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15 travelers at this place:

  • Day102

    Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

    August 15, 2017 in Rwanda

    A very short drive took us to the area famous for gorilla trekking.
    We’d arranged to camp at a lodge near park headquarters, but arrived to learn they couldn’t accommodate ‘roof-top’ campers apart from in the parking lot. So, unhappily, we camped in the muddy car park while it rained heavily for hours (it was too late to go elsewhere). The good news is our tent stayed dry and the folks at the lodge were very, very nice and even provided us with hot water bottles to take to our tent. Comically, adding insult to injury, the village next door started choir practice over a loudspeaker at 5am the next morning.
    We couldn’t get out fast enough to find a room in town. Plus, our fuel tank had once again sprung a significant leak, so we had to get it repaired.
    We’ve been overwhelmed by how helpful people have been on our travels in Africa. It happened here when the hotel we found in town not only recommended where to go for repairs, but insisted one of the staff accompany us to act as translator and negotiator in case we could not explain what we needed or were being overcharged. Incredibly efficient mechanics finished the job in 2 hours and made us wonder why it had taken the Lusaka mechanics nearly 2 days to do the same repair?
    While in town waiting for our gorilla trek, we spent some time walking through local markets, John got a haircut (Alister was onto something), and we bought some rain boots for our trek. We also had a funny “only in Africa” experience. We asked a waiter at the café where we had eaten lunch where we could buy cheese (generally only processed cheese slices are available). He immediately grabbed a worker at the cafe and asked him to go get us some cheese. We gave him some money (~$5) and a few minutes later he returned, not with processed cheese, but with a whole wheel of local Gouda, made by some priests in a nearby village. I’m sure we looked ridiculously surprised, because we were…and delighted!
    August 18th was a date circled in our calendar for a long time since this was the day we had permits to visit the mountain gorillas, the highlight of our time here. This is something we’d been anticipating and planning for years. It’s the thing we were both most looking forward to experiencing in Africa. Anxiety was high, and we did not get much sleep the night before.
    Each group of 7-8 trekkers is assigned to a ranger and gorilla family before leaving the park headquarters at about 8am. We were lucky to be assigned to Umubano, a gorilla family of 13 members including 3 silverbacks and several young gorillas. We hiked a few hours, first through local farms to the edge of the park, where we were instantly in the densest rain forest/jungle we have ever seen. We were met at the park boundary by an armed tracker, one of many who are there to protect us from other wildlife, the gorillas from poachers, but also guide us to where the gorillas were last seen. A short hike through the dense bamboo, and vegetation (including crazy stinging nettles) brought us to a couple more trackers, and we realized this was a sign we were very close. We were given instructions on how to behave when we approached the gorillas and signs and actions to take if they became uncomfortable with us being there (this included bowing down, making grunting noises, and avoiding direct eye contact). We crawled through some more dense bushes and there was our first gorilla, calmly eating some tree roots! At first, we were afraid it would be very difficult to see the gorillas because of how steep and thickly vegetated the hillside was. However, after a few minutes they moved down the hill a more open area where we enjoyed watching them eat and interact for an hour. Several even came close enough to brush by and playfully hit us (Christy got lightly kicked by a juvenile once, while John was slapped and kicked a few times by a few different gorillas). It was a very humbling and unforgettable experience being so close to these majestic creatures. It was the fastest hour we’ve ever experienced, but everything we hoped it would be. What an amazing day!
    We were also very happy to learn that the Mountain Gorilla population has grown to nearly 1,000 in the wild today, up from ~260 in the 1980’s.

    We had been talking about how John’s brother, Gerard, who visited the gorillas back in 1989 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) had inspired our strong desire to see them in the wild. Gerard was a pioneer “overlander” as he joined a group of travelers who spent 7 months driving a truck from London through North and West Africa and then across to East Africa down to Victoria Falls. He visited many countries that would not be advisable to travel through today. This was before this sort of thing was done. And done with no infrastructure (disappearing roads, no organized campsites etc), support or modern equipment such as GPS, cell phones, Sat phones, internet. An amazing and inspiring adventure that would have been so much more challenging than anything we’ve come across. When we get back to NZ, we will need to sit down with him and go through all his photos and maps.
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  • Day3

