First off, I would like to say that we won!!!!!!! We first got the chimps to the Lwiro Sanctuary in Bukavu and we are out of Congo!!!!! We are staying in a fancy hotel in Rwanda right now. For those who don't know, Rwanda is great. There is no corruption, it is free for American Visas, it's clean, they have an excellent President and it's great. It's sad that when people in the U.S. think of Rwanda and they only know the genocide of 15 years ago. This country has made leaps and bounds since then and it's beautiful and filled with tourists. Gisenyi is great, you can drink the water out of the tap!
Okay enough about Rwanda, here is what happened. On Monday, we took the chimps out of Aketi. We woke up at 3AM, woke up the chimps at 4:30 to give them sedatives and took them across the river at 5AM to the airfield and hid in the bushes. We struggle to get the chimps in the cage and wait for the plane. The plane comes around 11 and there are a million people there. What we didn't want. As we wait for the plane to refuel and load the baggage and the chimps, the local 'adjutant' supposedly in charge of the environment is coming trying to stop us. He tried to hold the chimps and prevent us from leaving. The workers and I start loading the plane anyways. A man not wearing any uniform grabs one of the orphan chimps by the leg and tries to open the cage. The man does not know it but he is in serious danger of getting bitten. The orphan was Aketi Kigoma, the chimp I fostered. After the goon didn't listen and continued to grapple with the baby chimpanzee, I separated him from the orphan and blocked him from opening the cage, telling him NO! He stumbled back and looked scared. The 'adjutant' then left to get the police and more officials. After the plane was loaded, the big chimp Kathe, got out of her cage. The pilot was able to open the cage, the workers got her back in the cage and then the pilot strapped up her cage further and then cargo netted the cages so they couldn't escape. We are nervously waiting. Right before that, the 'adjutant' comes back with the ANR. He is like the CIA of Aketi. We showed him our documents and says that we are legit and we should go. The 'adjutant' goes back to get another official. The police try to stop us but the pilot was like no, we have to go, we have a schedule. The two pilots start up the plane and we take off. Laura and I leave and we ecstatic to know that we have rescued the chimps. During the flight the chimps slept most of the way. At the end they started to get rowdy in their cages, so I go back to settled them down.
We land in Bukavu and sanctuary people and the ICCN come to get the chimps. We then go to the immigration officials at the airport to show them our visas. They said they were invalid. We told them that we were told they were okay and we paid $300. The DGM said we were tricked by the DGM in Buta. He would hold our passports and take us to Bukavu to the immigration office the next day and find a solution. We also found out that our workers were thrown in jail and that there was a warrant for my arrest in Aketi. The warrant was for assaulting an official. I only physically intervened to separate a man (who was not wearing a uniform) from the baby chimpanzee that he was attacking. They twisted it around and said I beat up several police officers. It didn't matter to me because I was 1,200 miles away now and they couldn't touch me. In order to tell the other authorities, they would have to spend more money then they had. I am also out of the country now and I can't be touched.
The next day we go to the DGM's office in Bukavu with the airport official. We explained our story to them and most of them felt sorry for us. One of them wanted us to pay $160 for one month visas, even though we were going to be gone for one day. Laura is great actress and began to cry to gain sympathy. The head DGM said that if we were to pay, that would make Congo look bad. He said we could go and we didn't have to pay any money. He couldn't give us new visas but, he gave us his phone number and said if we need any help, to call him and a he would straighten out the situation. We then go to a good hotel in Bukavu and spent the night.
The next day today, we took a boat from Bukavu to Goma. We met up with Don, our friend from the UN and the US embassy and he helped us get out of the country from Goma and now we are relaxing in a nice hotel in Rwanda. We are safe, healthy and very happy. We now look forward to having a vacation in Rwanda and Uganda and going home.