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Rwanda


10th October, Tuesday (Where the hell is the tar road?)

During our little sojourn of Mwansa yesterday we did pop into the ferry office to enquire about the ferry to Geita on the other side of the lake. After a small disagreement between Cindy and two “overly helpful, touchy-feely” locals outside the gates (She was so fierce and intimidating I did not even have to get out of the Landie to resolve the issue) we did meet the local manager and he assured us that we will have space on any of the hourly sailings today.

So at 7:45 this morning we presented ourselves at the gate for the 8:30 sailing only to be told by the Masai guard that the next ferry sails at 2. Sense of humour failure no 22. I stormed off to the manager’s office only to be reassured that the next sailing is at 8:30. Oh did I have to eat humble pie, being Masai he was using Swahili time, so 8:00 is 2:00, confused? In Swahili (and Ethiopian) time a 24hour day is divided into two 12hour days each staring at 06:00 and 18:00 respectively. Thus 08:00 is 2 o’clock and so is 20:00. Well I hope that clears it up.

Then came the loading of this ferry, a demolition derby would be more organised. First they load all the busses and trucks and with only one ramp they all reverse on after which they open the gates for the cars. What follows is a mad dash with a gnashing of gears and swapping of paint to position your car, in reverse, to ensure a spot on the rust bucket. He with the biggest bumpers and balls wins, thankfully the Landie has huge balls, sorry I mean bumpers. Being the 2nd last car onto the ferry the one eyed “load master” made us turn around and drive on face first. The last car scraped onto the ferry and down the side of the Landie determined to get on. After an earful from me he apologised profusely, scraped his way off the ferry and back on again, a whole 0.5mm further away, what an obliging chap he was. Next comes the foot passengers, all 200 of them. They squeeze and ooze past and around the cars, luggage held high to avoid removing side mirrors and then deposit said luggage on every and all available bonnets and bumpers.

There we sat, the only two Mzungu’s (Swahili for foreigner but used exclusively for us pale faces it seems) facing backwards with a couple of hundred locals staring at us for 45mins, and who said you are only famous for 15mins. Posh and Becks, I take back all my bad thoughts about you deserving all the attention you get, it sucks. With our fall from grace coinciding with the docking/crashing of the ferry our attention and efforts turned to trying to avoid being the one cow facing north when the whole herd is stampeding south. Colin McRae would have been proud of the speedy reverse and handbrake turn to get us facing the same direction as the rest of the mob.

What followed is best described as a 7 hour wash and spin cycle for the two of us. The road from the ferry crash site to the nearest tar road (200km) took us 7 hours and I am still searching for two fillings. Garmap Africa (our GPS), Globetrotters Tanzanian Map and the National Geographic map of Africa has the tar road running through a village about 25km north-east from where it really is. When travelling at an average of 20km/h it gets very worrying when you feel you have missed some turning in the bush and possibly have to backtrack particularly when you are already worried about making the Rwanda border before 17:00 or 11 o’clock, take your pick.

We were just about to give up on finding this damn tar road and turn back when we tried one final time in broken Swahili and very loud English to ask directions at a police check point. After 10mins and about 8 contradicting set of directions in 4 languages we followed the most believable set. And there all of 100 meters further on and after 7 hours of punishment was the signpost to Rwanda at the long expected T-junction with the most glorious, smooth, pothole and corrugation free tar road in Africa. I have to grudgingly admit that my navigator was brilliant and not only found the tar road but also managed to find a bush track that shaved two hours of shake, rattle and roll off of our trip.

We plugged the I-pod into the radio, turned up the volume and at what seemed like the speed of light set off on this strip of pure bliss to Rusumo, 145km away. The scenery started changing into lush hilly country and the road winded its way up the escarpment to the border. Just short of Rusumo we passed 3 UNHCR refugee camps set up to house some of the displaced Somali refugee’s. What a sudden damper on our high spirits, on barren ground, housed in threadbare canvas and grass huts these poor people are awaiting an uncertain future. But through all this the children still run screaming and smiling to the side of the road to wave and shout at the Mzungu’s.