    Musanza - on the bikes again

    July 11, 2017 in Rwanda

    Eight of the group headed out of town for a six hour bike ride. Most were old mountain bikes from the mid 1990's but they did as required. After lots of 'good mornings' and high fives with the children we rode on dirt tracks to two different lakes with islands and beautiful outlooks. It appears that few tourists head through here as we were objects of interest when stopped or riding through villages. After a drink in a little cafe, a few bike stunts from James raised some cheers to keep the crowd happy. After crossing over the lake in a boat with the bikes, a short climb led to a stunning descent with cultivated fields and woodlands. The lung busting final ascent on the road bought us back into town for a well deserved cheese toasty with chips!Read more

  • Day105


    August 18, 2017 in Rwanda

    A short, very scenic drive took us back to Kigali. However, poor timing meant we hit INSANE traffic and endless road closures as President Kagame’s inauguration ceremony was just wrapping up in the nearby stadium. It was also Friday rush-hour, and raining. It took us nearly 2 hours to find our way to the Airbnb we’d booked.
    We were very suspicious of Rwanda’s president, who has been described by some as a benevolent dictator and who won his 3rd term with ~98% of the vote. However, he is absolutely LOVED and REVERED by every Rwandan we’ve met. He’s credited with ending the genocide, unifying and re-building the country. It’s hard to argue with his results. The reality is that Rwanda has incredible infrastructure in terms of roads, quality of housing in the villages, and free education and good healthcare. This is a place where you feel corruption is not a big issue and that international aid is actually getting to the people.
    We decided to spend a few days in Kigali relaxing, exploring the city and visiting the excellent Genocide Memorial that explained in painful detail how the 100 days of killing unfolded.
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  • Day8


    July 16, 2017 in Rwanda

    A long drive day passing through the capital, Kigali, and stopping off at the Kigali Memorial Centre. It honours 250,000 people who were buried here in mass graves after the genocide in 1994. In the 100 days, a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were butchered by the Interahamwe and army (basically Hutus killing their good friends, neighbours and family members). It seems so wrong that this could be allowed to happen in our recent history, when people had warned it was going to happen. A country that was let down by many European countries and largely the UN.
    Today was our final full day in Rwanda, a country of many surprises. The landscape was the biggest surprise- very hilly, National Parks of forest and volcanoes. Every spare patch of land was farmed, irrigation and terracing covering the hills. Since their new constitution, plastic has been banned, making a big difference to the lack of rubbish. The country has alot of pride, people paid to keep drains clear, trees trimmed... People's drinking water is mainly collected in yellow buckets from the rivers in rural areas and water stand pipes in towns then carried back home. Bikes have more purpose than just riding to get somewhere, they are used to haul water, produce or as a taxi with the passenger sitting on the rack.
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  • Day100

    Nyungwe Forest National Park

    August 13, 2017 in Rwanda

    Traveled through stunningly beautiful countryside ranging from tea estates, to rice paddies to rainforest. When we arrived at the park in the early afternoon, we joined a canopy walk that went into the forest and visited a very high and long canopy walk that had been built by the Canadians in 2010. Being afraid of heights, Christy was quite proud to have made it across – albeit very tentatively. Unfortunately we didn’t see any monkeys on the walk as it was packed full of teenage Rwandans who were so excited and busy taking selfies that it would have scared away any critters. Still, nice to see young locals enjoying their amazing parks. Fortunately we camped in the park and were able to see a few different kinds of monkeys in the morning – the forest monkey and blue monkey. Unfortunately we didn’t get any good photos – just a few from the iphone.Read more

  • Day10

    Nyamata Church

    June 18, 2017 in Rwanda

    The Rwanda Genocide began in April 1994. Many Tutsi people gathered here as churches were considered a place of safety. 10,000 people gathered here and the people locked themselves in. The church walls and doors today show how the perpetrators made holes in the walls of the church so that grenades could be thrown into the church. After this the people inside were shot or killed with machetes. The ceiling of the church shows the bullet holes and the altar cloth is still stained with blood. There were hundreds of coffins inside which have the remains of people inside, there were benches piled with clothing, letters and identification cards.

    Most of the remains have been buried but there are still a large quantity that are being cleaned by volunteers and buried. We were able to see the volunteers out the back cleaning the bones of both adults, children and infants, it just gave me a sick feeling to my stomach.

    People in the surrounding area were also killed after the massacre at the church, once killed they were ordered to be removed from the street and put into the church where they couldn't been seen. It is difficult to comprehend that 50,000 are buried here.
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  • Day10

    Kigali Genocide Memorial

    June 18, 2017 in Rwanda

    I don't think I fully understood the concept or extent of what had happened during the Kigali Genocide even after going to the memorial and being given all the information I am unable to fully comprehend. I have so many unanswered questions and I left the memorial centre feeling numb and lost for words.

