Rwanda
Western Province

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

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  • Day8

    Nyungwe Forest, Waterfall Hike

    July 7, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    Cereal and fruit for breakfast this morning and a civilised 8.30am departure for the Waterfall Hike in Nyungwe Forest. The weather is a couple of degrees cooler in this area, but still pleasantly mid 20s and no rain.

    After a briefing at the rangers station we drove with our guide Christophe to the start of the trail. After tucking our pants into our socks to avoid getting ants up our legs, we set off through the tea plantations, but then the going got tougher once we entered the forest. The path was well marked, but had some steep sections, so the walking poles they provided came in handy. The valley was thick with lush rainforest undergrowth, but only a few birds spotted (and some toads).

    The walk to the waterfall took 90 minutes, so we were looking for a rest and snack. The return journey took a little longer.

    Lunch was at the Gisakura Family Hotel - buffet of beef in tomato sauce, cooked plantain, rice, spaghetti, potato chips and steamed pumpkin.

    After lunch we went in search of Black & White Colobus monkeys. The guide was in contact with some trackers who had located a group of about 30 near the edge of the forest, so we only had a few minutes walk. We spent almost an hour watching them jumping from tree to tree along defined "roads", playing, grooming and looking after the 3 youngsters in the group (about 3 weeks old, all white). Also spotted Dent's Monkey and a Blue Monkey, who was acting as lookout from the top of the tallest tree.

    Arrived back at the hotel after dark, had dinner in the hotel restaurant after an African "short wait", ie 90 mins! - whole tilapia for Oliver, chicken and maize for me.

    Bed just after 10pm in preparation for an early morning tomorrow.
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  • Day9

    Chimps at the crack of stupid o'clock

    July 8, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

    This was the early morning we knew was coming! As chimpanzees build a nest to sleep in each night, the plan was to arrive in the forest just after they wake up and observe their morning rituals... so the alarm was set for 3.30am for a 4am departure.

    We had about an hour to drive to the start of the trek, then up to an hours' walk to where the chimps were likely to be - a number of trackers go out early to locate the group, then a guide with radio communication leads us to them.

    There was a mix up with the meeting time with another group we were joining up with, so we waited on the side of the road for about an hour before we headed to the Cyamudongo Forest. This forest is only 5 square kms and is separated from the main forest by farm land, so this chimp population is isolated. The long term plan is to reposess land in between to build corridors of native vegetation so the animals can commute freely between both areas, and avoid problems with inbreeding.

    We had quite a steep walk down the valley, at one point taking a shortcut through the vegetation to get to the next path, before the chimps moved on. We heard them in the distance before we saw them, so our first sighting of 2 chimps sitting on the path ahead, grooming each other, was rather surreal. They were much bigger than we expected and not quite as docile as we believed - about 3% of their diet is meat, so they occasionally kill smaller monkeys, or other chimps for food. They have also been know to kill humans, if they are threatened.

    There was plenty of movement in the bushes around us, with calls from both sides, then all hell broke loose as a younger male challenged the alpha male, in the bushes just above us. Teeth were bared, branches ripped as a show of agression, and screeching galore as the 2 males fought. It was a reminder that these are wild animals, and we were in their territory. Everyone remained calm and did as we were told (stay still and don't run, even if you think you should!), and the heart quickening moment was over in about 30 seconds. Carla has been observing chimps in the wild for 20 years and had never seen males fighting like this, so it was more special than we first realised.

    We moved around the corner and observed the rest of the group for a while, then moved away and ate our packed breakfast (boiled egg, jam sandwich, cheese and fresh fruit).

    We left the forest via a local village, had an impromptu demonstration of how to tie a baby sling, African style, and headed to the Gisakura Guest House for lunch (buffet of rice, potato chips, beef in tomato gravy, peas, and fresh pineapple)

    As it was the first time we have arrived in Kamembe in daylight, we drove the scenic route to the hotel, and witnessed wedding photos being taken up the road from our hotel. The bride struck a pose for us and we obliged as tourists do!

