Of Orphans and Culture

26 11 2010

I will start with a shot of our goal.. to tease you. I give you Mikeno.

This morning the crew got to sleep in a little after an epic week of early mornings and hard days. We knocked on the door of MGVP bright and early to meet up with Magdelina and visit her orphan gorillas.

The orphans are a group of abandoned and humanized lowland gorillas that have been left in the care of MGVP to keep healthy, to study and help in the rehabilitation of future orphans. Although these gorillas have been left in human hands too long, they are part of the future of many orphans to come. Magdalina is incredible, she speaks the language of the creatures, knows each like a beloved child and laughs with full force when they play or act up. Recently, two of their leaders (full on mountain gorillas) have been relocated, so they have been left to rework their social structure. Due to the fragile nature of what the MGVP does, we were asked to wait a while before visiting. The dust has settled for today and we were able to spend some time with these amazing creatures.

The orphans show amazing love for their caretakers, and the caretakers obviously return the love. These guys have taken on the role of friend, playmate and brothers. To prevent the spread of disease, only these chosen few are allowed to interact with the orphans one-on-one. The vets must remain behind a chainlink fence; faces masked and clothes freshly laundered. Visiters like us must be content to stand on top of a car, observing from over a massive stone fence. None the less, the orphans come to visit us, finding any way they can to get close and see the strange new people.

After another incredible hour interacting with these beloved creatures, we had to go. But I think what was most endearing was how much love the vets and handlers have for these little giants. It was so cool to watch them spend quality time together.

My day took a swift turn. It was time to head up to something the Rwandan community has put together to show us how they lived only a few decades ago. My new friends Valerie van Wassenaer and Emmanuel gave me an exclusive tour of their very cool business!

Iby’ Iwacu cultural village is a must-see after your gorilla tour. A small village has (with the help of a few progessive thinking people) put together a true taste of Rwandan culture. The staff are a blend of savvy young guides, students with passion, and ancient local thespians with a wink and sense of humor combined with love of a culture quickly fading in an all too industrialized world. After a Gorilla trek, you would be nuts not to fork out 35 bucks for this two hour extravaganza. They put on a huge show… just for you!

Emmanuel was my personal guide, he explained every plant, how the children got their water, and why, even though he had traveled the world, he still comes home back home to live and work. He loves his people, sees friends around every corner, and for a moment, we all would love to live here, in his friend-filled world.

The dancers and drummers blew me away, and I am happy to say they will be a special part of my African experience. I made more friends today (amazing friends, thanks Valerie), and will be sad that I may never have a chance to connect with them again when I leave this brightest Africa behind.

My last ‘cultural experience’ today was a very cool ride on the local bus home. You know, I have tried to explain it before, but no one ever listens. When in a foreign county, ride the bus. It is the only way to live, breath, and touch a local lifestyle. I sat beside savvy teens and girls who needed a break from balancing things on their head. You are only a bus ride away from making new friends in Rwanda. You know, I have mentioned friends a lot today, but that is what a trip like this is all about. You can take a million pictures of your vacation and feel like you have experienced something… but how many of you got on the bus? Really, then did you actually see anything or just take pictures from the window of a cab?

Thats it for today. Tomorrow I will be visiting The grave of Dian Fossey. I can’t wait. I tread in the footsteps of legends and am humbled. Thank you for coming with me.

I love that you are interested and reading. Don’t forget to check out Jeff and Stephen‘s blogs. They had to go to bed, but I will make sure they update tomorrow afternoon… morning for the EST folks.

W

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A Greatest Walk In the Woods Ever

25 11 2010

Our first chance to interact with the mountain gorillas has come and gone. Today was a day I will never forget.

We woke up very early this morning to wolf down breakfast and jump in our friend Alex’s cab. I am happy to say the jetlag wore off and I finally got a full night’s sleep. It was a glorious start to this incredible day

Jeff was a bit sluggish as he was still trying to get all the Rwanda visa issues straightened out. There is good news there too, it looks like all has been taken care of. So after hastily running around to get letters and emails off, he wolfed down about two spoonfuls of eggs and we hopped in our ride. The road to the park takes about half an hour.. during the ride the sun came out and the sky cleared. Mist lay low in the foothills and the scene was stunning.

