On the craggy slopes of Mount Sabyinyo in northwest Rwanda, eight spacious, stone cottages look out over the dramatic mist-wreathed scenery of the Virunga massif. Open fires crackle in the cottage hearths as private butlers attend to their well-heeled guests; tourists who have come from far flung places to track the mountain gorillas resident in the nearby Volcanoes National Park.
When I first interviewed for my job at AWF, I was told that I may, on occasion, be asked to travel to Africa for work. No one ever told me I’d be expected to go to Idaho, too. But there I was last Thursday, crawling out of my soft, warm bed and leaving my family at 5 in the morning to catch a plane to Sun Valley, Idaho. For work.
I won’t pretend to remember every animal or even species we saw every day, especially when it comes to birds, but here’s at least a partial look at our first afternoon of wildlife viewing.
Let’s just say I’m really glad I’m short and leave it at that, because I can’t imagine being tall and taking such a long flight in such a small seat. But as with all amazing journeys – and trust me, this trip was the very definition of amazing – all the rigors of travel were forgotten when we landed at last at Kilimanjaro International Airport in Arusha, Tanzania. Just the words sound magical, and that’s another very accurate way to describe our trip, as you’ll see.
I’m a telecommuter, so I was just sitting here at home, eating my lunch and working on a manuscript, when the phone rang. My memories of the call are kind of fuzzy, because I was so stunned that my brain pretty much switched off for a while there.