    As we came into the hotel, the reception staff suggested we order tea now to avoid waiting later - we were happy to oblige! (matoke (plantain) with peanut sauce for me, vegetarian lasagne for Oliver). We did some much needed washing, then tea and drinks on the deck.
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  • Day7

    Shopping and driving, Kigali to Kamembe

    July 6, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ ☁️ 22 °C

    Before leaving Kigali, we went into the city centre to look for some fabric from a "hole in the wall" shop - it was no more than a metre wide, but was stacked floor to ceiling with fabric and plenty of purchases were made (pre cut 3.6m lengths were 5,000 Rwandan Francs = $8)

    We left Kigali just after 10am for the 250km drive to Kamembe, in the south west of the country near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The main roads in Rwanda are very good, but travel isn't fast because of the number of pedestrians and bicycles on the road, the mountainous terrain and a speed limit of 60kph (40kph in the city). The police are very active with traffic patrols and speed cameras.

    Just outside of Gatagara we took a 1.5km detour into the village to visit a pottery outlet, local health centre and grab a cache... or it may have been the other way around ☺

    We visited the King's Palace Museum in Nyanza and did a guided tour of the traditional and modern palaces, before heading on to Butare for a very late lunch - by the time we left it was 5.40pm, so the remaining 3 hour drive to Kamembe was in the dark... which made the pedestrian dodging even more difficult!

    Stayed: Emeraude Kivu Resort
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  • Day99

    Nyungwe Forest National Park

    August 13, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ ☀️ 66 °F

    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

    Uwinka Overlook

    July 9, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    A luxurious lie in until 7.30am, breakfast of cereal, fruit and toast and departed for the canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest at 8.45am. The canopy walk, officially known as the Uwinka Overlook on the Igishigishigi Trail, is a 200 metre walkway suspended 90 metres above the forest floor, which affords spectacular views across the valley and is supposedly a good spot for bird watching.

    We were joined on the tour by 5 local Rwandans and 5 Chinese nationals who live in Rwanda (Chinese companies manage a lot of the road building in Rwanda), so we were a group of 15. The Rwandan government is trying to encourage locals to visit tourist spots in their own country by offering discounts to locals - the tourist price for this walk is $60 USD, but locals only pay 5000 Rwandan Francs ($6 USD).

    It was a pleasant 45 minute walk down to the start of the canopy walk, then single file across the suspension bridge. We took our time making the crossing and loitered on the platforms for quite a while, but disappointingly only saw one Blue Monkey in the distance, and no birds for the entire journey.

    On the way back to the hotel for lunch we spotted a couple of L'Hoest monkeys (formerly known as Mountain Monkeys) near the road who hung around long enough for a few photos (lunch was Caeser Salad and a beef burger).

    We had a free afternoon so took up Aloys' offer of a lift to the centre of Kamembe for some shopping. Being Sunday afternoon not much was open, but we had some interesting chats and made a few small purchases.

    We had a briefing in the lounge in preparation for our trip to the DR Congo tomorrow, then dinner was in the hotel restaurant (fillet pepper steak and potato croquettes x2).
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  • Day7

    To Kibuye

    May 29, 2018 in Rwanda ⋅ 🌙 61 °F

    At the risk of sounding boring today the scenery was stunning. The country contains diverse landscapes and perhaps today was some of the most beautiful. Only 50 miles and 5000 feet climbing the day was easier- but the 2500 foot climb in the middle was tough, although the view from the top was amazing The normally excellent roads however on this stage were not present, numerous potholes meant careful riding but I still managed to get a pinch puncture after hitting one too hard.

    A fast descent into Kibuye gave even more stunning views as we approached lake Kivu. The guest house we are staying at must be one of the most beautiful locations anywhere, on a peninsula and looking out both ways to the lake. A swim in the Lake followed by chips and then a short trip to a Swedish sauna, with a real stove running on eucalyptus also on the lake. A perfect way to loosen up and look over to the hills of the Congo.

    Psalm 121
    1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
    2 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
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  • Day5

    Easy day to Lake Kivu - Gisenyi

    May 27, 2018 in Rwanda ⋅ ☀️ 66 °F

    Waking up to the sound of torrential rain was an ominous start, breakfast was later - an easy day - although that would have rapidly changed had the weather not. It did and by the time we set off it was damp, but clear.
    42 miles total - 21 miles up hill and 21 miles down (that was the quick bit), the bad news is that tomorrow we have to climb up the bit we came down today - not so quick I fear!
    A short day meant we arrived at Lake Kivu about 1230. It's a seaside (ok lakeside) town and being Sunday everyone was out enjoying themselves - with the few weddings thrown in. A quick walk to the DR Congolese border and a stroll along the beach to take in the sights. All very pleasant!

