at the foot of a giant half rotten tree and waited. The ground covered with leaves and big and small mushrooms, huge trees and saplings growing in its shade, and the sound, I thought the jungle entered through the nose, but no way, it enters through the ears. And underneath, red sand like in the desert, it’s only normal that tomatoes here taste of nothing at all. After half an hour another baaka arrived to take over from the lame one, and it took us on an hour long run through the forest, crossing streams, mudflats covered with elephant footprints and yellow flowers, a clearing with elephant bathtubs, forest and more forest covered with leaf litter, with twisted vines thicker than a tire and huge trees. And, when I had already forgotten what we were looking for, so amazing was the forest, so novel-like, so movie-like, he took us off the path and we continued among lianas and trees until we found one of the gorilla rangers. Surgical mask so as not to infect anything to our cousins, because Macumba the patriarch is already over 40, and tiptoeing away the branches, and there they were. Doing nothing, eating, farting and sometimes playing. Macumba, the silverback giant, sitting down, from time to time stretched out his arm to grab something, an arm as big as a child, a hand like ours but huge. One of the two cubs there came up to us and sat less than a meter away staring at us, looking like a small child. Its mother, eating nearby. Another female with her baby on her back, carried it between some small trees and started playing the same games I play with my baby. A couple of juveniles were hanging around. The two youngsters played among branches and vines, and when the adults got nervous their keepers clicked their tongues to calm them down. We must have spent an hour with them, I don’t know, I didn’t even notice. Pure peace and silence and golden light and shadow. We returned almost running, same as before, but I do not remember anything of that journey, because I have seen gorillas and I have said goodbye to them and I will not see them again in this life, but now I know they are there, and that has to be worth something.
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