Our guide today was simply called ‘Hope’. One of the youngest guides at only 25, still finishing university and full of knowledge. He was fascinated by the cameras and had a real love for taking pictures. We decided that we would like to see the Kwitonda  family, as they were very close to the park fence which would allow us to return early to give us more time to work in the afternoon. Hope explained that Kwitonda and his family were also very calm, Kwitonda  means ‘Humble’ and he and his group were quiet and very easy to get along with. That sounded great for filming.

The car ride to the part of the park the family was staying this morning was rough and bumpy, the streets crowded with people on their way to their farms. The children all run out of the houses to see the white people shouting ‘Muzungu, Muzungu!’ as you pass by and waving and smiling. It is like being a float in the Thanksgiving Parade.

As we drove up the hill, the car jostled and bumped, Hope explained that he loved driving here as it was a nice massage, and Alex (the driver) called the roads ‘Samba Roads’, driving on em makes you shake and dance.

The hike up the mountain was a simple thirty minute hike, complete with stunning views of the foggy foothills. The jungle loomed close and Hope broke the news that the gorillas had gone deep in the bamboo and the hike would be 4 hours. We would not be back until dark and he would need everyone to use their cell phones to light the route back to the village.

After doing an epic job completely fooling everyone… I mean it.. this guy was a fricken thespian, he finally cracked a smile. The Group was only a few meters past the protective wall of the park. It took us all of ten minutes to find them and…

Everything went silent. For one hour the world ceased to exist. Time flew and life became too short.

Akeley described his first encounter with one of theses wooly giants like this, “I was excited to a near painful degree.” Steve brought them up later, and I now understand how a man could stop and be poetic and profound in the middle of the jungle.

We broke in to a small clearing where suddenly a silverback was right beside me, only a meter or two away. He was calmly lounging and snacking on bamboo. Scratching his armpit and picking his now. The guides have to learn to speak the language of the creatures. It is a combination of grunts and movement. Hope asked for permission to visit, and it was given. After a while with the younger silverback who was lazily guarding the outskirts, we headed in to meet the family.

Suddenly they were all around, close enough to hear them breath, look them in the eyes and know what the smell of a 200 pound ball of muscle and fur is.

The smell is strong and musky, like B.O. done very manly and tough. No aqua velva required.

The dominant male kept tabs on us, but was clearly amused by our visit. He posed for pictures, kept his family in line, all while keeping a very watchful eye on us. Hope found Stephen the perfect spots to make sketches and Stephen went to work, feverishly trying to document the moment in charcoal. Jeff and I grabbed our cameras and went to work capturing the moment in photos and video. This was our moment.

One baby thought it was very funny to come over and look at us and watch as Hope made us all get to the distance regulated by the park. He would try and trick us by rolling near from different sides just to see us all scramble. We saw at least ten of the family, if not more, took thousands of pictures and an hour and a half of video, and before you knew it…

Kwitonda shivered a massive shiver and made a call. It was time to leave. The whole family got up as a unit and went to find a place to sleep. Almost on the hour, it was like he checked his watch and said, ok Muzungu.. your time is up.

Stephen was on an adrenaline high, giggling like a madman, full of inspiration and ideas. I welled up, musta been allergies.. yeah… I must be allergic to bamboo or something. Jeff was silent.

Stephen’s field sketches are amazing. He captured it better than any photo ever could. This was our time. For a moment we walked amongst giants, ancient kings. How could we be responsible for the full scale destruction of something so powerful?

These moments are like a dream to me now. I may never be the same again.

But what is even weirder is coming off this high and having a great lunch while watching the Sens game while listening to disco…

See you tomorrow. Don’t forget to visit Jeff and Stephens blogs as well to get their view of the experience!