    Jeremiah 29:11

    11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
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  • Day8

    To Cyangugu

    May 30, 2018 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 68 °F

    A day along the lake - sounds good - no big climbs? But this is Rwanda - the land of 1000 hills - of course there are climbs! Apart from the last they didn't go on for a long time - but they were steep and it was hard. The joy of the downhill was tempered by the realisation that what goes down must come up. Whether it was slight dehydration from the sauna or just the terrain I found the first half tough. The views of course were again amazing, sometimes making you feel guilty that you do not appreciate them more - this time next week I'll have the view of Dulux colour centre out of my window! But there is literally a view around every bend. Thr landscape too changes dramatically. Up high the coffee bushes grow - most of the cherrys are picked, whereas lower down vast areas of tea is planted - the workers busy picking. Of course there are many more beautiful views of Lake Kivu around every bend.
    We arrived into Cyangugu down a big long hill - we are climbing back up tomorrow - found the Peace guest house, with great rooms and another great location on the lake. Eric (our chef - we have a personal chef to try to prevent food poisoning) laid on the most amazing chips with a chorizo-type sausage.
    Dinner at 730, short power cut, bed at 9 ready for the big day tomorrow.

    Philippians 4:6-7

    6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
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  • Day45

    True Relax day

    February 15, 2016 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    After our not so relaxing relax day from yesterday, we made up for it today!

    Jack and I decided to separate for the first time since we got here (except the couple hours Jack spent alone in Addis when I wasn't eating). She wanted to do a tea factory tour, and I wasn't that interested. We decided a bit of time apart isn't a bad idea. I got to just walk around Gisenyi and walk down the beach, enjoy some quiet solo time. To be honest, for me, it just confirms that I'm not that great with solo traveling. I don't get enjoyment out of doing it alone, I like the company. I'm not outgoing enough to just meet people along the way. So I checked out the town, mapped out where I wanted to prep our picnic lunch date, and headed back home for a peaceful tea and reading.

    Jack unfortunately didn't get to do her tour afterall. She got there successfully with the minibuses but apparently the factory was closed for the day. At least that's what the security guard could gather in English. Little did I know she was back in town after just an hour.

    Meeting at our hotel at our agreed upon time, we went to the local market to gather our lunch - salad, fruit salad, and chapatis! It was too easy, no one in Rwanda has set foreigner prices on us... All fairly priced produce. Drop by the supermarket (which is what they call their do it all corner stores) and off we go! Incredibly peaceful, waterfront, waves and birds being heard, Valentine's day lunch. Again, only thing missing is hand holding and steeling kisses.

    I lied about the birds. It sounds like birds which makes it sound better. It's bats. Tons of them. I don't get it, I thought they liked the dark, but there's hundreds of bats hanging upside down in the trees above us. It's kind of cool. I've got batman imagery in my mind... Lol.

    We took the lunch as an opportunity to "check in" with each other. Open and honest communication y'all! I finally got to articulate why it is I'm so impressed with myself here, and I'll try to do the same for you all.

    Over the last few years, I've seen my anxiety worsen. Situations that would not have affected me in the past have started to make my heart race, to keep my up at night, making my mind go over and over possible outcomes, making me react inappropriately to situations, to make me doubt doing certain things, or stop myself entirely from certain experiences. I've travelled long term in the past, but it's been a few years since I've left the country for longer then a few weeks. I thought my increased anxiety would translate to my needing certain comforts. That I would have a stricter limit on how long I could be put in uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations before my body or mind gives out. I thought I could no longer tolerate, as well as I used to, not knowing where I was staying or going. All these preconceived notions about my anxiety is why I'm so impressed with myself today. I have been in uncomfortable situations, I don't have my usual comforts or support system from home. I don't get to go home and hide for a few days when I'm overwhelmed, and yet, I'm doing great! I'm eating all kinds of new foods (as you now know, my anxiety is closely related to my ability to eat), I'm staying in all kinds of accommodation (including homestays), and leaving towns and arriving in towns with no set plans or need to set plans, I'm doing great. And I'm proud. I just thought I'd share this proud moment of mine. :)
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  • Day44

    What's with the name changes?

    February 14, 2016 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Alright Rwanda, pick a name already! Honestly, except for Kigali, the capital, every town we've visited has changed their names either in recent years (so it shows as both options in lonely planet) or in the last year. For the most part, we've been attempting to explain where we want to go, plan buses, ask questions about towns, all of which we are referring to in the wrong name! The worst part is when taking the bus, because there's so little English, communication starts with us expressing where we want to go, and them telling us how much, and they hand over the ticket. The destination is written on the ticket. The following towns, all of which we travelled to, were written on the ticket as a name we didn't recognize :

    Huye was now Butare
    Gikongoro was now Nyamagabe
    Kibuye was now Karongi
    Gitarama was now Muhanga
    Gisenyi was now Rubavu
    Ruhengeri will be Musanze after tomorrow. That one we looked up!