The border crossings at Rusumo are situated on either side of a bridge spanning the Rusumo Falls. Although no threat to the Victoria Falls they are quite spectacular. While it took 45 mins to exit Tanzania (everything as usual is laboriously handwritten into “Black and Red” lined notebooks) the Rwandan side was a tribute to efficiency. Customs took all of 5 mins and they even suggested I deal with Immigration while they process our “Carnet de Passage” to speed things up. No more than 10mins later we on the road again having spent not a single penny, cent, shilling or franc for once. It seems that us “Saffas” are welcome somewhere after all.

Luckily Rwanda is GMT+2 whereas Tanzania was GMT+3 so we gained an hours driving time once we crossed the border. We were heading for Rwamagana about 65km from Kigali (the capital). The Bradt guide book suggested a place called the Devera Hotel as possible accommodation.

Having followed the shocking news of the genocide 12 years ago and having also recently seen Hotel Rwanda I have had difficulty forming clear expectations of Rwanda. What we have found are proud and incredibly neat people that take immense pride in their appearance and homes. Every village we passed today was clean and neat and almost every house and hut has a trimmed hedge and swept yard. While I was concentrating on not hitting any goats or locals, Cindy was entertaining the school kids streaming home at the end of the school day (17:30!) with her double hand wave.

We finally reached the Devera Hotel at about 17:30 and although it was very clean and basic we decided that another hour to Kigali on top of the 10 so far today would make no difference to the tiredness. By now the sun had set and driving became a challenge, electricity is only available in the major centres so the countryside is very dark at night and the roads are still filled with people walking and cycling. The hour turned in two and in the end we opted for a treat and splashed out on two nights in the Novotel in Kigali. After a quick bath and buffet dinner we hit the sack for a well earned sleep.

11th October, Wednesday (Square circles)

Mission today: book gorilla walk.  How: find Rwanda National Parks HQ (ORTPN).  Which turned out to easier said than done.  It seems that the Bradt Guide city map for Kigali bears no resemblance to the actual street layout. Not surprising as the amount of regeneration going on in Kigali is impressive. Having circumnavigated Kigali twice with an added bonus of a visit to the airport (10km out of town) we were heading for an increase in the Sense of Humour Failure count, almost. The solution to this minor inconvenience was to head back to Novotel and ask for a newer map.  Having explained that we needed a map so as to get to ORTPN the reply from Reception was "ORTPN has a great new map of the city". Cindy answered very straight faced, “If I had known how to get to ORTPN I would have had a map by now”.

I did find a small business directory booklet in the room last night with a map of the city. It however had a note at the bottom stating that the “new” street names were still being finalised! This is a constant pain in the derriere in Africa as each new egotistical President/Dictator/Government insists on having squares, buildings and roads named after them during their reign. I suppose knowing that your successor will never “honour” your “achievements” after your demise makes you seek immortality in the here and now.

But in the end we found the “offici” and luckily for us we claimed two spots on a trek on Friday. They only allow 56 people per day to visit the gorillas (8 per family and there are now 7 permanent families, up from the 4 two years ago) so getting two spots so soon was a real bonus for us.

Then followed another blind search for a supermarket, on roads that were not on the map. In one case I almost drove straight into the wall of the bloody American embassy which had sprung up in the middle of what used to be a major intersection on our map. Yanks…!

Well we did find the supermarket, did some shopping and had lunch in it’s delightful “French” deli, sitting on the balcony with a great view of Kigali and a Doctor’s signboard offering Minor Surgeries and Circumcisions. What a place. The French colonial influence can be seen in almost all aspects of live and most kids now grow up being schooled in both English and French. There is a great future for this country if democracy can survive.

Tomorrow we head off for Kinigi - our base for the Gorilla Trek.

12th & 13th October, Thursday & Friday (Gorillas in the forest)

Hi, it’s Cindy, I’m back with the pen in hand.