W





Of Golden Monkeys and Stunning Views

24 11 2010

Our first trek in to the Volcanoes National Park from Musanze. Mike Cranfield, the Director of the MGVP, and our contact here in Rwanda, had to run to Uganda just before we arrived to save a baby Gorilla from a snare. The news is very good, and he will be returning today after successfully removing the snare from around the baby’s neck. Mike and the rest of the people involved in the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary project are working tirelessly, and this is a prime example of how much they are doing for the local population. As Mike is on the road home, and the orphan Gorillas (that we plan on spending lots of quality time with) are still upset from the loss of their leader (who was relocated only a few days ago) we decided it was a good day to visit a little known second attraction in the park.

The Golden Monkeys are indigenous only to this very small region of the park; you cannot see them in any zoo as they are very protected by the local governments. It was also a great dry run for our Gorilla trek tomorrow, giving us a chance to test out our theories, and figure out how we are going to shoot in the deep jungle. The sun was shining and the day was perfect.

Today was also our first real view of Mount Mikeno, the volcano depicted in Akeley’s Diorama and focus of our mission here. The sky was clear and you could see much of the range before it got shrouded in thick thunderclouds and misery. We may be unlucky when it comes to our visa issues, but we were lucky in light today and blessed with hundreds of rare monkeys.

The hike through the jungle was great. Bamboo season brings the monkeys and gorillas down low in the hills in search of sweet shoots. Interestingly enough, the trackers believe the Bamboo shoots are a bit like catnip for gorillas, as they tend to be a bit wilder during the bamboo season. More fights break out and they all act a bit squirrelly.

Interesting bits of learning for today:

The monkeys and gorillas move constantly. In order for the guides to find the migrating tribes, there are permenant ‘trackers’ who follow the families all day, until they tuck in for bed at night, then resume their jobs all day every day so that they won’t lose them.

In the last few years, the park has encouraged poachers to become porters. It has become very important to get a porter for the high cost of ten bucks for the day to carry your gear, no matter how light the load. Keeping poachers employed as porters is saving the animals for the tourists. Plan on having a porter no matter how odd it feels to have someone lug around your gear.

The monkeys are totally worth the extra hundred (+ cost of cab) if you love primates. This is a blast. Bring a long lens for your camera cuz they like to sit up high in the bamboo. I love monkeys, so this was an amazing experience for me.

Bring some small change ( 5’s and 10’s) for gifts and souvenirs. Once again, the local area is trying to get local artisans to become part of the Gorilla business. The art may be simple, but it is hand made and supports the local community, which in turn gets everyone on the side of conservation.

There is plenty more to learn here, but lets get back to the story.

Steve and Jeff were ecstatic to learn that our guide Fidel was very knowledgable about local birds and plants. He was a quiet and friendly soul, soft spoken, excellent english and very funny. I think that a good guide should always have these traits, and I am sure the Park makes sure that all the guides are like this. We leaned so much today, and he took real pleasure in showing us his forest home.

Good news! My construction boot idea worked! I had super grip, and out of all the tacky tourists, I fell in the mud the least. Bully for me!

We spent and hour with the monkeys; the time flew by. The hour rule is enforced for all the tours. You would think that it was all a marketing ploy but really it is a part of the wonderful work MGVP is doing here. Keeping the visits to the Gorillas to 1 visit a day, for 1 hour a day, helps stop the spread of human diseases to the fragile animals. As our new friends also explained to us… No one wants visitors all day every day, eventually you would get frustrated and tell everyone to leave you alone. The hour may seem short, but if it keeps all these creatures alive, then I am 100% behind it.

After a short and laughter-filled trek out of the bamboo jungle, we had a quick lunch and went next door to visit the MGVP to see if Mike had returned from his quest. The guard at the gate explained that Mike was not back, but welcomed us in and took us to the open arms of a person we had wanted to meet for a long time.

