Published: June 29th 2008June 10th 2008
From the Tanzanian/Rwandan border we drove about 150km to Kigali, the capital city. It was along drive as the country is very mountainous so we drove around winding roads, passing small communities and watching the beautiful scenery. We soon discovered that the Rwandans were the friendliest people, the most proud and the most hardworking of the African countries so far. There was no rubbish around even in the capital and their houses were clean and tidy and some had little flower gardens. Every piece of land was cultivated no matter how high the hills were, it was so beautiful to see all the different textures and colours from growing the vast range of crops that they do. On the way to Kigali we stopped at a local roadside market to get things for lunch, within seconds the truck was surrounded and even at lunchtime we talked with the locals but they didn't fancy the soup we'd made! I was really surprised at how well they had got on with their lives considering what they went through with the genocide in 1994 when most people who survived lost some or their entire families - devastating. We were to learn more of this
terrible ordeal in the next few days at the Kigali Memorial Centre and from stories of the local people.
We stopped briefly in Kigali for supplies and then we drove north to Ruhengeri (our base for the mountain gorilla treks) over the next few days, we would return to the capital after seeing the mountain gorillas. On 12th June we set off early to the Parc National des Volcans headquarters, a short drive from Ruhengeri, to register for visiting the endangered mountain gorillas and to be divided into groups of 8. My group were given the hardest trek as we were considered the youngest and fittest (yeah right!). We were to visit the Susa gorilla family with 39 members, two of which were twins, the first know to survive in the wild. We had an amazing climb through terraces and local villages to the park entrance marked by a stone wall (see photo of me with the armed guard - he was there to protect the gorillas from us not the other way round - better make friends!). We then had to cut our own route through the jungle of vines and bamboo for two and a half hours
before we reached the wonderful gorillas. We were so fortunate to see them in a clearing for over 30mins (we were only allowed to be with the gorillas for 1 hour in total). We sat and watched them playing, grooming and lazing in the clearing before they moved further into the jungle where the bamboo was. It did make it more difficult to see them but we got to see them eating and running around climbing trees! It was one of the most fantastic mornings ever! It really got your heart beating when you saw them. Studying them you see how close their behaviour is to yours - their hands and feet but also the way their minds work. After an exhausting but exciting day we had a few drinks at a local bar and then a meal back at the guesthouse that we were staying at.
On 13th June a few of us went to visit a Pigmy village, a tribe that used to live in the mountains before it became a Parc and now they have been pushed out to protect the gorillas. They danced for us and showed us around their small community. We bought them
dried goods such as rice and beans from the town.
On 14th June we were back in Kigali to visit the Kigali Memorial Centre where a museum describes the build-up to the 1994 genocide between the Hutu and Tutsi's in Rwanda when over 800,000 Rwandans were brutally killed in 3months. It was a fascinating museum and very well done but at the same time very distressing especially the video interviews from victims who lost their whole families. I don't really know how the Rwandas have been able to move on so quickly, they appear to be leading normal lives now by working hard and rebuilding their lives, although I think they are constantly reminded about losing their lost ones. In the afternoon of 14th we made our way to the Rwandan/Ugandan border.
There are more photos below