After driving around Kigali centre this morning, trying to find an ATM that would deliver cash from our foreign credit cards, we were finally directed to the Bancor Bank in the brand new Kigali Trade Centre just of Place de la Constitution. Here they provided an efficient service and are able to do all manner of forex transactions including the provision of US Dollars or Euro’s as a cash advance on your credit card without changing it into Rwandan Francs first. The Trade Centre also has the largest and nicest supermarket in town, so we stocked up on water & energy nibbles for our Gorilla walk.

The drive out of Kigali into the highlands was very scenic. Everywhere along the route we came across memorials and towers reminding the nation of the genocide of 1994 and reinforcing the collective wish that an atrocity like that will not happen again. Rwanda is a tiny country with a comparatively high (by African standards) population density. Despite the fact that the landscape is mountainous and volcanic, almost every available inch of land is worked - right to the very tips of the mountains. Rwandan farmers and villagers must have amazing balance!

The land is fertile and the climate tropical, the result is a lush, green landscape dotted with villages clinging to the sides of the mountains. The roads tend to run along the ridge lines or cut through the sides of these mountains making travelling quite easy, none of the steep winding ascents and descents you’d expect of mountain passes in this type of terrain. Not saying that it doesn’t have passes, but certainly not as many as you’d expect. We also noticed a transition from tin roofs to Mediterranean style clay roof tiles as we climbed out of Kigali. This made the scenery and villages all that more attractive, more medieval and at times it appeared as if we were driving through little Italian or French mountainside villages.

The drive to Ruhengeri was quick and easy, finding the turnoff to Kinigi was not. In the end we made a U-turn on the volcano road and stopped and asked a scooter taxi driver who landed up driving ahead of us to show the way, for which he earned a dollar. Then finding the new road to the ORTPN offices and the Kinigi Guesthouse was another challenge. We landed up taking the old road (by following the signs) and had a rather interesting, rocky, rollercoaster ride while trying to avoid the dongas where the road had washed away into the river, but it was only 800m so we were still smiling when we arrived at our destination. Later we found the brand new and perfect road - sans signposts.

Having popped in at ORTPN to confirm the procedures for the gorilla trek the next morning, we made our way down the road (300m) to the Kinigi Guest House. This basic but charming establishment is run by widows of the genocide and originally the proceeds helped to house and school orphans of the genocide. By now most of the kids in the junior school were born after 1994 but the Guesthouse still provides a source of funding for the school which is a keystone for the development for the local community who lost many of their artisans and breadwinners in the genocide. Rwanda’s presidential office came up with “Vision 2020” in 2000 which clearly sets out about 6 primary goals for the country as a whole, one of these is to raise literacy levels from around 40% currently to above 80% by 2020. There is plenty of evidence of this vision being turned into action, we have never seen so many school children anywhere in Africa - all in uniform, all appear to be enthusiastic and happy, many ask for pens or notebooks as you walk past. They appear to have a really long school day too, leaving school (regardless of age) at about 5pm.

The Guesthouse is set in a beautiful location on the slopes of the Virunga’s (a range of volcanoes that form the borders between Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC/Congo). The scenery a magical, misty mountain world. The rooms are all en-suite and functional, no luxuries, but clean and neat and there are two dormitories for overlanders and/or families. The central lounge, bar and dining area is surrounded by a large patio with views of the valley. We were made to feel at home and were very comfortable. The food at dinner was simple fare made with local produce (no maze meal though) and there was plenty of it. We met up with some people we had met in Kigali and chatted over dinner about our forthcoming adventure with the Gorillas.

There are 7 groups/families that have been habituated for tourism and another 3 that are specifically for research. Each family has it’s own home range, some are closer to the park boundaries than others and the difficulty of the walks to the groups varies according to their chosen terrain. The Susa group, the original Diane Fossy family, is the largest and the most difficult to get to, sometimes involving a steep 2-3 hour climb up the side of the volcano. We chose not to do this one, after all we have come to see the gorillas, not to prove our fitness or trekking skills (or more likely lack there of). We chose to visit the Sibinyo Group, a family consisting of the largest Silverback (male leader, 210kg+) in the National Park, 3 females, 2 juveniles and 2 babies. The Sibinyo Group, Group 13 and the Amahoro Group were all within easy walking distance from the starting point. Regardless of the group visited, everyone had a wonderful experience, albeit different because of the terrain, family size and group dynamics.

