Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kigali, Rwanda and Golden Monkey Trekking

Nairobi, visit #3: arrive at our guest house, sleep, leave. 8 hours. // We returned to the Nairobi airport once again for our early morning flight to Rwanda. Seeing the gorillas was a huge priority for us while planning the trip, and by chance it worked out to be the last part before heading home. It is unbelievable to both of us how quickly our three months have flown by and that we were finally going to Rwanda. This trip we booked with a reputable tour company from the US and therefore felt very confident this trip would follow the itinerary we were expecting. // Upon arrival in Kigali, we were hoping for a cool passport stamp, since Americans currently do not need a visa to enter Rwanda. Yet all we got was a small stamp that makes you work very hard to see it even says Rwanda. //. Our first stop was the Genocide Museum, which is both a memorial to those who died, an educational centre to tell the history of Rwanda's horrific events, as well as, tell the story of other genocides that have occurred around the world. In 1994, almost one million Rwandans were brutally murdered, with the goal of wiping out the Tutsi sect of the population. If you've seen the film Hotel Rwanda, you know the story. (Speaking of, we were scheduled to have lunch at THE hotel from the movie, but after we mentioned that we liked African food, our driver decided to take us somewhere else). The museum was very well done and extremely sad and disturbing at the same time. This statue at the memorial shows a cell phone being used to indicate that the story of the genocide needs to be told to the world.

Kigali, the backdrop of this photo, is a beautiful city, even hillier than San Francisco.

We did a short driving tour of the city, and then headed northwest from Kigali towards the city of Musanze (formerly called Ruhengeri), which sits at the edge of Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park - the home of the gorillas! We were very impressed by the drive, as the road was in great condition, the country is very green, and the sides of the road were the cleanest of any African city we've visited. Rwanda has been doing a lot of public works, in order to improve the country, but also to rebuild in the aftermath of the genocide. They have re-organized many of the towns/districts, and many of them have new names. The last Saturday of the month is a public cleaning day, and the results can be seen. //. While waiting the first morning for our group and guide, we were entertained by a local music/dance group.

This day we were scheduled to go visit the golden monkeys, a threatened species that is in the park that they are now bringing tourists to go see. The hike was fairly easy, taking about 1-1/2 hours, and it was through a bamboo forest.

We would have enjoyed the hike on it's own, but certainly the monkeys were the true highlight.

There were lots of them in this group, well over a hundred. While we approach only within about 10 feet, once we are there, the monkeys run all around us

They are pretty fast, and they don't really sit still for the camera.

After the hike, we returned to our hotel.

Our hotel had great views of the volcanoes in the park, and spacious rooms, but had some drawbacks. The heat was only by fireplace, but since the windows didn't really close, it felt like we were sleeping outside, which in the mountains can be quite cold. And with the wood being young and wet, it didn't really burn that well. The shower was hot, but the water basically dripped out of the faucet. On the positive side, they do get credit for cleaning our shoes after hiking and for the additional entertainment, this time with children/teenagers.

- Hugh & Betsy


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