Rwanda
Nyonirima

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8 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • Day53

    Volcanoes- nasionale park

    November 2, 2016 in Rwanda ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    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

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