Fortunately, given our lack of fitness, our walk to the group was relatively easy - half an hour through cultivated lands until we reached the volcanic stone wall of the park and then another 30 minutes through dense bush - the guides cutting our way through with machetes. While we followed the group of gorillas we climbed up the side of the volcano through bamboo forests, amongst lianas, nettles and thistles, but we didn’t really take note of how far or high we’d climbed until it was time to leave - so transfixed were we.  Our guide, Francois, was the park's head guide and had worked in the park with the gorillas for 26 years - what a delight. We learned abut the community and their crops, the gorillas and their habits and even landed up eating bamboo, thistle and other “gorilla salad” delights of the forest.

      

We were the only 2 tourist to visit the Sibinyo Group that day and therefore, once again, felt very privileged as there was no jostling for the best photo, the guides allowed us to get a little closer than usual, the gorillas weren’t disturbed by a large group of us and the real bonus, we were allowed to spend an hour and a half with them instead of the usual one hour. At times we came within one meter of the adults and on one occasion Nick had to back away as the 1 year old took too much interest in him and stood at his feet looking up at him with those huge, round baby eyes. We were spellbound for an hour as we sat in amongst the group with the babies cavorting in the bamboo all around us.

When tired the little one would whimper and mom would come ambling over and cuddle him for a quick suckle. Their interaction is so much like humans, the way the mom holds the baby or yanks the arm of a boisterous youngster, and dad only needs to speak (growl) once to restore order and calm. We will never forget this experience - the $375 each was well spent and we could see where the money goes.

        

ORTPN were putting in excellent roads up to the park and to the parking lots (start of each trek point); each family of gorillas was guarded during the day by no less than 4 armed trackers (poachers operate in daylight hours); each tour group was accompanied by 1 or 2 guides (depending on the number of tourists) and 2 armed soldiers. All these guys have the necessary authority to carry out their duties and we witnessed them rounding up and interviewing some suspicious looking locals who ran out of the bush and away from them as we approached - no force, no violence, just total authority and resultant respect.   We can honestly say that ORTPN has the right recipe for success - instead of feeling ripped off we felt we could have donated more because we could see where every penny was being spent and the longer term benefit the money brings to wildlife preservation and the surrounding community alike. Well done ORTPN -if we could we would award you with “The best run national parks of the world” award.

      

Our trek was over by 11am - being one of the closer groups - so we spent the rest of the afternoon reliving our experience by sorting through photos and watching the video footage - we had taken over 140 photos and 20 minutes of video. Later around the fire we met up with the other trekkers and we all recounted what we’d seen that day - everyone had had the most amazing experience of their lives.

14th and 15th October - Saturday and Sunday (Relaxing by the pool)

One of the great things about this trip is that there is no real agenda, no project plan and no interim milestones to be met. We can go where we want, when we want and there is no need for change control. In conversation with other travellers over the past few days we’d learned of a few other interesting places to visit and this morning headed of to Gisenyi on Lake Kivu which forms the border between DRC and Rwanda. The sound of an old colonial (German) town on the shores of a clear lake with sandy beaches was enough to attract our attention.

Gesenyi used to be a German (military) settlement and the architecture of the stately homes along the lake shore did not seem out of place in this mountainous and wooded region - just like you’d see in the Black Forest of Germany. The roads of the town and it’s grid layout are very European - dual carriage boulevards lined with trees, beautifully manicured lawns and gardens leading down to the shore. The town and buildings have definitely seen better days and the range of “adequate” accommodation is limited but there are signs of regeneration and re-development everywhere. Some hotels, like Palm Beach Hotel, need to buck up their act as new establishments raise the bar, offering way better accommodation at almost the same price. Southern Sun (a South African group) has opened a hotel on the lake shore (Kivu Sun) but at $124 for the room we steered clear.

