We entered Rwanda at the Rusomo Falls crossing the border without any issues. Known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills,” Rwanda is a tiny landlocked country about the size of Wales. We drove towards the capital Kigali over rolling hills, with terraced cultivation cutting a dramatic swath up the steep sides of the mountains and hills. Picturesque little villages with brick houses along side the road or perched precariously on the edge of a hill ridge. The countryside was spectacular, lush shades of greenery, absolutely no litter, and a tarred road in excellent condition.
We drove towards the capital Kigali over rolling hills, with terraced cultivation cutting a dramatic swath up the steep sides of the mountains and hills. Picturesque little villages with brick houses along side the road or perched precariously on the edge of a hill ridge. The countryside was spectacular, lush shades of greenery, absolutely no litter, and a tarred road in excellent condition.
Kigali is a sprawling city spread over several hills. Streets lined with flowering trees, bustling, colourful, and noisy, we were struck at how clean and litter free the city is. Litter was conspicuous by its absence.
The following morning after arranging our permits for gorilla trekking we visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
On 6th April 1994, genocide was unleashed in Rwanda, one of the most horrific episodes of genocide in modern history. A million men, women, and children tortured and slaughtered within just 3 months. The genocide left many people with severe disfigurements and disabilities, a constant reminder of the horror they must have endured. Many villages had a memorial beside the rows of graves; no village escaped the murder of some or all of the people.
On the way to the Virunga Mountains to see the Mountain Gorillas we passed the village of Gitarama. Here we visited the school where thousands of Tutsis were slaughtered by the Hutus. As we arrived at the Murambi Genocide Memorial, an official informed we that the memorial was not yet opened and was still in final stages of preparation for opening. However, he arranged for a survivor of the massacre to show us the site, warning of us what we would see.The site of the massacre was the technical school located behind the memorial building. During the genocide between 40,000- 60,000 men, women, and children assembled in the school’s 64 classrooms and on the grass around it. They were lead to believe the school would be a “safe haven.” Two weeks later the “interahamwe” attacked, and within 4 days, most on Murambi Hill had been murdered.The current Rwandan Government wants the population to never repeat what happened by reminding them vividly of what they suffered. It looks so deceptively peaceful. It is difficult to comprehend the horrors that took place here.
We passed many children on the road. They stared at us and smiled meekly. We wondered what each of them had witnessed and experienced. How will this country recover from their holocaust?
Rwanda continues to struggle to heal and there is hope that the peace will never again be shattered.
Situated on the borders of Congo and Uganda, Parc Des Volcans is home to the mountain gorillas made famous by the movie “Gorillas in the Mist,” which itself is based on the book by Dian Fossey. Towering volcanoes and an altitude of between 2000m -3500m dominate the Park. With an annual rainfall of 2,000mm, it is a typical bamboo forest and woodlands and we were prepared for a challenging hike up the mountain in search of the gentle giants
After meeting up with our guide Fidel and other fellow travellers, we were briefed about Amahoro, the gorilla family who live on Mount Visoke, which we were going to track.The climb up mount Visoke was challenging due to the muddy and rocky terrain in dense forest but after an hour and a half of puffing and grunting, I saw my first gorilla in the wild. Tom behind me just whispered breathlessly, “Now I can die.” It was truly, one of the most spectacular wildlife experiences we have had.
The sun was shinning despite being in the gorilla “mist” wilderness, the gorillas enjoying the sunshine were romping, and playing out in the open and the view was glorious. Does life get any better than this?
The gorillas were totally unconcerned about our presence and came within inches of us.
The younger gorillas were curious and gingerly came close, they were hilarious, playing with each other just as children do, jumping up, swinging through the shrub, climbing the bamboo, and taking a flying leap into the soft vegetation below.
I was as close to heaven as it comes.
The large 450lb. Silverback is never far away and is watching our every move. Just in case.
They have to eat all day to obtain the necessary nutrition from their vegetarian diet.
After an hour, we had to leave as one may only spend an hour with these amazing animals.
Our incredible Gorilla encounter was a magical and a spiritual one. A highlight! We celebrated with a lunch at the local restaurant back at Ruhengeri before leaving for Gisenyi situated on Lake Kivu.
Lake Kivu provides food for the locals. It can deadly however since it contains poisonous Methane in its muddy sediments. Unexpectedly this gas escapes into the atmosphere suffocating the villagers living on its shores.
We head south to the Nyugwe National Forest to track Chimpanzees. Tracking these fast moving primates is difficult, since they move around a lot. Unfortunately the day we attempt to see them they are hunting Columbus Monkeys so are staying quiet and hidden from view. We get a glimpse of one passing by and I manage to get bitten by fire ants.
It’s time to head back to Kigali and then onto Uganda, A beautiful Vervet Monkey wishes us a poignant farewell to beautiful Rwanda.