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.
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.
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
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
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”.
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)
it’s Cindy, I’m back with the pen in hand.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 ...
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."
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!.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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) .
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
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
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.
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...
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
have enjoyed every moment of our stay here in Nyungwe - it is
one of those idyllic mountain retreats that us city folk often
Our personal opinion
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
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.
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.
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
On to Uganda