We chose the StippHotel set in an old colonial gem with patios and lawns and a great poolside bar. The resident pair of crowned cranes that strut around the garden are an added attraction - they constantly watch the sky as kites and brown eagles soar and hunt overhead. At half the price of the Sun it is an extremely good deal - we have chosen to unwind here for 2 days before moving on to camping in the Nyungwe National Park down south.

The drive from the Volcanoes N.P. to Gisenyi went really quickly - but not quick enough when you need a piddle badly. This country is so populated that stopping on the side of the road is nearly impossible. Once when we did find a spot, it took all of 15 seconds before school kids were running towards us from all directions. Along the way this morning we only found 1 spot on a high mountain pass to stop - by this time our eyes were swimming!

In Gesenyi, we took a walk along the lake shore at lunch time and were pleasantly surprised at the lack of hassle we faced - instead we were greeted with “bonjour” as we passed. We were of course an attraction in our own right - being a Mzungu (white person) taking a stroll down the boulevard to the beach - it took us a while to relax and get into the swing of things.  We found a beach bar on the private strip of the Palm Beach Hotel and sat watching the world go by. The security guards on both the private and public beach maintained law and order with clear authority. It struck us that this is a well ordered and fairly strict society that is, in general, law abiding. Despite the fact that it was Saturday afternoon there was a large community workforce out maintaining roads, verges, gardens and the beach. Not a scrap of paper, no plastic bags, just a neat seaside village - in fact we saw the security guard (on the public beach) give a group of youngsters a paddle on the bum for dropping chip (crisp) packets in a gutter.

Making the best of our accommodation we spent the rest of our time relaxing by the pool, updating the diary and doing research on Rwanda and Uganda.  It’s a tough life.

16th to 18th October - Monday to Wednesday (The land of a million hills)

Our destination on Monday morning was the Nyungwe N.P., being some 400km away we were keen to get an early start but that was foiled somewhat by the fact that the head receptionist at the StippHotel had a half day off and had taken the credit card machine home with him.  This meant that Nick had to go to the bank to draw money and in Africa that always takes time.  I'll let him explain ...

 "Having had such good service at the Bancor Bank in Kigali, I decided to try their branch in Gisenyi.  The building was an old colonial house and had no counters and tellers as such - just the rooms of the house.  The male receptionist immediately showed me into the managers office upon hearing my request (to draw money on an international credit card).  Having exchanging all the traditional greetings - How are you; How is the family; What other news do you have; Where have you travelled from; Where are you heading next; Have you enjoyed your visit to Rwanda etc - he took my card and gave it back to the receptionist to process.  After signing 3 forms and making copies of my passport I was told to wait.  40 minutes later - having browsed through all the old newspapers made available to clients - I was told to see the cashier in the back office (room). Another 3 forms were signed before she produced a huge key and un-locked a steel army trunk on the floor next to her desk - it was filled with bundles of Rwandan Francs and US Dollars. So after 45 minutes I was RWF200,000 richer and made my way back to a very worried Cindy who'd been left at the hotel as collateral."

We settled the bill and finally set off on our 400km journey at 10:30am - at 60km/h it was going to take us about 6.5 hours.  There are 2 routes to Nyungwe N.P. from Gisenyi.  The first headed back to the Volcanoes Park, through Kigali and south to Butare before turning west towards Nyungwe.  The second was a more direct road to Butare via Lake Korago and Gitarama then onto Butare etc.  Once again we had different maps showing different road conditions - our old map showed that a large section between Lake Korago and Gitarama was dirt, the newer map from the Tourist Office showed tar all the way - but I guess we should have listened to the hotel receptionist - "the Gitarama road is very bad" - being a local he should know.  Anyway, not wanting to travel on roads upon which we'd already passed, we decided on the 2nd option.  The tar section lasted quite a while but remnants of mud-slides across the road and complete wash-aways should have been an indication of what lay ahead.  The scenery was amazing and we snapped off tons of pictures - most of which will be a totally inadequate representation of this beautiful country.  Quite soon after Lake Korago the tar ended and the road progressively deteriorated over the next 60km till finally we were crawling up the mountains on a single track sometimes having to cross gullies and wash-aways on poles that had been set into the road to bridge the gaps.  In this mountainous country, with regular evidence of mud slides across the road, it is a little nerve-wracking to have only 40cm between your outside wheel and a drop-off of up to 700m.  Nick's sense of humour failed (#23) while Cindy gazed at the scenery - it was her idea to come this way!.

