Tuesday 15th September
Had a nice lie-in this morning and had a cooked breakfast in the bar of the campsite overlooking the Nile.
We finally dragged ourselves away from the bar and got a taxi in Jinja. Todays tasks were to find a cash machine that worked, find a SIM card for Nicole, get the card cut and loaded with money and then find a good place for lunch with good wifi. We tried a couple of cash machines before we stumbled across a Barclays Bank which worked perfectly, then we found a phone shop and Nicole got herself sorted and then we wandered around Jinja finally locating an internet cafe which worked well but meant us sitting on a wooden stool on the pavement by a tailors. Nicole did a bit of research and found us a good place to eat lunch which turned out to have exceptional wifi so we ended up staying until 5pm uploading pictures, blogs and downloading books.
We left The Keep and its wifi behind, begrudgingly, and jumped in a minivan back to camp where we sat in the bar reading and then headed to bed.
That night it tipped it down so our upgrade paid off and I felt smug knowing I wasn’t outside in a canvas tent getting soaked.
Wednesday 16th September
Again lazy morning, had pancakes and a smoothie in the bar this time before heading back into town for a mooch around before hitting The Keep for lunch and wifi. Again stayed there most of the day and headed back late afternoon to chill in the bar and catch up with the rest of the group and see how they got on kayaking, rafting and other water related activities.
Thursday 17th September
Up late ish, had brekkie of yoghurt and fruit and a smoothie. Nicole had a massage whilst I did my chores of sweeping and mopping the truck out. Once done I headed down to the spa (which overlooked the Nile) and had a well needed pedicure (clearly well needed as it took her over an hour to make my feet look normal) and then I had a quick ‘pothole buster’ massage. I met up with Nicole after we had both been massaged and we decided to head over to a neighbouring camp for lunch and a chill round the pool. We managed half an hour of sunbathing after lunch before it clouded over and started to rain and thunder so we packed up and headed back for showers.
At 5pm Nicole, Wilma and I headed into town to hit a curry house for dinner before wandering up to the Keep one last time for wifi.
Our taxi driver picked us up at 8ish and we headed back to camp and packed up our stuff ready for the off early the next morning.
Friday 18th September
Up early today as we had a long day ahead of us, so we left at 6am and headed across Uganda to Lake Bunyonyi. We had been on the road an hour when a car decided to drive into the side of us and take out a tyre and rim plus scratch right down the side of the truck, hitting the area where the gas bottle was house which was right where I was sitting! Shitballs as Nicole would say!
So we had to stop and all the macho guys, Em and Mikkel jumped out and had a discussion with the guy about it. He admitted it was his fault and we then sat for ages whilst the police came, everyone took pictures, the police took statements and it was agreed what would happen.
Eventually it was agreed we would drive to the nearest police station as would the other guy and we would make more statements, take more pictures and sort out the mess.
Again, after sitting a while we then were told we would have to head back to Jinja whilst the truck got fixed and then drive through the afternoon to Kampala rather than the Lake.
So, unexpectantly, we arrived back in Jinja late morning and we headed to The Keep for food and wifi. Em kept us informed by phone on the trucks progress. Eventually at 3.30pm the truck was ready so we all jumped on and headed off to Kampala which was only about 70km away. We arrived at the Red Chilli camp after dark and as this was an unplanned stop for 1 night we decided to upgrade to a dorm room with Wilma for a few dollars.
We headed down to the truck for dinner then back for a shower and bed.
Saturday 19th September
Another driving day, left Kampala at 7am and arrived at the campsite in Lake Bunyonyi late afternoon. Nicole and I decided to upgrade to a furnished tent this time (we are trying all different upgrade options so we can report back our findings to Odyssey! Lol) the tent was large with 2 beds, power sockets and lights and was perched on a raised wooden platform looking out over the lake. Absolutely stunning!
After settling in to our furnished tent we headed down to the truck for dinner and who wants to be a millionaire with the group.
Sunday 20th September
Lie in until 8am but had to get up then as my bladder wouldn’t let me sleep any longer! We lounged looking out over the lake and then had some breakfast. Nicole headed out on a boat trip to a Pygmy village whilst I stayed back and pottered around. I headed over to the bar and found Bruce and Alison and we sat having a second breakfast and chatting. Upon Nicole’s return we wandered out of the camp and around the lake to a posh hotel and restaurant called The Birdnest. We had a lovely lunch (posh fish fingers and chips to share) and sat taking in the view of the lake and using the wifi.
