Kabale, Lake Bunyonyi, Kigali, Ruhengeri
09.06.2011 - 13.06.2011
Friday we crossed back into the Southern Hemisphere and drove to Kabale in Uganda near the Rwanda border. As we were setting up tents there were all the heads sticking over the ‘security fences’ and Mzungu being called out from everywhere, it doesn’t seem many tourists come through here as people gathered around our truck to stare when we stopped for the shop in town.
Saturday we visited Lake Bunyonyi, set amongst old volcanos the greenery of the surrounding 35 islands is beautiful. There is the old Leper Island and Punishment Island, where people used to leave women who were pregnant out of wedlock (it’s a TINY island, about 20m across). Eventually families would come back to check on the girl to see if she was alive still and found that they were going missing as men who couldn’t afford a wife would come and take the girl. The community decided to instead get the brother to throw the girl off a waterfall until one girl pulled the brother over with her and they stopped that too. (YOU GO GIRL) We stopped at one island and visited a Pygmy community of 52 people who had been given land here after being kicked out of the mountains where the gorillas are. It was a pretty walk there and the Pygmy’s were sooooo friendly! It was so cheap for what the day was. Our guide was great and as the money goes to their community they are very happy to have us there and want us to tell people about them so they aren’t forgotten. They performed a few dances and in return we had to as well, so we did the macarina, the crocodile song/dance and the conga, which they all joined in. It was so funny walking through the hills and you could hear “how are yoooooo” from everywhere but couldn’t see where it was coming from. On the way back to the boat the kids followed us the whole way and we all danced the way back to “Ma Ma Mzungu Zunga Ma Ma Ma”. We tried some locally made beer at the bar on the island which besides the odd taste, had the texture of sand…not the best. Then on the boat return to another island for dinner a storm hit and it was POURING. There was crazy lightening all around, which made me pretty nervous in our little open boats, and so we had to stop for a bit under a hut on a closer island.
We had drinks around the fire waiting for the rain to die down and continued to party on at the campsite with a couple of girls who work there which was a huge night. Rough getting up at 5:00am and packing up a tent!
Sunday we drove to Rwanda, visited the genocide museum in Kigali which was very interesting and pretty heavy stuff. We spent a few hours there, there is a mass grave with over 250,000 bodies buried, and more are always brought in as they are found in mass graves around the country. The last room of the museum had 14 images of child victims with hobbies, best friends etc and how they were killed and I don’t think anyone got through that room without crying. It was a very emotional day. There were also lots of video’s with interviews and it was just really devastating. The museum is a lot better than I expected, you can see a lot of money has been put into it. It is sad to think that anyone over 17 experienced the genocide, and everyone is still affected in some way. People are genuinely happy to have tourists here it’s lovely. As a surprise we stopped at our campsite for last night and tonight and it turns out we get DORM ROOMS! BEDS!!!! And a place to hang my washing I did last week as it keeps raining at night, just as we put our tents up and re-wetting the washing. Nothing hanging your undies out the side of the truck as we drive along can't help though.
Today we did the gorilla trek….. WOW! It is so surreal to think I have done it, I need to keep looking over photos (of which there are many). We could choose between 3 treks, easy medium or hard. I did hard which I was worried about as I didn’t know what to expect, but it was a couple of hours longer trek than the others and following the Susa family, the largest family they offer tracking to. 32 gorillas, 3 silverbacks. Fact: instead of fingerprints, gorillas are identified by the shape of the markings in the crease of their nose. The trek was actually not too hard besides the altitude. There was an older man on our trek who we had to keep stopping for, which I was more than happy about. The jungle was just what I imagined a jungle to be! There is supposed to be a 7m rule with the gorillas but we were within 1-2 metres! The trackers go up into the mountains early in the morning to track them and then follow them until they make their nests at night. They were all really good and wanted us to get closer and good photos. It’s nice to see that the guides who see them pretty much every day are still excited to be there. It was actually kind of scary as you remember they are wild animals and those silverbacks are MASSIVE. The guides can actually communicate with the gorillas, making noises to assure them we are friendly and to gain permission to come near them. They will hear them make a noise and straight away tell us that they are about to move or want to mate. Pretty incredible. I felt safest next to the guy with the rifle, though they’d probably sooner use it on us than the gorillas. There were two 2 week old twins in the family as well and they are all just so human like! There were 2 or 3 other gorillas watching over the mothers shoulder at the babies just like we do at newborns.
Today one of the guys on the trip proposed to his girlfriend after the trek so we went out for dinner and bought some things from the market for them to wear as sash and veil. We are staying in Ruhengeri and leave tomorrow morning to head back into Uganda. I would love to come back to Rwanda!