Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from Rwanda

Most of you are probably sleeping right now but it is mid day of Christmas Eve for me right now. Today I am headed our, by bus, to the town of Musanze (Ruhengeri). This is the closest town to the gates of Parc National Des Volcans, which I believe means National Park of the Volcanoes where I will do the gorilla tracking. (They speak a lot of french in Rwanda although the national language is now english it used to be french). Being in the city did not seem like the ideal way to spend Christmas. Kigali is ok compared to a lot of the places I have been. Although after walking around yesterday I do want to retract a few statements made earlier like the ones about it being like a European city and such. I definitely saw that I am still in Africa. It takes a bit longer to see it here but it still has the same grittiness and uneasy feel as everyplace else I have been.
Yesterday on my flight over here I met two women from Latvia who were traveling around East Africa together. And, as my luck would have it, they also happened to be staying at the same hotel in Kigali in which I was planning to stay. So, once again, I was able to share a taxi and have a little companionship on arrival in a new country.
The girls I met thought perhaps they were going to be able to get gorilla permits for Christmas day. I was a little crushed as that would have been my ideal day to do it instead of the 27th. Turns out they ended up getting permits for today so they had to immediately head out of Kigali. I could not switch my permit to the 25th but I think there is a good chance I will get a permit to go track the golden monkeys. I believe this is the only place you can find them and they are highly endangered. Initially I was not so interested in going to see them but I figured since I was already at the park it would be a great way to spend Christmas day. There were a few other national parks I wanted to go to while in Rwanda but they are all much harder to get to. Rwanda's tourism industry is still being established so with out your own transport many places are hard to reach and of course being on my own getting my own driver is much too expensive. Also, now that I have decided to forgo Southern Africa I have a little more time to spend in East Africa which means I can spend a little more time doing things in Rwanda and Uganda. I really, in the end, am very happy about this. Now I can take a couple of extra days at the park and add on some other trekking. Other possibilities are hiking up the volcano, hiking to some beautiful lakes, hiking to Diane Fossey's grave (of Gorillas in the Mist) where she is buried along side many of the gorillas she studied. Now I am not on a tight schedule so I can arrange a few different treks while I am in Musanze.
I feel like I am repeating myself right now. I lay in bed at night and think about all of the stories I want to tell then I get in front of the computer and go blank.
The temperature in Rwanda has been really nice. I really thought being so close to the equator that it would be really hot. I am so close to the equator that when I take the bus ride north to Uganda, which is about 7 hours, I will actually cross over the equator. The sun definitely feels stronger and I burn much more easily here, but so far other than Dar and Zanzibar, the temperature is always nice.
People in Rwanda have been great so far. Of course mostly I have been dealing with people in the service industry. But really so far everywhere they are chatty, smile a lot, joke a lot, and are always willing to help you out. Even the guys on the street selling stuff, once you say know they just back off. Well, except for the magazine guy. Yesterday I had to walk up to the actual "Hotel Rwanda". I was not going to check out the hotel, even though it has become a major tourist attraction. Lots of people were butchered there 15 years ago so I did not really want to go but one of the safari companies I wanted to price was inside the hotel. Anyway on the way up there were a few guys selling U.S. and European magazines. They are much more expensive here. One guy kept following me and begging me to buy until I entered the hotel. Then of course he was waiting for me when I left. He just kept begging me to buy it so finally I cracked. Though it looks very civilized there is still a lot of poverty here so it is hard not to want to help them out at Christmas time. So I ended up paying, like, $7 for a Time magazine I did not really want. Oh well, hopefully it helped him out a little. I guess being aggressive paid off.
There is a cool coffee shop here just up from my hotel. Truth be told, I had read about it and that is kind of why I picked that hotel. It is called Bourbon coffee and they make actual Rwandan coffee. East Africa is well known for its coffee but most of the good beans are exported so it is really hard to find the good stuff. The Bourbon did not dissapoint. It is up on a hill side and has a great veranda overlooking the city. They sell beans from different areas of the country and they also have great food and pastries. Of course this will be my hang out when I come back to Kigali.
There are still a few things I want to see around the city. There is a genocide memorial which I guess really gives a clear perspective on the tragedy.
So off to see gorillas and monkeys. I don't know what the internet will be like out there but hopefully I can find something.
Have a great Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  1. This is really frustrating, i.e. trying to post a comment. I'm not certain whether or not you ever get these comments. But, someone is, I hope. i won't bother you with details of the gyrations I had to go through to post, but I'll keep trying.

    glad your in a place you feel safer. I'd have headed for home long since. (Got some opposition from the Marine Corps when I wanted to depart Viet Nam earlier than they had planned! I stayed, but wasn't happy about it. Did some "touring" and "hiking" there myself. Sounds a bit too similar.

    Stay safe! love you!!! Admire your courage!!! (Didn't get that from me! Dad

  2. Merry Christmas my travelin' friend!!!! I hope you have a good one. We are supposed to have a low of 5 degrees tonight! brrrr. sounds like things are going well & it is ALWAYS good to find a good coffee shop. Well done. Have fun, Be Safe! :) B