Friday, July 19, 2013

Rwanda and Gorillas

A couple weekends ago, after Rhonda finished up with her work in Rwanda, I was able to meet up with her for a quick vacation. I was pretty excited to visit the country, not only for the gorillas but also to see first hand its recovery from the genocide events of 20 years ago.

The country is very well organized, with clean cities, organized transport, and a general sense of safety. It is pretty amazing to think how far it has come in such a relatively short amount of time.

Kigali, the capital, has an gorgeous setting among small hills with lots of greenery.  To get to the gorillas we took a bus from there to a small town near the national forest where the gorillas are. Despite all the organization we still knew we were not quite in the West when the bus made an unscheduled stop along the side of the road at what we guessed was a well known place to get fresh eggs -- and then someone decided the eggs were not enough they also wanted to bring along the chickens too!

Bright and early the next morning was our gorilla trek. To go on the trek involves a lot of planning since you have to buy permits in advance and they only sell a limited number for each day - thus they are super expensive - over $400 each and that was significantly reduced for us since we are East Africa residents. We chalked it up to a once in a lifetime experience and that the money goes directly to help maintain the environmental conditions for the gorillas.

Before the trek we were treated to a great drum and dance performance:

On the way to the trail head we came across these guys building a house by hand.
They were still sawing away after our trek!

The countryside was gorgeous - green everywhere, flowers along the road, crops growing in the fields, tall volcanoes close as can be.

and friendly, waving people all over:

We had heard from friends that the hike to the gorillas could be pretty intense - straight up steep hillsides, through thick jungle overgrowth, with driving rain.  As it turns out, within 10 minutes of exiting our vehicles - there they were - right on the edge of the forest and farmland. It was surreal. But it turned out these were not 'our' gorillas.  We were assigned to visit another family/group and the group we had come across were for another group of trekkers - so up the mountain we went. The hike was not so bad though, it was all on an established trail and after about 40 minutes we came to our group - named the Ugenda group.
What an amazing sight and experience to see these wild animals in their environment.

look at those feet!

Here's a video of us hanging with them, I got kind of charged at once or twice - the guide said they just wanted to play, but I got out of there darn quick.  Stay tuned for the end of the video for a random shot of Rhonda on a motorcycle taxi...

On our way back to Kigali, we came across this guy and this crazy home-made bike/scooter thing.

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