Northern Province

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Top 10 Travel Destinations Northern Province

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20 travelers at this place

  • Day101

    Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

    August 15, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    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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  • Day12

    Driving via Lake Kivu

    July 11, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 7 °C

    After 5 nights in the south west, today we head north along Lake Kivu toward Volcanoes National Park.

    A full day driving - we left Kamembe at 8.30am, morning tea at Kibuye at 12.30pm (half way up the lake), lunch at Gisenye at 3.30pm (top of the lake), arrived Volcanoes National Park 7pm.

    The quality of the main roads in Rwanda is as good as any in Australia (but with a lot more pedestrians and bicycles, and constantly hilly and windy), and construction is still ongoing at a furious pace. Despite the long hours, it was a great drive with diverse scenery. The scenery was ever changing, so much so that we dared not take our eyes off the road for fear of missing another spectacular mountain or lake view, a bustling village, or a load of vegetables or building materials being balanced on someone's head or bicycle! And I think they underestimated the number of hills in Rwanda at 1000!

    Dinner in the lodge restaurant (buffet), before bed at 11.30pm.
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  • Day4

    Day 1 - Kigali to Musanze (Team Rwanda H

    May 26, 2018 in Rwanda ⋅ 🌧 4 °C

    First day of cycling and what a day! The roads are amazing and it is so clean. Today between 7am and 11am they have 'umaganda' where communities clean up - it's the last Saturday of the month. No traffic is all on the road so we have a clear run through normally busy Kigali.
    It's then the hills start and they are big and long - take a look on Strava!
    But it is beautiful- amazing. Really the photos do no justice. 64 miles 6800 ft climbing. Bike taxis racing us up hills (and often winning), shouts of Muzungo. Kiki - a team Rwanda cyclist is our mechanic and everyone knows him - he is an excellent mechanic - mended my clicky gears!
    Great company- great chats.
    Tonight Bosco - who drives one of the support vehicles told his story, about when he was young in the genocide in Burundi. Take a look at it is well worth the look.

    then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth Isaiah 58:14
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  • Day14

    Gorillas in the clear

    July 13, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ 🌙 23 °C

    Mountain Gorilla Day!
    Up at the regular 5.45am for a 6.30am departure for the Ranger's station. Not as many people here today - the gorilla treks are always booked out (96 people per day), so there must be less on the monkey treks - so it didn't take long to get our allocated group. There are 12 habituated groups of gorillas, and only one group if trekkers visits each one, and we have been allocated the Umabano group, which is a family group of 15.

    The treks are designated as easy (up to 1 hour), medium (1-2 hours) or difficult (over 2 hours), but it's all dependent on where the gorillas move. Ours is usually a medium trek, and we've been fortunate to be allocated Francois as our guide - he's been working with gorillas for 36 years and was one of Diane Fossey''s guides, so he's fluent in gorilla and is a legend among the guides.

    It was a 45 minute drive to the start of the track, so we set off walking at 8.45am. The mountain gorillas roam all over the mountain, so we headed up and up, with the guides in radio contact with trackers who had gone up earlier to locate the group. It was a grueling walk, constantly uphill for almost 2 hours, with a number of stops to catch our breath. The altitude adds to the difficulty of the walk, and word came down that the family had been located at 2900m (as comparison, Mount Kosciuszko is 2,200m above sea level).

    About 100m from the group, the head tracker met us and we left our bags and porters and headed up with Francois. The first gorilla we spotted was the number 3 silverback of the group (unlike chimpanzees, gorillas have multiple silverbacks in a family group), who was pkaying with a younger male. We watched them for a while at close quarters, then went further uphill and saw both the head silverback and number 2. As we were moving uphill, a young male crossed the path between us and brushed against Oliver's leg with his hand!

    We spent over an hour observing the family playing, grooming and sleeping, then made our way down. The return journey was considerably quicker at 45 minutes.

    We returned to our lodge for late lunch, then went for a drive to the twin lakes, Burera and Ruhondo, and a sundowner at Virunga Lodge (the first lodge built after the genocide, to cater for gorilla tourism...but at $1600 a night, we won't be staying there anytime soon!)

    Returned for buffet tea and viewing of a gorilla DVD around the open fire before bed.
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  • Day15

    Cultural Village

    July 14, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    After yesterday's trek we were grateful for a leisurely 9.30am breakfast (porridge, omelette and ginger tea), and 10.30am departure.

    The Iby'Iwacu Cultural Village is a tourist orientated display which employs residents of a former poaching village to display Rwandan heritage, lifestyle, food culture and dance. Each display is accompanied by a demonstration and commentary, and we were invited to participate in the dancing and wedding ceremonies,

    It was only a short distance from the lodge, so we were back for lunch at 1.30pm.

    We had a free afternoon to pack, wash, read etc, then an information session from Carla, before tea in the restaurant and bed.

