The Honeybee Waggle (and gorillas too!)

Trip Start Dec 07, 2009
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Trip End Sep 26, 2010


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Where I stayed
Fatima Pastoral Centre

Flag of Rwanda  , RW.10,
Saturday, August 7, 2010

We had a very early start on Saturday morning for our travel to Rwanda. On the map it may not look like very far to go but unfortunately African roads aren't the greatest and we had to take a very long way around to get to our final destination, which was Musanze. So after a 5am breakfast we set off. Made it to Kabale around lunchtime and stopped there for some bakery treats. 30 minutes after lunch we made it to the border and got ready for the crossing into Rwanda. Arizona Jack, Ollie and I decided to make up ridiculous professions for the border crossing. I left Uganda as a "Sombrero Model", Ollie left as a "Rabbit Groomer", and Arizona Jack won the day with "Ice Dancer" but that is because he had the accompanying back story of his new routine entitled "The Honeybee Waggle." How could they turn us away? They didn't anyways. We walked the short distance into Rwanda and entered as an "Ostrich Racer" (me) "Snake Charmer" (Jack), and I honestly can't remember what Ollie put but I'm sure it was silly. The Honeybee Waggle was the classic though.

After successfully making it into Rwanda we drove fro around two hours to get to Kigali where we stopped at a nice garden café for a break and a quick drink. Beers are LARGE here. They sell Mutzig and Primus as the local Rwandan beers and they come in 650 ml and 720 ml bottles, respectfully. Pretty good, but I still prefer Ugandan beer.

We hit the road again after the pit stop and I spent the next few hours just taking in the Rwandan countryside. Of course there was the usual, so lots of waving and smiling kids, hundreds of people walking on the roadside carrying large yellow jerry cans for carrying water. The women balance anything they decide to carry on their heads as they walk and they usually have quite hefty loads. It is pretty interesting to see. The landscape changed quite a bit once we entered Rwanda though. Rwanda is very hilly and mountainous and cultivated all over. It seems every last inch of mountainside has been carved into for agricultural purposes so it creates many tiered plateaus all the way down the mountains. The roads were decent but it still took 13 hours of driving before we finally made it into Musanze at sundown. Musanze is a very small town near the Congolese border which was hit hard in the 1994 genocide. It was formerly known as Ruhengeri, but is now officially called Musanze. It was wonderful driving into town and seeing the sun setting over the huge dormant volcanoes in the distance. Rwanda is a beautiful country and I liked it immediately.

We had a very early start the next morning. Sunday was the day we were going to see the elusive mountain gorillas. There are only 700 of them left in the world so this was a rare opportunity and one I was very excited for. It is one of the most expensive things I have ever done (600$CAD) but the money goes to help the conservation of these amazing animals so it wasn't a very hard pill to swallow. I was with some people that would be tracking the "Ugenda" family of gorillas, which consisted of 15 members, including 3 silverbacks. We took some terrible roads to where we start our hike but around 9am we set off and started hiking. The hike was pretty nice, we were basically heading straight up the side of a volcano into the misty jungle above. We started on the cultivated farmland as we went up but after a few hours made it to the jungle and entered over a rock wall. This was when the hike got more difficult. Our gorilla family decided it would be a fun game to play a practical joke on us so we basically followed them for an hour through the largest stinging nettle patch in the history of all jungles. It was very dense and slow-going as the trackers in front had to basically chop their way through the undergrowth with machetes while they tracked the animals. Eventually the gorillas stopped to rest and we caught up with them around 10am and we were given an hour to watch them. It was a pretty amazing experience being less than 2 metres away from some of these animals and seeing them stare at you curiously while they ate enormous amounts of shoots and leaves. We saw two of the silverbacks and the 3 month old baby as well as many of the females from the group. The hour we spent with them went by very quickly. I didn't even take too many pictures I just tried to enjoy the time we spent with them, but I still managed to snap a few good ones! Soon we had to leave them as our time was up and it is something I will always remember. This was a full day experience and it was late afternoon by the time we arrived back in camp. An amazing day for sure.

The next day was a free day and we relaxed over breakfast and I got caught up on some sleep and laundry and decided to brave the cold showers (it had been a few days after all.) I spent the afternoon walking around town and seeing what was there but I had kids following me the whole time begging me for money so it was a little annoying but still a pleasant town and pleasant experience overall. We went out for a group dinner and headed to the bar afterwards which was a good time and a good way to end the last night we had in Rwanda.

Back to Uganda in the morning!

-js








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