• Eric

Rwanda: Craters and Monkeys, and a Difficult History

Updated: Apr 30, 2019

Volcanos National Park is just on the other side of the border from Uganda. We had ambitious plans to spend more time outside the tours, as we had done previously. Our first excursion was to see the golden monkeys - the ranger station from which all the tours leave for monkeys and gorillas is quite a step up from our quaint Uganda experience. Free coffee while you wait! Beautiful testimonials on a huge tv!

We set off for our monkey trek, only to find them after about 20 minutes of mellow hiking. They were pilfering through post-harvest potato fields. Nonetheless they were still adorable...we spent a bit over an hour cavorting with them.



Next we set our sights on climbing to the top of Bisoke Crater. We had cool weather (a plus!) but fortunately no rain, for it would have made a deeply muddy effort miserable. The hike was quite rigorous, we were with an international group of about 50 people aided by a large number of porters. Most hikers initially said they didn’t need the assistance, but by the end many had engaged their services.


The trip up was 6km with a gain of over 3100 feet - so steep! We made it up for lunch and had beautiful views of the crater. Note Gage was the first one to the top, even beating the porters! He has serious endurance...it was a hard hike. At least I was not last.





We were lucky to find a wonderful coffee shop where we parked ourselves most afternoons - Crema. Delish food and coffee, and welcoming atmosphere.



It was a bit odd on the walks to/from our hotel and Crema, we would invariably pick up several local “students” wanting to “practice their English”. Mostly it felt ok, but we would generally be pressed to contribute to their pockets - only once was it more than benign, and then only mildly so. There is so much poverty here and every person you could give money or goods to and they would be deserving. We are clearly so affluent relative to their existence. How to do it in a productive way is always a conundrum.


Kigali

The capital is nothing like any other place we visited in Africa - clean, orderly and quiet. It is set up on a hill and requires lots of spirited walking to get places! The people were friendly and always interested in chatting.


We steeled ourselves for our visits to genocide locations. The first is the Genocide Museum, and it describes in excellent detail the lead up to the genocide, the atrocities that left millions (!!!!) dead, the chaos in the aftermath, and the recovery. It is unfathomable and horrifying, but impressive that they have been able to rebuild their society and cities.




We also visited two churches on the outskirts of Kigali that became places where the gendarmes killed thousands. The brutality and callousness is shocking, the piles of clothing are still shown in the pews... The places are so similar to the killing fields in Cambodia - it is hard to understand how such evil is exported.


For a bit of uplift we went to the Inema Arts Center. The work of brothers Emmanuel Nkuranga and Innocent Nkurunziza, they have a wonderful setup. We met them and they were approachable and engaging, so much so that they directed us to their favorite restaurant for lunch and even drove us there! It was a delish meal at Soy Asian Table - best meal of our stay in East Africa.


Celia and I made our way to Kigali's Kimironko Central Market by local bus just outside the main town area. Lots and lots of tourist items for sale, and a huge food and goods market. We were swarmed by salespeople...but very gently - they were super friendly and very nice. We obliged just a bit with purchases...


Just a glimpse of the eggs.


Off to South Africa!


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