Jean-Felix Kinani is MGVP’s Rwandan in-country field veterinarian. What a wonderful person. We spent over two hours with him discussing his passion for the local wildlife, and his love of his people. We learned so much today, things like the local Gorilla population has showed a 17% increase since 2008 ( I am pretty sure that was the number). What an epic increase! We can spend our lives doubting human impact, global warming, deforestation, light polution, plastic ocean destruction, but numbers like that prove that conservation efforts work. Done.

Tomorrow we go on our first Gorilla hike. Only a handful of people get to do this each year. I count myself blessed to get a chance to be part of it. Thankyou.

Don’t forget to check out Steve and Jeff’s blogs for a different perspective!

W





Words???!

23 11 2010

Jeff spent the major part of his morning getting his visa squared away. The good news is, according to the powers that be he will have no problem, he followed the ‘Be Polite’ rule and all worked out. Everyone is pretty confident that all will end well. Although I am honestly scared to go to the DRC all the talk of the amazing adventure they are going to have there has left me wishing I could go! If only it wouldn’t put the mission in jeapordy

We traveled to Musanze today, so we are now in the heart of the volcanoes, and our subject is just beyond the hills. This is mountain gorilla territory and the locals live and breath eco tourism.

The silverback and the blackback are both exausted from a long day of driving and meeting our new amazing friends here. The folks at MGVP are incredible. Mike Cranfield, the director of MGVP is deep in Uganda was called away (to save a baby gorilla caught in a snare), so we got to spend our day with the amazing Dr. Magdalena Lukasik-Braum, who opened our eyes to the story that is unfolding here in the park.

I will save most of the details for the film, first, lets talk about Rwanda.

Someone tried to explain the air to me here once, but it was hard for them to describe. There is a constant smokey green smell here, not unlike the smell of a forest fire. A combination of dark earth and burning greenery that is constant. I meant to ask why, but keep forgetting. Combine that with very fresh smelling flowers everywhere… its like a potpourri filled room with a sugarcane fire going at all times… I think that is the first thing that hit me. The air has a haze to it befitting the smoke — it is like a world caught in an eternal sunset.

The Rwanda people are colourful, friendly and full of smiles. Here, a handshake means “hello” and a hug means “pleased to meet you”. I can no longer understand why I was ever afraid to come here — these may be the kindest people I have ever met.

We traveled two hours out of Kigali along well maintained red-tinged highways, through lush hills of stacked beans and corn. Stood in wonder at the open landscape torn by overrun agriculture. I have yet to see the dense jungle and rain that they promised would make our journey harsh. This world is civilized, cultured and exotic all at the same time. It makes you reconsider what ‘civilized’ means and question all your views of the rest of the world. Maybe that is the reason why the people who have been here dream of Africa, I haven’t figured it all out yet.

So it is day one. So far, I had a lovely pizza for dinner and talked artistic dreams with Julie Ghrist, another kindred spirit who is running ‘Art of Conservation’ here in Musanze. We discovered the latest projects exploring the links between humans and Gorillas. How local communities are learning how to keep themselves healthy; not for themselves, but for the wildlife around them. How people from all over the world are working to bring back our closest ancestors from the brink, and at the same time, saving themselves. I have been introduced to (what feels like) half the town, and I can’t wait to explore it more. If this is traveling into the unknown, then I didn’t really get what ‘Unknown’ meant.

Wow, waxing a bit philosophical here. I spose thats the epiphany I was waiting for.

Stephen got a chance to crack open his AFC journal today and made his first field sketch of Kigali. I thought it was funny how hard it was to drag him away from his work — he takes on a pose of surreal meditation when he draws. Very cool to watch someone with this amount of focus shut out humaity and take in the physical world. I don’t think he even noticed me taking pictures.

On the ride, we made a quick stop at Hôtel des Mille Collines today (the real life Hotel Rwanda) to take a quick snapshot of the AFC flag.

So, to end today, we are safely snuggled away in our mosquito nets, with smiles on our faces and very good thin crust pizza in our bellies. Looking forward to all that is ahead. Stay tuned

W





Life in an Airport

23 11 2010

Flag in Jersey!

