Northern Province

Here you’ll find travel reports about Northern Province. Discover travel destinations in Rwanda of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

7 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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  • Day12

    Driving via Lake Kivu

    July 11, 2017 in Rwanda

    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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  • Day14

    Gorillas in the clear

    July 13, 2017 in Rwanda

    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

    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

    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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  • Day47

    It had to happen once...

    February 16, 2016 in Rwanda

    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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  • Day53

    Volcanoes- nasionale park

    November 2, 2016 in Rwanda

    Hierdie park is in die noordwestelike hoek van Rwanda, waar dit grens aan Uganda en die Kongo. Meeste toeriste kom hierheen om berggorillas te sien, maar ons het die (veel goedkoper) goue-aap ("golden monkey") ekskursie gedoen. Jy stap tot in 'n bamboeswoud teen die berghange en kyk dan hoe die ape nou en dan afskarrel na die grond om jong bamboesspriete af te breek wat hulle dan bo in die blaredak sit en vreet. Na die tyd het ons self iets gaan eet (maar die Rwandese chillie-olie eenkant gelos...), en na die reuse gorillabeeld gaan kyk op die terrein waar die jaarlikse gorilla naamgee-plegtigheid gehou word. Tydens dié affêre kry al die jaar se nuwe gorillababas naam. Ons slaap oor by Red Rocks, 'n netjiese backpackers in die omgewing.Read more

  • Day53

    Kom ons bespreek: Skol Lager

    November 2, 2016 in Rwanda

    Bier is nie die eerste ding waaraan jy dink wanneer Rwanda ter sprake kom nie, maar die land het 'n handvol plaaslik-vervaardigde biere. Skol se 5% alkohol belowe skop, maar dis eintlik 'n bedeesde bier. Dit het vroeër vanaand goed te pas gekom toe ek en Alice die geskiedenis van Suid-Afrika in 'n neutedop moes uitlê aan 'n Nederlander tydens aandete (beesbredie) by die backpackers. Terug Skol toe!Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Northern Province, Nord, Intara y’ Amajyaruguru

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