    The Rwandan genocide, also known as the genocide against the Tutsi, was a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority government. An estimated 500,000–1,000,000 Rwandans were killed during the 100-day period from April 7 to mid-July 1994, constituting as many as 70% of the Tutsi population.

    The genocide itself, the large scale killing of Tutsi on the grounds of ethnicity, began within a few hours of Habyarimana's death. Military leaders in Gisenyi province announced the president's death, blaming the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and then ordered the crowd to "begin your work" and to "spare no one", including babies.

    The Hutu population, which had been prepared and armed during the preceding months and maintained the Rwandan tradition of obedience to authority, carried out the orders without question.

    It is estimated that during the first six weeks, up to 800,000 Rwandans may have been murdered, representing a rate five times higher than during the Holocaust of Nazi Germany.

    Most of the victims were killed in their own villages or in towns, often by their neighbors and fellow villagers. The militia typically murdered victims with machetes, although some army units used rifles. The Hutu gangs searched out victims hiding in churches and school buildings, and massacred them. Local officials and government-sponsored radio incited ordinary citizens to kill their neighbors, and those who refused to kill were often murdered on the spot. "Either you took part in the massacres or you were massacred yourself."

    Road blocks were set up and people were obligated to present their identification card, if they were Tutsi they were slaughtered.

    The genocidal authorities were displaying the French flag on their own vehicles but slaughtering Tutsi who came out of hiding seeking protection.

    Rape was used as a weapon, during the conflict, Hutu extremists released hundreds of patients suffering from AIDS from hospitals and formed them into "rape squads." The intent was to infect and cause a "slow, inexorable death" for their future Tutsi rape victims. Tutsi women were also targeted with the intent of destroying their reproductive capabilities. Sexual mutilation sometimes occurred after the rape and included mutilation of the vagina with machetes, knives, sharpened sticks, boiling water, and acid.

    The genocide and widespread slaughter of Rwandans ended when the Tutsi-backed and heavily armed RPF led by Paul Kagame took control of the country. An estimated 2,000,000 Rwandans, mostly Hutus, were displaced and became refugees.

    The systematic destruction of the judicial system during the genocide and civil war was a major problem. After the genocide, over one million people were potentially culpable for a role in the genocide, nearly one fifth of the population remaining after the summer of 1994. After the genocide, the RPF pursued a policy of mass arrests for the genocide, jailing over 100,000 in the two years after the genocide. The pace of arrests overwhelmed the physical capacity of the Rwandan prison system, leading to what Amnesty International deemed “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.” The country’s nineteen prisons were designed to hold about eighteen thousand inmates, but at their peak in 1998 there were 100,000 people in detention facilities across the country.
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  • Day3

    Doha to Heaven,via Entebbe

    July 2, 2017 in Rwanda

    Wake up time was 4.20am for a 5am departure to the airport. The roads are busy already and the overnight construction is still going on - most construction during summer happens at night because of the heat.

    Our flight to Kigali was via Entebbe, Uganda, where we stayed on the plane for an hour while they cleaned around us. The jump from Entebbe to Kigali was the shortest international flight we've been on, 30 minutes. Fortunately for the hosties there were only about 50 people on the flight so they had time to rush some food around before we landed.

    On arrival in Kigali we were met at the plane door by a very welcoming airport staff member who checked our boarding passes (yes, on the way off the plane!), then escorted us across the tarmac to the terminal. First queue was to pay the the entry visa, which we were told had to be paid in cash, US dollars only, but they now also accept credit cards, which slowed things down a bit. Passport control was also high tech, with electronic finger printing done, in addition to taking our photo.

    We were met outside by our drivers for the next 2 weeks, and had a 20 minute drive to our hotel (some road line-marking slowed the traffic to a crawl at one stage while they were hand painting one lane of the zebra crossings)

    Rwanda is known as "the land of 1000 hills", and is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, with a population of 12 million people in a country one tenth the size of Victoria. The capital Kigali is built around several ridges and valleys, so the distance as the crow flies is not large, but navigating the hills takes some time - and plenty of hill starts! Armed Police or army personnel man most of the major intersections throughout the city 24 hours a day, as a general deterrent, and Kigali is widely regarded as the safest capital city in Africa.