We stuck it out (turning around was not an option) and finally the tar greeted us a little before Gitarama.  Lesson #14 - Listen to local knowledge - when they say the road is bad then it is very, very bad.

It had been another long days driving when we finally entered the park boundary at about 4pm - we still had another 35km to go to the reception and the Uwinka Campsite.  The dense tropical forest seems quite impenetrable and makes you wonder what Rwanda really looked like before it became so populated and cultivated.  We snapped off another ton of photos - it is a truly magnificent sight.  The reason for our visit here was to see the forest reserve and to track chimpanzees and we weren't disappointed.  Fairly close to the reception we came across 3 chimps crossing the road - they were skittish and shy and made a beeline for the dense foliage, peering oat us over leaves and between tree ferns.

Once again ORTPN lived up to their reputation - we were warmly welcomed by enthusiastic and friendly staff who showed us the available campsites.  There are 5 sites, all with their own shower and toilet facilities which are spotlessly clean , all tiled in white - Oh TANAPA (Tanzania Parks Board) you have so much to learn!.  The campsite settings have been carefully chosen to make the best of the outstanding scenery and some have bomas and cooking areas under cover - this is after all a rain forest. 

We were limited in our selection by way of the fact that we needed car access (roof-top-tents have their drawbacks sometimes), nevertheless we had a lovely, level, grassy site under a large tree - the proximity of the loo and shower made it feel like we had an en-suite. 

The staff quickly built us a fire and provided hot water for a wash (the showers only have cold water at present).

Elsiphan became our guide for the duration of our stay which originally was going to be for 2 nights but was extended to 3 because we loved the location so much.  He is a young Tutsi who escaped the genocide by fleeing with his brother and sisters into the forest, surviving on as little as one potato each a day for the three weeks that they were in hiding.  Like most Rwandans though he is hungry for knowledge and education and is currently trying to scrape together enough funds to complete his final year of a Social Worker degree at the University of Uganda - on a salary of $100 per month plus some tips from the few tourists that visit the Nyungwe Park it will take him a few years.  In the meantime he serves as a guide and studies botany and biology of the plants and animals of the area.  Despite his hardships he has a lovely personality, is very positive about the development of Rwandan tourism, loves his work as a guide and always has a smile on his face.

After Elsiphan had explained the available activities in the park, we decided to do the relatively moderate "Pink Nature Trail" on Tuesday and the very strenuous Chimp Tracking on Wednesday.  The 3.5 hour Pink Trail was wonderful - we stopped at a waterfall to catch our breath, gazed at Silver, Grey Cheeked Mangabey and l'Hoest's monkeys all of which were rather illusive, cavorting and feeding high in the towering trees.  The size and number of great mahogany trees was awesome, some reaching 70m high.  Tree-ferns stood 12-15 feet high and for the first time in our lives we stopped to stare at a tree canopy that closed out the light some 40-50 meters above our heads - the leaves and branches forming neatly fitting jigsaw puzzles of filtered sunshine.  The walk was strenuous but ORTPN have set out benches at scenic locations and Elsiphan stopped often to explain about plants and animals, so we were never at collapsing point despite the fact that we were either walking down steep hills or climbing log stairs up the other side - research markers indicated an altitude change of around 450m (what a climb) .

          

The rain seems to come through every afternoon and evening but passes quickly - our tent was bone dry and for the first time yesterday (Tues) we unfurled the side awning on the car for shelter.

Sitting relaxing after our walk a fairly large group of l'Hoest's monkeys wandered through the campsite. They do not seem to be bothered by the presence of humans - in fact they are quite bold and Nick was able to get a couple of good photos of the large male.