I spend a huge amount of my life flying nowadays. I have become much like my father was at my age, minus the suit and the comfy chair in business class. I spend a huge portion of mu life sitting on a plane. I can’t say I have mastered the art of being the world traveler. My dad had developed a magical power that allowed him to fall asleep as the plane took off, and not wake up until landing… with a short break for a gin and tonic. Me… I sit and watch movies and read books. Unable to sleep, my knees pressed up against the seat in front of me, waiting.

Today was the travel day, or should I say, the last three days have been a travel day. Stephen’s wife cooked us the most amazing turkey dinner to send us off with (as we are missing American Thanksgiving, and are going to have to be careful what we eat.)

Stephen carves the bird This is a great luxury for me — having this day with my travel companions, to get a chance to know them, to build up relationships that will be folded, reforged and made strong by the adventure that lies ahead.

Stephen Quinn is the silverback of our group; he is a seasoned veteran of Africa, having traveled here many times as part of his amazing career as senior project manager at the AMNH, and a world authority on museum dioramas. He looks at the world through a different set of glasses, seeing the birds and plants first, eyes drawn to the natural first.

Jeffrey Whiting, president of Artists for Conservation is serving as our logistics manager and team leader on this mission. Without him, nothing would have happened. He is the brother of my old friend and boss, Ken Whiting. Interestingly, like many brothers, they share much the same voice, and it is like I travel with a person I already know. Jeff shares Stephens eye for the natural, and the two of them are fonts of knowledge when it comes to the natural world.

Giving Thanks

After enjoying an amazing dinner we quickly collected our gear up, and were rushed away in a luxury ride to the airport, where the boredom began. I won’t go in to detail on the next 28 hours… we sat on planes… we watched movies… we read books. We planned our adventure in detail — plans that will most likely be thrown to the wind after we get started.

We have an epic amount of luggage. I think about 14 bags in all including capming gear. As a side note, my machete made it. If you want to bring your own big knives on a trip like this, pack it and check it, and tell the TSA guy it is in there while he scans… he will get a good laugh when he sees it. THe thing that got the most questions was my Solo battery from Brunton… be prepared to be asked what this is.

Finally, we arrived in Africa where we encountered the first unexpected hitch in our perfectly laid plan. The Rwandan Government has decided that in protest to Canada’s policy of forcing Rwandans to aquire a Visa, and the complications of getting that visa… they will require Canadians to get one too. Unfortunalty the law changed only a week or so ago, and no one bothered to inform anyone… except passport control at the airport. So we pleaded our case to border security, and the young man had us pay 60 us dollars, and now we have visas! (Rule 1 of international travel: Be honest and polite, explain your problem, say please and thankyou… and be prepared to pay money… everything seems to go faster with money.)

The boys arrive in Africa... and check Emails

We arrived at our hotel very late. The young security guard showed us to our rooms and we were just about to crash out when… Jeff realized that he needed to leave Rwanda to go in to the DRC and come back in after they climb the mountain.

This complicates things, so now he is on the phone trying to get another visa… (rule 2: expect the unexpected)

We are headed to the government offices now to solve the issue. Then we head to Musanze to meet with the fine folks at the MGVP.

Will





Thoughts From Day One

21 11 2010

Jeff and I arrived in New Jersey last night. Stephen got to visit every airport in New York trying to gather us up. I landed in Newark, Jeff landed at Laguardia, and due to some miscommunication Stephen went to get him at JFK. Note to unseasoned travelers… some cities have more than one airport, when booking tickets that rely on people joining up at one point or another, remember to make sure you are all landing at the same airport. Here that wasn’t possible, but all the same, Steve got a whirlwind tour of the greater NY area.

We are staying at the Quinn family home to get our heads together before we leave. Let me tell you, this is a great way to do it. Before a trip it is great to be able to get together, relax for a day, talk, and make sure we have our acts together. Steve’s wife is making us a huge turkey dinner/lunch as a send off (and early Thanksgiving). We should sleep very well on the plane!

