Off to see the gorillas

Trip Start Jan 31, 2006
Trip End Dec 11, 2006

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Flag of Rwanda  ,
Saturday, February 4, 2006


It was with some trepidation that we met our guide for the gorilla trekking - Innocent - as we would be spending the next 4 days with him. First impressions of Innocent were good - he seemed very open and smiley - so we packed up the rucksacks in the jeep and headed off to the mountains.

The journey to Kinigi was fascinating. First off we saw a whole new side to Kigali which we had not seen before (inevitably it was over another hill) being the areas where most of the locals live. Although the centre of Kigali is tiny, the surrounding residential areas were actually much larger than I was expecting. However, once we were out of the city all that gave way to little villages and towns dotted along the road.

Life in Rwanda is clearly not easy. We were travelling on Saturday - market day - and every so often we would come across a huge rural market where hundreds of people were out and about buying what they needed. Although the markets were colourful and quite a spectacle, the sobering aspect was that everyone who had bought something had to cart it home either in their arms or on their heads (I am amazed what people can balance on their heads with practice) or on the back of their bicycle. Add in the fact that you are always going either up or down a hill in Rwanda and a trip to the market takes on a whole new aspect.

I read on the internet that around 90% of Rwandans are subsistence farmers and with the AIDS epidemic the average life expectancy is under 40. From our drive through the countryside you can easily believe the first of those statistics. Most houses are clearly only one or two rooms and the children who ran down to the road smiling and waving as we passed were often dressed in old, worn out clothes. A lot of the children were also shouting things and holding their hands out as we passed. Being the urban cynics that we are both Fiona and I naturally assumed that the children were asking for change, however, having asked Innocent what was being said it turns out that all they were asking for were our empty water bottles! Unfortunately, Innocent asked us not to give them to the children as next time one of the jeeps passed it would be swamped with children - more of a problem than you might think given the state of the roads and the number of people walking on them.

After a couple of hours heading higher and higher into the mountains we eventually arrived at Kinigi and our ultimate destination, the National Mountain Park.
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