The highlight of our stay here has been the chimp trekking - and boy is it hard work compared to the gorillas. These chimps haven't been habituated and are a little shy and cautious. We had a 5am start this morning (for those of you who know Cindy you'll understand what a major feat that was) and headed out on a 4km hike to meet the trackers who told us to backtrack for 2km before descending into the forest. We were lucky actually - the trackers had started tracking at 5am and had split into 2 groups so as to locate the chimps quicker - we found them at about 7:15am and were able to get fairly close. By 8:00am they started moving through the forest rather quickly as they feed.

It is very special seeing these wonderful animals free in their natural environment moving with such ease through the canopy and on the ground, so much better than surrounded by man made swings, logs, tyres and exercise frames. We tracked them through virgin forest, through tangled vines, deep leaf fall and in amongst the majestic trees of this forest. With no paths to follow it was hard going and come 9:15am, after clambering down and climbing up for a vertical difference of almost 1ooo meters, we were exhausted and we still had to trek out of this dense bush and make the 4km hike back to the camp.  We could have stayed all day with the researchers and trackers if we'd so wished but we were slowing them down and we were knackered. At 3000m above sea level breathing seems a lot harder...

We were so impressed with the way funding (fees) are being used here, aside from ourselves, Elsiphan and 2 experienced trackers we had 3 researchers and 2 forestry conservation guys with us.  All of them were enthusiastic about their environment and wise to the fact that tourism is a source of revenue and funding for their work. These guy's were armed with GPS' (pinpointing location and movement), they knew the individual chimps and logged their food intake and they pointed out the females in heat and explained the 4 year breeding cycle. Once again we found that the wildlife was being protected, studied and valued.  Tourism has moved from being the 4th to the 2nd source of revenue for Rwanda and the guy's we tracked with were keen for us to spread the word about Nyungwe N.P. and Rwanda as a whole and wished that we would return with more friends and other visitors - "We want you to be ambassadors for our country" was a frequently expressed sentiment.  It is hard not to be affected by their enthusiasm and genuine interest in their environment.

We have enjoyed every moment of our stay here in Nyungwe - it is one of those idyllic mountain retreats that us city folk often dream about.

Our personal opinion

At this halfway point of our trip, having become slightly disillusioned by badly managed, tourist rip-off destinations in Africa, we have found Rwanda to be the most rewarding country from a tourism perspective.  There is a positive leadership structure and a vision that filters down to all walks of life.  They have learned through their past strife what they do not wish to ever re-live and are making great strides to becoming one of the most stable and secure nations in the third world.  Rwandans value the revenue generated through tourism and therefore protect travellers, making them feel welcome and safe during their stay. This little country has everything - warm and welcoming people, the most stunning scenery and well managed national parks offering typical savannah wildlife in Akagera N.P  to the forest reserves of Nyungwe and the Virungas with chimps and gorillas. We can highly recommend Rwanda as a destination - one that deserves the tourism revenue you would bring.

19th October - Thursday (Conferences and Red Lights)

Today we headed off to Kigali to do some banking and to stock-up on provisions before making our way to Uganda. As usual the scenery was outstanding and as before we had the challenge of finding a quiet and secluded spot on the side of the road.

Having picked up a local newspaper in the morning we were concerned by the fact that there were three conferences in Kigali and assumed that most of the hotels would be full. Fortunately they had a room at the Novotel despite hosting one of the conferences. Shopping and banking done, we headed back to the hotel to update the website and make good use of our luxurious en-suite bathroom. There was a problem with their LAN connection so, trying for almost 2 hours to upload the site, we decided to leave it till tomorrow.

Well, our eye's were opened to "Local Business" as we sat on the veranda having dinner. Aside from all the conference delegates, to our amazement there were no less than three tables of prostitutes openly vying for the attention of the males. Their actions and intent were blatantly obvious and over the course of dinner a few found targets - what and eye opener and what outfits and hairstyles - Amsterdam has a contender for it's title.

On to Uganda

 

 


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