Our plane to Amsterdam leaves late this afternoon. Then the flag expedition truly begins.

I have to be honest, this is the furthest and fathest away from the english speaking world/ comforts of North American life I have ever gone. I had plenty of trepidation at the thought of how hard this whole thing was going to be. A day with my team has set me at ease, and now I feel good about the road ahead. I just hope I have covered all the bases… I hope I haven’t forgotten something.

Worries: I wish I had been able to find a mosquito net for my bed. I doubt I will need it, but I still wish I had it. Climbing cleats would have been nice too, but I can live without them. There are a few unknowns in my schedule. I mentioned before, as a media guy I will not be able to go in to the DRC, so there will be three days when I am effectively on my own. I will need to work hard to fill that time with useful projects. I still need to get some personal cash before I leave. I am gonna see if I can get Rwandan currency at the airport; failing that I will grab some American money from a bank machine. I need to keep my eye on the prize during my time in Africa, keep from being idle, keep moving and keep filming. I brought 18 hours of tape and have digital backup… but somehow I wish I had brought more.

Mind-at eases: Jeff, Steve and I get along very well. They are polite enough to laugh at my lame jokes, and the Canadians outnumber the Americans on this trip, so no one is going to make fun of my accent. I am feeling pretty good about my french right now, that will come in handy. Jeff is amazingly well orginized, so I can trust that he has everything well in hand. I may finally have the chance to wear my fedora — Jeff and Steve wear travel vests and aren’t the ‘cool surfer’ type of guys that would think my need to look like Indiana Jones is lame…

I think overall we have a total of 12 bags. We are gonna look like packmules at the airport! Steve’s porch is packed full of all our crud at the moment and it looks like a tan safari duffle bag sale at the roller bag shop. Can’t wait to see the look on the cab drivers face when he comes to pick us up.

So here we are, at the brink. Soon to be surrounded by the unknown. I have realized a dream of wandering. Pressure and excitement are my vice, without these things the world becomes plain. Let my aperture be set correctly, and the videocamera roll at crucial moments so that not a moment will be missed.

W

**Add** Here is a link to an article in todays New York Times about the expedition.





Packin’ the Stuff

19 11 2010

The first step in any of my journeys is to pack everything. Over the years I have tried to pack less and less and less… but seem to always end up with more.

This trip I need to try and keep everything minimal, and it looks like we will be moving around a lot, so I need to make sure that I am portable. The trip is expensive and footage will be critical, so I also need to make sure I am backed up for everything.

Here are some of the cool things I am bringing on this trip to keep load light, but life easy.

I am a visual person — lists are good, but I need to lay everything out to look at. So I set up a staging area in my basement. Basically, a big open area I can spread all my crap out so I can make sure I have everything.

I am taking three bags. A big old beat up Roots bag that rolls, converts into a backpack, and looks like crap so it is unlikely to get stolen. The only things that go in there are clothes, tripod, raincovers for the camera, and some spare food.

I am gonna be in the jungle, so I have a great machete from Gerber and a pocket knife. TSA rules say as log as I check my knives I should be able to bring them with me, so we are gonna try. Any problems and i will just leave them in Canada, no harm, no foul.

I also make sure that I have all travel details printed, photocopy passport, visa, letters of invite, a printout with every contact number I can find, and last, the best Travel Medical Plan money can afford. Rwanda and Kenya won’t accept credit cards in many places, so I have a secret money belt to carry cash in.

Power is gonna be a problem, and I will need to keep my computer and cameras powered up. First off I have a power transformer to step down from higher voltage plugs, as well as a universal adapter. Last, I have a backup battery and solar panel with a standard plug outlet from Brunton. The Solaris 12 and the Solo powerpack. These things ROCK!

I have a ton of great clothes to travel with from Exofficio. They are the only thing I pack in my bags now, ‘cept for a pair of comfortable jeans. For Africa, the big worry is mosquito bites, so I am using all their Insect Shield clothing. Everything is infused with mosquito repellant, so I will be protected. Including my socks!