    Dinner tonight was at a rooftop restaurant with a spectacular view over Kigali. Goat cutlets and a Mutzig (local) beer for me, poached line fish and a Tusker (Kenyan) beer for Oliver.

    Stayed: Heaven Boutique Hotel
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  • Day5

    Another public holiday, this time to commemorate the end of the 100 day genocide, but we're unlikely to see any ceremonies out here. We have another early start, 5.30am breakfast and on the road at 6am for a full day game drive. Our destination is Karenge Bush Camp, 110 kilometres away at the northern tip of the park.

    We started spotting wildlife almost straight away with some baboons and zebra in the first 15 minutes, then an avalanche of different creatures - giraffe, waterbuck, vervet monkeys, elephant, topi, crocodile, eland, impala and hippos - and all before lunch!

    Lunch was at the aptly named hippo beach, where more than a dozen hippos lounged around in the mud shallows.

    After lunch our good spotting fortune continued, with sightings of buffalo, a pride of lions, and warthog (and plenty more zebra, antelopes and giraffe). We also saw birds too numerous to mention (Hammerkop were the highlight). About the only animals that live in the park that we didn't see were rhino, leopard and ardvark, the latter being the subject of a running joke that we'll see them next (which was never going to happen as they are nocturnal!)

    The final drive to the campsite was through a heavily forested area where we were inundated with tsete flies in the vehicle (the roof and all the windows were open). If being bitten by a tsete fly is on anyone's bucket list, I can tell you it's not very pleasant!! Thankfully they don't carry sleeping sickness any more, just a very annoying sting (similar to a mosquito, but a sharper pain)

    The bush camp is seasonal and is constructed for 2-3 months each year in the dry season. No concrete is used and all structures are fully dismantled at the end of the season, but they still manage to operate a bar, open air dining room on the deck overlooking the valley, and an outdoor shower and toilet for each tent. Hot water for the shower is bucketed into a drum sitting above a wooden palette, and the shower has a bamboo screen on 3 sides - so you have a great view over the valley as you rinse off the day's dust!

    Dinner was West African chicken curry cooked over an open fire, followed by banana pancakes.

    Stayed: Karenge Bush Camp, Akagera National Park
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  • Day7

    It's all about the cache!

    July 6, 2017 in Rwanda

    We had a later start today for the trip to Nyungwe Forest, with breakfast scheduled for 7.30am... but I've had my eye on a nearby cache, so this morning was our opportunity to attempt it. It is only 500m from our hotel, as the crow flies, but considerably longer following roads, so I discussed the best route with our tour leader, Aloys. He thought it was too far to walk and suggested taking a moto taxi, but Oliver wasn't keen on sitting on the back of a motorbike in Kigali's traffic!

    He offered to go as a detour on the way out of town, but I didn't want to delay the whole group, so he offered to meet us at 7am and take us alone, then come back for the group after breakfast. So we met him at 7am and drove to the cache site, at the entrance of a hotel. Amazingly, the road off the main road was rougher than any we encountered in Akagera! The streets were teeming with children on the way to school (7.30am start) and the hotel staff were interested to see what we were doing. They knew there was an "item" in the area, and that previous finders had looked on the gates, but didn't know exactly where it was. After a few minutes searching, we had it in hand, much to the delight of the hotel chef, gardener and security guards!

    We got back to the hotel in time to squeeze in some breakfast, and still made the 8.30am departure time with ease.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Rwanda, Ruanda, Rwanda, ሩዋንዳ, رواندا, Rvanda, Руанда, Ruwanda, রুয়ান্ডা, རུ་ཝན་ཌ།, Rwanda nutome, Ρουάντα, Ruando, روواندا, Ruwanndaa, Rouanda, Ruanda - Rwanda, રવાંડા, רואנדה, रवांडा, Ռուանդա, Rúanda, ルワンダ, რუანდა, រវ៉ាន់ដា, ರುವಾಂಡಾ, 르완다, ڕواندا, ລາວັນດາ, Roanda, റുവാണ്ട, ရဝန်ဒါ, रवाण्डा, ରାୱାଣ୍ଡା, روندا, u Rwanda, Ruandäa, ருவான்டா, ర్వాండా, ประเทศรวันดา, Luanitā, رۋاندا, روانڈا, Ru-an-đa, Ruandän, Orílẹ́ède Ruwanda, 卢旺达, i-Rwanda

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