Friday, August 8, 2008



We are now in Rwanda, our ninth and last country in africa. Rwanda is made up of mountains (for Africa) most of which have some how been tamed with terracing and cultivation. The people speak French and Swahili and are generally very friendly. The other obvious thing is that there is a massive international aid presence here which, without knowing more, feels like a guilt trip over the events of the early 1990's.

Where we last left off was Fort Portal. We enjoyed our few days there including a lovely side trip to Lake Nkuruba(see left) where we were the only guests of their camp site. We saw heaps of colobus and vervet monkeys playing/battling each other which was cool. From FP we caught another (hopefully our last) traumatic bus. This time we traversed a million pot holes and ended up in Kabale in the south west. We spent a night there in the lovely House of Eridisa hostel before heading to Lake Bunyoni. This lake is a famous R&R spot in possibly the most beautiful setting we have come across. We planned to hang out there for a few days but ended up coming back after only one (got bored). After another day in Kabale we headed west into Kisoro.

Kisoro is a nice, small town 12 km from Rwanda and about the same from the (purportedly) evil DRC. It is home to a million motor bike taxis and a large, cheap market. We stayed at the rather average Virunga hotel before heading into the hills. We decided, perhaps unwisely to make the 37km trip on motortaxi. Nice plan but after 90 minutes of bump, bump, bump I had sore legs and a massive bruise on my tailbone/backside. That night we stayed in the tiny Nkuringo campsite in the middle of nowhere many meters above sea level. It was very basic but cool in it's own way - picture two single beds in a little hut thingie with a tin roof. At about 4pm it decided to hose down with rain - maybe 6 inches or more and thunder continuously all night. Twas indeed crazy. Unlike the food there which was horrific and, it turns out, full of bugs.

Righto. So we rock up to the Nkuringo wildlife office next morning excited to track real life mountain gorillas in an impenetrable forest. The first hour was great as we left civilisation and followed a nice wee track. Soon after though our guide told us the Gorillas were only 2 hours away. Little did we realise this meant descending through thick foliage down a steep mountain pass. All 6 trekkers ended up on their butts numerous times with injuries abound. One trekker was a 68 year old lady with a replacement knee and it must have been tough for her. Anyways we finally reached the Gorillas and let me say, it was awesome. Kate was trembling with excitement. We had imagined them to be sitting still in a group where we could watch. Instead we spent an hour scrambling up and down tiny wee paths after the Gorillas as they moved around and ate. They were magnificent creatures and so very human like. Great photography too (see right). We only had an hour with them but were exhausted by the effort of tracking the blighters.

So now all we had to do was get back to basecamp. The simple task of retracing our steps was made an absolute ordeal by the rain which suddenly became torrential. So picture us freezing, absolutely saturated (goretex schmoretex) and trudging through thick mud/morrain straight up hill. Then, of course, the dodgy beef struck and, well, enough said...

The cure for the aforementioned exhausting struggle came in the form of some lovely gentlemen on our trek. They climbed the tortuous mountain ahead of us and returned to their fabulous resort called "The Clouds," This resort had been open 5 days and is spectacular/pure luxury. These nice chaps invited us and the gorilla guides over to their "place" for high tea. So we turn up saturated, covered in mud and frozen to be greeted by massive fluffy white towels, a hot fire, comfy sofas and an enormous afternoon tea. The hotel even gave the older lady a t-shirt to get dry in! Needless to say we love that place!! Jam and Cream Pikelets, Meatball thingies, Jam rolls, individual pots of tea and so much more. Glorious.

Next day we headed into Rwanda on motortaxi. We scurried through immigration and headed on a nice wee minibus to Gisenyi or as Lonely Planet calls it "the Costa de la Kivu." This was possibly a tad generous but we did have a nice meal at the Stipp. Interestingly enough the pleasant atmosphere was often disrupted by large planes taking off from nearby Goma airport (in evil DRC). Apparently this is the Congo govt restocking in their war against rebels! Scary.

Yesterday we headed into the capital town of Kigali and today we are sipping Bourbon Coffee - an attempt to make Rwandan Coffee into a luxury item that we were too happy to support. This arvo we hope to catch the olympics opening ceremony and then tomorrow we're off to the Genocide Memorial. Contrasting aspects of humanity I would imagine.

Congratulations to Dave and Mary (little bro and his new fiance). Also Congrats to Ro and Jo who also got engaged recently.

Finally, we changed our flights again. Off home late next week! Hurrah. Visiting Dave in Dubai and people in Sydney before getting to Timaru in a fortnight.

Party on.

Jeff and Kate (who, sadly, isn't feeling 100% today)

PS duelling monkeys....

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