Next, I always carry four pairs of Exo ‘Give-n-go‘ boxer briefs. I can pack less underwear, and they are moisture wicking and super comfortable. If you travel AT ALL go out and buy yourself a few pair, you will love them. Yeah… I am a huge fan of this company. They make great gear, and the folks that work at the company are super nice too. All more reason for me to support what they are doing.

I have a copy of my local newspaper ‘The Humm’. They love to publish shots of people reading it all over the world, and Kris and Rob, the owners/editors are two of my best friends… so I best oblige.

Here we have my go-to bags. I normally shoot my films on the water, and need to be able to keep all my gear dry. It took a while to figure out which bags would work, as I needed them to be able to survive a trip down the rapids and still keep my camera secure. After trying hardcases, drybags, you name it, finally I was given a Watershed Drybag, and I never looked back. They are great, big enough for my big video camera, easy to get stuff in and out of, and they are absolutely BOMBER! I am such a big fan of these bags (hence why I am a member of ‘Team Watershed’

A good notepad and several pens are a must. It is funny how long it took for me to realize how essential these were. I always take at least 4 pens, cuz i always end up losing 3 of them.

Lots of big time film makers would tell you to buy a very expensive tripod. I beat the crap out of my tripods, they get dumped in the bottom of boats, tossed off cliffs and generally abused. So I have been using the same old used tripod from about 10 years ago. I have lost the ‘shoe’ (the thingy that fits in to the head of the tripod) several times. I go to my local camera shop and buy a new one. On trips I always bring a spare.

The last big thing here is a pair of heavy duty waterproof construction boots. I think this is a better choice than hiking boots. They are tougher, steel-toed, like a rainboot against water, and overall just awesome. The only issue is they are really heavy, so I have to ware them on the plane, they just add to much weight to my luggage. I am also packing a pair of gators from Mountain Hardwear. There won’t be any snow in africa, but these will help me keep my legs dry marching through the jungle. I don’t want to wear rainboots, so this is the next best solution.

Last, I have a great pair of headphones. They are for monitoring the audio during recording, but I always take them on the plane since the ones they give you on the flight always suck, or cost 5 bucks.

Belts are a must. I always lose weight quickly on a trip like this (lots of hiking and careful eating) so by the end my pants will be falling down.

I take a hard Plano Drybox with my GoPro Cameras, SD/CF cards for the cameras and Lav Mics. These get packed in carry on so that i will have all my camera gear with me when I arrive. The only thing that has to make it is cameras, I can survive in dirty clothes, but if i don’t have cameras/audio, there will be no movie. Notice, once again I really just want to keep everything DRY. Wet equipment is my enemy.

GoPro cameras are just plain handy. They are really inexpensive, and shoot footage that is good enough to put on TV. They just make sense for me to bring on every trip. Cool huh!

The last key item on this list, a waterbottle. This one is freekin cool.

Katadyn makes these great waterbottles with a buit in Micro Filter. That just made sense to me. Hopefully that will protect us from getting sick on this journey. Even bottled water isn’t totally safe, and I don’t have time to get sick. If I get sick there is no one to make the flick, so this is how i make it work.

Allright. Thats  about it for packing. When all is said and done, everything fits perfectly in to my three bags. I have the big ol beat up roller bag, a backpack that fits the smaller watershed, spare camera, computer and all the video gear, and a large Watershed bag that fits under the seat of the airplane. Bammo!

Tomorrow I head to New York to meet up with Stephen Quinn, an amazing artist who works for the AMNH, (really, he is the focus of this project) and Jeff Whiting, our host, leader of the expedition and head of Artists for Conservation. From there we have a long flight to Rwanda, where we will begin our adventure. I have no idea how internet will be during the trip, but I will do my best to get pictures and stories right here for everyone to read, and go on the adventure with us!

Wish us luck!

Will