Trip Start Nov 14, 2010
82Trip End Aug 18, 2011
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yellow truck. The afternoon that we waved good-bye to the truck we
booked a night bus from Nairobi to Kampala, where we were told that we
can catch another bus from there to Kigali. We were also told that it
was an hour taxi ride into Nairobi from Karen Camp...
Well, were things to go wrong, or what? We got in the taxi at 3 hours before the bus was due to
depart as we wanted to walk around for a bit and buy some snacks for the long journey
seen such thick traffic and the hour journey (about 20k's), which was
an hour due to traffic anyway, turned into a 3 hour journey, and we got
to the bus about 10 minutes before it was due to leave. Needless to say
that both Lindi and I were quite nervous about the making the bus, but
fortunately we did just in time.
The bus to Kampala was to take
up to 10 hours, which would have us arriving at 6am, so we can catch the
connecting bus, or so we were told...
The journey actually took
about 13 hours, meaning that we missed the buses to Kigali. We found
this out by taking boda bodas (motorbike taxi's) from one bus office to
the next, and when nobody was helping us in any way - (apparently there
were no buses), we decided our only hope is to catch a bus to Kabale,
which is about 30km from the Ugandan/Rwandan border
bus leaving at, what was now, 10ish in the morning and after buying the
ticket and chasing them down the road on the back of a motorbike we
discovered after the bus stopped at a service station that they would
not let us on because he was too full - quite ironic if you consider how
full African buses normally are! So it was back to the bus station to
await the next bus leaving in 2 hours time.
The next leg was about a 7 hour journey and we would have arrived at Kabale in the daylight,
instead we caught the next bus which left 2 hours later and had us arriving in the dark. This bus
was a bit more like a locals bus - jam packed with people on small seats and big bags of stuff
along the aisle.
at Kabale and being swamped by taxi drivers trying to rip us off, we
were able to find one that wasn't, but we had to wait in his car until
he had found a few other people to share it with us
of luck at this stage though as we discovered one of those sharing the
taxi was going all the way to Kigali as well, so he kindly negotiated a
taxi for the three of us from the border to our hotel in Kigali. Finally
some good luck had turned up.
The border crossing went smoothly, although we had to wait a little while for Lindi as she had
to pay for her visa and have a tracking number (British citizens not needing one), but everything
The next taxi leg took about 1 and a half hours on an intiially very bumpy unpaved road, and by
the time we arrived at our hotel it was about 10pm and we had to argue with the taxi driver about
the price, as the guy who negotiated told us one thing, but the taxi driver wanted more (surprise
surprise), so we had to pay the higher price, checked in, ordered some dinner, showered and
watched the boxing (David Haye) on satellite TV from our comfy bed..
for the boxing! After 30 hours of traveling, what more would you want?
After a lazy, catching-up-on-sleep day, and thinking that Tuesday was the public holiday, we
to do our sight seeing on Monday; the genocide museum and changing
money, so Sunday was a lazy day. Come Monday however, we find that this
is in fact the public holiday, so no banks are open, no ATM's accept
international cards and the museum is closed.
boda-ing it around the town finding all this out, we went back to the
hotel to change money, and have a beer before heading off to Musanze to
meet up with the truck and do the gorilla trek. We actually passed the
truck along the way and beat them to the campsite
and a brief catch up it was an early night as the next morning was the
trek and we had to leave at 6am.
The next morning we got to the Park office and hung around there for a while until we were split
up into groups of no more than 8, ours was 6. Then the guide gave us a safety talk before we
jumped back into the cars and headed off to the starting point of the trek, about 40 minutes
walked for a couple hours through the village farming land which gave
us lovely views of the valley below. Then we got to a stone fence that
separates the village from the jungle, and
apparently keeps the gorillas on the other side (I'm not entirely sure what stopped the gorillas
scaling this but hey...). Here we also met one of the trackers to take us to the site of the
gorillas. Another hour or two of hot and sticky trekking through the jungle and we met up with a
few more trackers - now we were close...
therefore took out cameras and left our bags behind and walked no more
than 2 minutes before you could hear the silver-back grunting, then the
guides started doing it back, as it is meant to calm them down and let
them know that it's OK, they aren't in danger (I wonder how long it
takes to talk gorilla...)
glimpse, one silver-back, 6 females and few juveniles (who like to muck
around and seemed very comfortable with our presence) and one had a 2
month old baby. They seemed to be just like big, fat hairy humans -
(not at all like me though I would add contrary to what some may have
implied - even with my beard!).
At one stage, when they were lying down in the grass resting after eating all morning - this
being the main activity for a Gorilla, we climbed up to see them and a few minutes later the
just wandered by our feet, he could have grabbed them and ate us, but
he didn't which was quite nice. Lindi got backed into a bush by a female
coming towards her, so close that she could have touched it, but
thought better of it
them, but at times like these, there was no where else to go and clearly
the Gorillas hadn't been told about this rule.
It was an amazing
experience to stand in the jungle with no fences between you and them.
To hear the munching and the grunting; to see the little ones jumping
energetically through the trees after one another, playing happily
together; seeing the Silver-back become protective and weary of our
presence; and to watch them in their own environment doing their own
thing, and not get in their way. Where else in the wold can you do that?
As our time (strictly 1 hour) came to an end it was nice to
just put the camera down and remember the Gorillas as they are - in
their natural habitat.
The trek back was relatively easy and we
stopped to get our certificates, as laminated documents are a big thing
in this area of the world
hostel and talked about the gorillas most of the night.
we left Musanze and headed off for a few days break at the town of
Gisenyi - located on the banks of Lake Kivu, right next to the DRC
border. We chilled out for a few days stayed 3
nights and had a wonder around the town etc, unfortunately the lake wasn't that appetizing for
swimming, but lovely nevertheless.
After a 3 hour bus journey back to Kigali, we arrived too late for the buses to Kampala, they
didn't leave again until the evening, so with a few hours to kill we decided to do the genocide
(a very humbling experience), grab some lunch and a few beers before
jumping on the bus for the ride of our life, or to end our life...
At one stage between Kigali and the border the road goes from tarmac to dirt and back to
tarmac. The driver on this bus didn't like to use his brakes and every time we were out of our
seats, several time, I don't know how but we fell asleep, and we would wake up, out of our seats
2 feet in the air. For probably the first time in our entire time in Africa I think we both
thought at one stage that we were actually going to die. Deciding it was going to be safer to
hold hands and comfort each other in our last hours on earth. SO it was a very long night,
however we survived and arrived back in Kampala at 3am the next morning...