    Being in the mountains, it's a bit cooler at night, so you have the choice of the staff lighting the fire in your room (each room has an open fire place), or a hot water bottle in your bed. Tonight we chose both!
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  • Day13

    Golden Monkey trekking

    July 12, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Another 6.30am departure and drive to the ranger station for registration. This is where the gorilla and monkey treks leave from, so there was a car park full of 4WDs and around 200 people there. This is the cash cow of Rwandan tourism and the government recently doubled the price of the gorilla permits overnight, from $750 to $1500... and there's talk they will double it again to $3000 to reduce demand whilst maintaining income. Hopefully they won't kill the goose that laid the golden egg...

    We're doing the Golden Monkey trek today, an easy 45 minute walk, firstly through the potato plantations, then into a bamboo forest. There are 120 monkeys in the family, and it didn't take long to spot them. Golden Monkeys are endangered and only found in the volcanic mountains in this area. They live in the mid region of the forest away from their two main predators - eagles at the top of the trees and wild dogs on the ground. They feed quickly and store the food in cheek pouches for later digestion, so look very cute with their chubby cheeks!

    We returned to the lodge for lunch, then headed into Musanze for some shopping at the local market. At 4pm we visited the Dianne Fossey Gorilla Fund Museum for a guided tour, and paid an impromptu visit into Team Rwanda cycling team headquarters on the way back. We spotted their sign on the way into Musanze, but the gate was closed when we got back - it didn't stop Aloys who soon had us inside, and got a tour of their facility! Unfortunately they didn't have any merchandise to sell 😕

    When we arrived back at the lodge there was a local dance troupe waiting to perform for us. It was an energetic performance, including some crowd participation (not only can we not jump, turns out we can't dance either!)

    Dinner was a buffet in the lodge restaurant, early bed at 9.30pm
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  • Day39

    Travle error

    March 10 in Rwanda ⋅ 🌧 24 °C

    Nach kurzem Zwischenstopp in Ruanda aufgrund Visa Problemen 😀 Flug nach Brüssel buchen müssen .. nun wieder auf der Asien Route Richtung Malaysia 🇲🇾 mal sehen was passiert

  • Day46

    It had to happen once...

    February 16, 2016 in Rwanda ⋅ ☀️ -3 °C

    Gisenyi was perfect for relaxation. We had an amazing diner at a new Californian restaurant where we actually had baguette with pineapple chutney, and actual goat cheese, and caramelized onions... So good...

    We left early to get to Musanze so we could organize some tours we wanted to do. And then it happened. We were on the minibus about 20 minutes outside of town and Jack realized she couldn't find her phone. Last seen, in her bed last night. So we get off the minibus, pay, then cross the street and wait for another minibus. Thankfully they never take very long. Get to our "centre d'accueil", remember - this is a church, so I'm feeling good about our chances - and sure enough, phone still on the bed. Second take, off we go to Musanze!

    Again, pretty easy. Get off the bus at the bus station, follow lonely planet map to Amahoro Tours, only to find where it should be it wasn't. Then someone who clearly sees we're somewhat confused signals us to follow her, through a little alley, in a back alley, and into a courtyard and we're there! Turns out, we were at the right place but we never assumed there would be no signage at the street or any indication... Here, we reserve our camping tent, our village cultural tour and our banana beer making course. Done deal. The Red Rocks accommodation from where all this is based is outside of town, so they supply the transfer over after giving us time to explore the town for a few hours. Too easy.

    Once at Red Rocks, they decided to give us a room for the price of a tent, they say it's because they like us. We'll take it! This is turning out to be quite the useful last town in Rwanda. Harriet, the manager or something, is also planning to go to Uganda, but she says she's going tomorrow (17th) instead of the 18th because she believes the border will be closed the 18th. Even better - we get a ride! She's originally from Rwanda, her family moved to Uganda after the first genocide (1964ish), then in her childhood they moved to New York and eventually California. Anywho, she's organized our "cultural" tour to be in the morning, we get back, have lunch, do banana beer and off we go all together to the Ugandan border where she says we can then stay with her family for the night. How absolutely perfect!

    This hostel has a very easy vibe, relaxed, 3 other travellers. Breakfast included, communal meals, too easy. We're hoping to get to know some of the local culture tomorrow since it's our last chance in Rwanda and we feel we haven't seen much of it... Let's hope for tomorrow!
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  • Day50

    Twin Lakes

    November 4, 2019 in Rwanda ⋅ 🌙 14 °C

    Today, we picked up a car for our Rwandan Road Trip. First impressions are that the roads are amazing. We've been used to driving in Uganda, where good paved roads are few and far between, and traffic police lurk around every corner. Here, though, the roads are immaculate, the speed limit low, the drivers patient and polite, and the views are incredible.

    The road network winds its way up, around, and across the many hills that litter Rwanda. They call this the land of 1000 hills, and climbing to the top of each one, you're rewarded with panoramic views in every direction. It's a beautiful country.

