Leakey proved to be quite accommodating, as he generally was with attractive young women. They had a long visit, and Leakey encouraged Fossey to go north to observe the rare mountain gorillas that lived at the border lands of Rwanda, Uganda and Zaire. Leakey told Fossey to keep intouch and she had every intention to.
She and her guide made their way to the mountains, where Fossey met wildlife filmmakers Alan and Joan Root, who were filming gorillas in the Virunga Mountains. The Roots allowed Fossey to tag along. This was her first experience at high-altitude jungle hiking, and she had trouble keeping up as the couple and their African guides moved swiftly along through rugged terrain at more than 10,000 feet high. A native guide suddenly halted the group and used his machete to cut a window through the brush. Fossey crawled forward and gazed through the opening. There was a group of 6 adult gorillas lounging around. The next day, Fossey departed the mountains for an airplane trip south to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to visit the family farm of Franz and Alexie Forrester. But she left looking over her shoulder. She wrote, "I left... never doubting that somehow I would return to learn more about the Virunga gorillas."
With singular determination, Dian Fossey spent three years plotting her return to Africa. She maintained her job working with children at the Louisville hospital, primarily because she had mortgaged her future income to secure the loan for her trip abroad. But on weekends and evenings she focused on her avocation.
She tried without success to sell the film she had shot in Africa, and she submitted photographs of her trip to the National Geographic. Fossey also labored over several long magazine articles about her safari, which she sent to some of the nation's largest periodicals — Life, Saturday Evening Post, Reader's Digest. She was rejected at every turn.
Instead of giving up, Fossey enrolled in the Famous Writer's School, the kitschy correspondence course that was popular with aspiring wordsmiths in that era. The Louisville Courier-Journal finally agreed to publish several stories about her adventure. But her big break did not come from a magazine or a famous writer. It came from Louis...