    So for example, we were headed to Kibuye yesterday. We asked for Kibuye, they give us a ticket written Karongi. We confirm with the ticket lady that we are going to Kibuye, not Karongi, and she says "yes yes Kibuye". So off we went. We also confirm with the guy checking tickets on the bus "Kibuye not Karongi" to which he responds "Kibuye Kibuye". We arrive at the town of Karongi, as indicated by many signs, and a lady next to us tells us to get off. We were so confused, especially since our book said it would be a 5 hour bus ride and it had only been 2.5 hours (but as you've read, our Lonely Planet has been terrible for Rwanda, it's like they never came to do the research). At this point there's about 5 people telling us to get off, none of which have enough English or French to explain why, and the bus driver who is supposed to signal to us when we're there, drives off. Jack and I are still so confused. The people around us yell at the driver to stop, and finally a lady turns to me and says "change name, Kibuye now Karongi". Ah ha! English! So we get off. Turns out, they all changed names! Now we know to ask all possible names so we can avoid this in the future.

    Yesterday and today were a mix of transportation and relaxing. We stood at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere waiting for a bus for about an hour yesterday, getting us to Kibuye, a town of lounging and enjoying the scenery. There's apparently a beach somewhere, but about 2 feet wide of thick grainy sand, so we just went for a walk and enjoyed the green everywhere. Even the ride over was gorgeous! Field after field of green farming perfectly squared off. We stayed at a church of course, Home Saint Jean, where the room was clean and cheap! It was at the very tip of a little peninsula on the lake, perfect location and amazing views for 6000RFr for the night (10.90$C). Coming home on Saturday afternoon, we heard 3 different choirs practising for tomorrow. It was a beautiful and serene atmosphere.

    We walked around town, stumbling upon a market yesterday. Jack had a craving for guacamole the other day, so we challenged ourselves to make some! Got what we needed at the market, borrowed the tools from the restaurant at our hotel, and voilà! Some pretty decent guacamole, not that I eat it, ew avocado, but Jack liked it! :)

    We debatted if we should stay a second night to just laze around, but decided to make our way to Gisenyi (Rubavu now), a very similar low key water front town. We were told the transit time was 3 hours, which is easy, plenty of time to relax at both towns. Turns out, we left at 1pm and arrived here at 830pm. Yep, not so relaxing of a day after all. Our second bus was supposed to take 3 hours and it took over 4.5. He kept stopping at all the towns but then waiting there... Who knows for what. And of course no one had the English or French to try and explain the ridiculous delays. So we wait. Jack likes to remind me that the lack of communication only confirms that we really are somewhere where we are the minority, we have the true opportunity to see Rwanda as Rwandans do. There are so few tourists here, it's impressive. Untainted land to discover.

    We still managed to finish on a high note, walking over to our chosen accommodation, settling into our room (Presbyterian Church this time!), going out for some local food and having a drink. We're planning a picnic on the beach for lunch tomorrow as our on little valentine's day date. We'll see how that goes!

    -----

    Travellers we met along the way have said Rwanda is very safe. I didn't understand what they were comparing it to, or why, but that's what people said. Turns out, at night, even if it's dark out, you do have a sense of safety - people are still walking around, no one appears to hesitate around each other no matter the time of day... We met an Indian man who lives in Kigali who said he tried living in Kampala before settling in Kigali but choose to leave because he couldn't walk around at night. Here, he can. And I get it.

    I also have this odd, undescribable impression of Rwanda that I will now attempt to form into words... The people still all seem to be mourning... Or if it's not mourning, there's a certain lack of liveliness... It's all quite somber, or maybe more reserved. Yes people will say hi to you, they will giggle and stare, but as a general feeling, it seems somber. I absolutely loved my few days in Uganda because their people were all so smiley and welcoming and open to attempt communication, even if it's without words, there's happiness and liveliness all around. I don't have that same feeling in Rwanda. Like I said, hard to explain. I wonder if what used to be mourning is now almost a cultural trait, a way of life learned through sadness...
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Western Province, Ouest, Iburengerazuba

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