Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

Trip Start Nov 06, 2009
Trip End Mar 26, 2010

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Monday, November 16, 2009

ok so big driving day today:( left the mud huts of uganda and set off for rwanda! was really looking forward to seeing what
the country was like after all that i'd heard about it over the years.

the road there was as dodgy as hell,and because the terrain was so hilly we were winding through the forests for about 5 hours,
of which i managed an all time record of holding my wee for 2 of these hours, not pleasant.
anyway, it was pissing with rain and the roads were all muddy and full of potholes, everyone was getting a bit restless but
we finally saw the sign for the border up ahead, relieved we all chirped up a bit, that
was until we actually reached the border post and the sign read : "WELCOME TO ZAIRE" ???!!!

yep, we'd missed the turn for rwanda and had landed ourselves in one of the most war torn countries in africa...the congo!
made one hellava quick u-turn as the border officials started eying us up suspiciously and headed back down into uganda,
topping along the way to ask the locals which was rwanda was!!!
so yes, wasnt having much faith in our tour at this moment!!

we did eventually get to rwanda at about 8pm, very relieved we didnt have to put up tents as we were all staying at a
catholic mission in a mixed dorm,
probably about the only time ive been excited at the prospect of a mixed dorm, but i had a mattress and a roof over my head,
sheer luxury at this point in the trip:)

Even more amazing than the natural beauty of Rwanda is its tragic recent past. I hadn't really appreciated the extent of
the atrocities that had been unfolding here since the 50's culminating in the mass genocide of 1994 where the majority Hutu
people began to systematically murder any Tutsi person, any Hutu married to or sympathising with a Tutsi or basically
anyone who didn't fully support the extremist Hutu views! Millions of innocent Tutsi Rwandans were either brutally killed
or fled to Uganda or Tanzania. Neighbours killed neighbours, friends killed friends. It really is incredible to think that
this happened as recently as 1994! To make it worse, the Hutu Tutsi "class system" was basically introduced by Belgian
colonialists based on the number of cows a family had!

Things are obviously settled here now and the Tutsi people are back and the Rwanda we have seen is a very peaceful, happy
country looking to build for the future and not dwell on the past. Some of the genocidal maniacs have been brought to justice
,some are still at large but many are in the system awaiting trial, and countrys harbouring some of these people such as
 DR Congo and Kenya are starting to give them up.

Next day was a free day to explore the town where we were staying, Ruhengeri, a typical african village really so not too
much to report.
we then got taken into the capital of rwanda, Kigali, to visit the genocide museum, which was absolutely shocking, im ashamed
to say i didnt know much about what had gone on there not so Long ago,
and its amazing how they have recovered from it all, was choking back the tears at the atrocities that happened and felt all the
guilt of the western world that seemed to have sparked off the whole ordeal:(

Rwanda is home to the Volcano national park which is home to the endangered mountain Gorilla. There are only about 600 of
 them left on the planet.
The day started at 5am, and we were off to see them!!! we set off with our entourage of one tracker with an AK47 that
went first incase we got into any trouble, eeek!
then tracker number 2 with a machete who carved the way for us through the rainforest, and then our guide oliver.
had a short 30 min walk up through the forest until we got to the gorillas, couldnt believe  it, they were just
right there in front of us, eating their leaves, AMAZING!! We were really amongst them! We had the
dominant silver back with a couple of females and babies a few metres away on our right and another siverback, a female and
 a black back on our left and we couldn't really move away from them as playing around in the tree just above and in front of
us was another baby!! It was unbelievable. We were so close at this point that we couldn't even get a photo as we needed to
put the smaller lens on!!
The baby blocking the way which was about the size of a 2 year old human was swinging around playfully and then hung there
 with one arm beating his chest with the other! We literally could have reached out and touched him. Whilst we were waiting
patiently for a path to clear so we could move away a bit, the dominant Silver back, all 220kg of him, got up and moved to
 the other side of the group going within literally a couple of inches of Luc! If she had have moved at all she would have touched
him, and bearing in mind what we had already seen him do to one of the females I don't think that would have been a good idea!!

They really weren't bothered by us at all though. As long as we were quiet and still it was like they didn't even notice us!
It really was an unforgettable experience!
we got given an hour to sit with them and observe, we were so
close we honestly could have reached out and touched them!! such a surreal experience and i still cant quite believe that i
was actually there with them! a highly recommended trip to anyone who is thinking about it!

that night we had dinner at a locals house as he gave us a talk about the genocide, and when it was question time dave asks
 if he could tell us about his personal experience and the poor guy nearly burst into tears! we felt so bad so quickly
changed the subject, but just goes to show how deep the wounds of the rwandan people go.
we then had to walk back through the town to our accom in the dark, eeeekkk!! decided to stop at a local bar on the way with
our guide though which was great fun, they all thought it was hilarious to see a mzungu at their bar and dave enjoyed using
his french to negotiate a cold beer from the poor confused bar lady!
all in all, had an amazing although brief time in rwanda, but what an amazing amazing country!!
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Lisa Bailey on

Amazing pics of the Gorilla's! Looks like it was a great experience.
Glad you both feeling better!

Kerryn on

That's so amazing:)

Gina on

Am absolutely loving this blog, well done on all the news - so good to have a laugh at all the shenannigans going on, not so keen on the bowel movement reports, but hey, in africa, that goes with the territory! Have loads of fun, savour every moment!

Sweaty on

Nice blog ... but more importantly Scotland beat Australia 9-8 at the w/end!!

Maura Cooke on

Oh my god this is so exciting.
What an experience,all be it a bit scary at times like arriving in Zaire by mistake. The Photos are amazing Lucy please make sure you are using your sun protection creams you too Cookie.
We are missing you even though we hear more from you than when you lived in London!!!!

Kevin Wilkinson and Laura had a baby boy on November 18th a third grandson for Brian and Marion. Peggys email is peggykil@sbcglobal.net do contact her. also brianwilkinson@live.com and richardcooke709@btinternet.com I'm sure they would love to contact you.

Just you keep safe and have a great time. I need Lucy's home address.

Love MUM xxxx

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