A troubled past and a bright future in Rwanda

Trip Start Apr 14, 2010
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Trip End Apr 14, 2010


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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hello to everyone back home and whoever else might be following along. This blog is from Kigali, Rwanda.

We have spent only 4 days in Rwanda  but they have been  very memorable.  The main reason we are here is to see the protected Mountain Gorillas and see them we did.  We crossed into Rwanda from Uganda on June 26th after a very long day of driving.  Our guide and driver got a bit lost and we didn't get into our campsite in the city of Ruhengeri  till 10:30pm (we left at 6am from our campsite in Queen Elizabeth Park!).  It was quite a long day of driving and our day included another border crossing (and fresh piping hot samosas!!) which added some time on to our day as well.  Oh well, our group is getting along quite well on the bus so at least we had a few laughs on that long, long day.  Late supper (11:30pm)then to bed and early to rise as we were getting picked up at 7am and taken to a central meeting point before departing for the gorillas.  From what we were told, there are 16 separate groups of Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda.  Eight of them have tourists visiting them daily and the other 8 are off limits only to researchers.   We were lucky in that there were only 5 people in our group and we are all from our Tucan tour.  There were close to 60 other tourists who got split up and headed out to see the other 7 groups. 

This is part of the bright future for Rwanda as these tourists bring in tens of millions of dollars into the country each year.  They also now have a stable government (not corrupt we were told) and there has been lots of foreign aid since the end of the genocidal wars.  Crossing in from Uganda, we sure noticed how the buildings and houses seemed much newer and things seemed better off than from their neighboring country. 

After driving for about an hour, past many more little kids that waved feverishly at our van and yelled to us,  we started our hike at the bottom of a valley with our guide and two well-armed (AK-47’s) Rwandan army guards.  That made your head turn but they were there to protect us in case there was an incident with poachers .  I guess there is still the odd occurrence of poaching.  The area that we hiked in was intensely farmed.  The bottom half of the hillsides had terraced fields and there were the occasional stick houses with grass thatched roofs scattered amongst the fields.  It reminded us a bit of the Colca Canyon area in Peru as the hillsides looked similar.  Each house had little kids yelling to us "Good morning Teacher, How are you?" as that was the only english they had learned in school to that point.  It was quite cute.  About half way up the hill was a stone wall that was a marking point in which the farmers could not expand their fields into the forest.  This was to protect as much of the gorilla habitat as possible.

From this point, began the thick jungle in which the gorillas live.  Lots of tall grass, bamboo, shrubs and many big trees covered in moss.  Oh yeah, and lots of stinging nettles that burn quite severely and have no problems getting through one layer of pants, socks and a shirt.  Ouch!!!  The pain lasts for about 15 minutes but you don’t notice the pain as much when the gorillas are right in front of you.  The jungle was very dense and we followed a small trail till we met up with 4 men who were the gorilla trackers.  They walk up each day, find the gorillas and stay with them till dark before heading home so that the gorillas are easy to find the next day for the tourists.

We had a short walk thankfully, about 30mins, through the stinging nettles till we met up with our first female gorilla.  We came around a small hill and thick bushes and there she was, less than 10 feet from us, eating away and looking unbothered and unimpressed by our group.  They are accustomed to the daily visits by the tourists for sure.  We continued through those damn stinging nettles and found the male “silverback”.  He was quite big and impressive.  We were only allowed to follow the group around for up to one hour before leaving.   We all had a great time watching the group from as close as 6 feet when they all sat together grooming each other at the end of our one hour.  They seem like quite docile creatures and we couldn’t understand why someone would want to kill them.  One of our highlights was watching the silverback walk past us from 6 feet away and then put on a bit of a display for us by beating his chest and making some grunting noises as he ran down a hill.  Check out the video on the blog.  Two people in our group that went the next day had the male push/knock down another man in the group as he walked by them.  The man wasn’t hurt but he might have had to empty his shorts after that.  The little fuzzy babies sure are cute, we wanted to throw a diaper on em’ and bring the little guys home with us. 

Our last day in Rwanda was travelling into Kigali and visiting the Genocide Museum.  It was a very sad thing to see and unbelievable that people could treat each other like that.  Also, unbelievable that this happened only 16 years ago.  The museum contained many displays on the history of Rwanda, the events that led up to the genocide and what has happened since.  There are a few graphic pictures in the museum, a mass grave site where they are bringing bodies that have been found over the years and a lot of information.  You get a handheld device with recordings on it that you listen to as you walk from display to display.

That was it for Rwanda for us.  We got back into Uganda that same day and this will be the end of this blog.  It was a short but great stay for us and would recommend this adventure to anyone with a sense of adventure.   Take care everyone.  We miss everyone back home and look forward to skyping anyone that wants to give us a shout.

Mike and Kim

Meal of the Week:  Nothing exciting as most of our meals were cooked on our tour bus.  A small highlight for us were the spicy border-crossing mystery meat samosas.  Spicy meat, onion, chillies and a bit of potato.  They were delicious and were only 33 cents each. 
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Comments

Bill on

WOW!!!!!! a traveller's delight, a photographer's dream.....Just added seeing the gorillas to my Bucket List. The last picture of the baby gorilla is stunning!
Continued great adventures Kim and Mike!!

Ordo on

That is a great blog entry guys!! I especially love the stories of all the little "hard wavers".

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