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Emma’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 01 May 2010

Location: Rwanda

MapPrior to arriving in Rwanda, we spent a few hours in a gorgeous and quaint library on Lake Bunyonyi trying to gain some understanding of the countries history.
Once we had crossed the border contrasts were immediately notable. The shared taxi we used would only take one person per seat, the roads were in excellent condition and motorbikes only carried a driver and one passenger whom both systematically wore helmets. After on month in Uganda this was quite a culture shock.

We spent most of our first day at in Kigali at the Genocide Memorial Centre. In the evening we strolled through wide and quiet avenues. After dinner we sat by the pool at Hotel de Milles Collins reflecting on the atrocities which Rwanda endured sixteen year ago and the remarkable turnaround the country has made.

For weeks we had been debating whether to obtain permit to track the rare but habituated Eastern Mountain Gorilla. Finally we handed over $500USD each, picked up our permits and made our way to Park de Volcans where we set up camp flanked by silhouettes of giant volcanoes.
Trekking through the dense bamboo forest in torrential rain was surprisingly pleasant. It took just over an hour to find their tracks. The group we tracked was named the ‘Susa’ group had twenty-nine members and was the group studied by the late Diane Fossey. The gorillas were hanging out in a natural clearing, the three silverbacks guarding the perimeters of the group, while the mothers sheltered the babies in the centre. Unfortunately for us they didn’t seem to like the rain and were quite inactive, even sulking. However, it was still a fascinating experience. As we left I lingered for a moment. Sensing this, a silverback stared intensely at me and then shook his head at the direction that the others had exited abruptly dismissing me.

The bus windows in Rwanda were so clean that we decided to leave our packs in Kigali and go on a road trip to Cyangugu in the southwest corner. En route the bus drove through the Ngunwi Rainforest which is thick and lush splashed with emerald greens and shrouded in mist. From the bus I spotted half a dozen Colobus Monkeys sunbathing between rain showers. In Cyangugu it was interesting to soak up rural Rwandan life. Our guest house was opposite a border crossing in the form of a precarious bridge across Lake Kivu towards D.R.C. On the way back we stopped in Butare and wondered around the university and churches whilst enjoying powerful African voices belting out church song. After crossing back into Tanzania, we checked into a little guest house in a border village which was originally a refugee camp for fleeing Rwandans. Sixteen years on, it still has an air of impermanence. Kerosene lanterns line the dirt road and we settle down over a plate of beans and rice chewing carefully to avoid crunching on the rouge stones which are characteristic of local meals.