    We're heading north, to Lake Ruhondo, one of two "twin lakes". Its sister lake, Burera, sits high above Ruhondo, separated by a steep hill which is only a couple hundred metres long. This geological formation means that there's a big hydroelectric dam on the shores of Ruhondo (the lower lake). It's that power station that is our destination. From there, we're picked up by boat and ferried to our accommodation, which sits on the end of a peninsula jutting out into the lake.

    The views from the lodge are stunning. Directly opposite, towering over the lake, are three of the five Volcanoes making up Volcanoes National Park, sitting like some ancient city skyline.

    We head out for a walk with two of the hotel staff, who are there on internships learning about the tourism sector. We walk around the lake, through little villages, until it's too dark to see, then walk back in the pitch black.

    It gets chilly here, so we wrap up and sit around a fire after dinner. The fire, strangely, has been built in a wheelbarrow which is just plonked down in the middle of the bar area, which itself is decorated with Christmas lights. It's different, but I wouldn't describe it as cosy.

    The next day, we head up to Lake Burera to have a look. To get close to the lake, we have to drive up a vertiginous dirt path, before crossing a narrow, rickety, wooden bridge over the lake run-off channel. It's a little like an Indiana Jones film, and we're watching the wheels out of the car to make sure they don't fall off the side.

    After looking at the lake, and watching the locals fill their boats with big yellow jerry cans of local beer, we head back down, and off to Volcanoes National Park.
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  • Day52

    Volcanoes National Park

    November 6, 2019 in Rwanda ⋅ ☁️ 22 °C

    We’re leaving the Twin Lakes today and heading into Volcanoes National Park. Martyn and Laura have secured permits for the gorillas, but we’ve decided to go for the much cheaper ($75 vs. $1500) permits to climb Mount Bisoke.

    We do realise, however, that whilst we’ve purchased permits online, we have no idea what to do. There are no instructions about where to go, what time to go, what you’ll need etc. We try calling the various numbers for the Wildlife Authorities, but they’re all clueless. Martyn and Laura decide to head to the office in the town of Ruhengeri to talk to someone, but it turns out that the office doesn’t exist.

    Finally, after checking in to our accommodation at Red Rocks, just south of town, we’re told to head to the reception at the bottom of the mountains, at 7am. It’s a fairly long drive there, so we need to set off before 6 to be sure we’re there on time.

    So, we head off for an early night, Martyn and Laura in their room, us in our tent. We quickly discover that the tent is not a good idea, since the bar just across the road blasts out terrible music all night, and our thin tent walls do not filter any of it out.

    We wake up at 5am, groggy and a little irritable. That’s not helped by the fact that the car won’t start. We’re not sure if the battery is flat, but we don’t have much time to find out, and we’re forced to get an expensive taxi to the start point.

    We make it there on time, but we’re faced with a new issue: the rangers don’t have any vehicles, and they themselves get rides from the tourists (who are mostly being driven around by their tour groups). Martyn and Laura are forced to splash out further on a taxi to their start point, as the driver of the other tourist in their group refuses to take them. We get lucky, and are driven by a French and German couple.

    We disembark at the base of Mount Bisoke and start the climb up the volcano. It’s steep and slippy, and Katie soon finds herself helped by the invaluable Leonard. We’re also accompanied by a band of ten or so heavily armed soldiers. They’re in full camouflage and armed with AKs. We’re told that they’re there to protect us from the buffalo that call the mountain their home. Whilst it’s true that buffalo are very dangerous, we doubt that ten AK-47s is necessary to scare them away. We suspect that it may be more to do with the fact that Bisoke lies on the DRC border, and rebels are known to operate in the area.

    It’s a fairly tough climb, but we soon reach the summit, at 3,711 metres. And the views are… rubbish. The entire summit is cloaked in a cold mist, and we can barely see a few metres in front. We settle down for our snacks, and some vodka coke, courtesy of some of our group. Then, quickly, the mist rises, and we’re treated to the incredible views of the crater lake, shared between Rwanda and the DRC. It’s monumental, and made slightly bizarre by the fact that, if you had your passport, you could walk a bit further into the Congo.

    On the walk back down, we overhear the French guy in our group ask one of the soldiers if he can borrow the AK. “Why?” asks the soldier. “Cos I wanna shoot a gorilla”. He doesn’t get a go on the machine gun.

    Gorillas do make the mountain their home, but they’re rare, and since we don’t have a team of trackers, there’s basically no chance of seeing any. It doesn’t stop us from peering into the dense foliage the entire time, checking for any movement. We don’t stop until we’re right at the gate leaving the national park. Dejected, we give up hope of seeing any gorillas. And right then, the rangers whisper: “Look! Up in the trees!”. And sure enough, right there is a silverback and two young ‘uns. It’s great to see, and we want to stay longer. However, the rangers don’t let us stay or take pictures, saying it would be unfair on the people who paid $1,500 to see them, so we’re led away. Still, we’ve now had two encounters with these incredible primates, and it’s no less special the second time around.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Northern Province, Nord, Intara y’ Amajyaruguru

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