Mid afternoon we headed back and showered, packed bags and generally mooched around before heading to the bar for a quick shared snack for dinner. We left the group watching the rugby and we headed off to bed.
Monday 21st September
Early start as we left at 7.30am for the Rwandan border. The scenery was beautiful on route, stepped terraces up each of the green rolling hills. The border was as painful as ever, those of us with East African Tourist Visas is was a total breeze but we then had to wait ages for the ones without visas who were applying on the border.
Eventually we were all through and heading to our camp through the rolling hills of Rwanda. We had a quick stop off in Ruhengeri/Muzanze locally for food and lunch which proved interesting. Nicole and I had clocked a place called Shakeys on the way in on the truck that looked reasonable so we headed there on foot. We sat down and asked for a menu which caused the waitress to give us a look like we had asked her to fly to the moon and back, then once she finally got us a menu we perused the said shoddy menu not overly enthused with the choices. Nicole had opted for a Shakey Sandwich, she simply asked the waitress what was in the sandwich to which the waitresses response was chicken and meat and that she would have to ask the kitchen if they had any chicken. She disappeared off for 5 minutes or so and never returned…at which point we ditched Shakeys and walked out and headed back down the road to a buffet restaurant in a garden which as it turns out the rest of the group were already dining at!
After lunch we headed to the Red Rock Campsite which was pretty funky. There was a nice camp area lots of palms and some weird-looking sculptures dotted around that would not of gone amiss in a horror film! We decide to upgrade to a room with shared bathroom as the walls were painted in a proper funky fashion!
The room was excellent apart from the fact the lock didn’t reach the door jamb so made the lock and key totally useless. We therefore had to carry everything of value around with us to dinner!
We sat out around the truck in the evening having dinner and then we had a shower and went to bed which should have been uneventful but turns out not! I had found a few pellets of mouse poo on my bed earlier that evening which I casually removed and put down to normal occurrence in Africa when in a rustic campsite. But Mr Mouse returned in the middle of the night and decided to use my arm as a runway…waking me up with a start feeling sharp little feet and a furry exterior running along my arm. He then leapt off onto the floor not to be seen again! Nicole woke up in the midst of my mouse incident and after looking under the bed and not finding him we went back to bed.
10 minutes or so later we both heard rustling again so we leapt up and moved rooms to the one next door which was empty and unlocked and settled down for a mouse-free nights sleep!
Tuesday 22nd September
Today was an early start, we were picked up at 6am and taken in 4x4s to the Parc des Volcanos entrance area. There we were registered and signed in by the office whilst we watched local drumming and dancing.
We then hired some gators which were a total life saver in the thick forest. Eugene our guide prepped up about our gorilla family we would be visiting…the Tirus family. Apparently Titus, the silverback and head of the family was a direct descent of the gorilllas in Diane Fossey’s research group. Titus was orphaned as a baby due to poachers killing his family.
Anyway after the prep we jumped back in the 4×4 and headed up into the mountains for the start point of our trek up to the national park & the forest with the gorillas in.
The walk up was difficult but nowhere near as hard as the Simien Mountain waterfall walk all those weeks ago! We climbed for 90 minutes or so before reaching the edge of the forest at which point we squeezed through a gap in a stone wall and started our walk through the thick impenetrable foliage. The foliage was a delightful mixture of spikey stuff, sticky stuff and stinging stuff. Thank god for the hired gators. We walked through the forest for about 5 minutes before meeting up with the trackers that were tracking the Titus Family, they told us the gorillas were about 10 minutes away which was exciting to hear. So we ditched our bags and headed off with only cameras in their direction. Shortly after heading off we rounded a corner to come face to face (well face to back) with a gorilla foraging in the foliage for food.
We then spent an hour wandering amongst the gorillas watching them chill out after their breakfast. Some of the gorillas were so close you could reach out and touch them. They are so human looking and so intelligent, its amazing to watch. I am sure half the time they were also studying us intently wondering how they share 98% DNA with such simple peculiar bald white creatures! We had a big silverback appear out of the bush and stand right next to us all, which may have been Titus himself coming to say hello and a young gorilla came wandering through the bush and walked right up to me and reaches out as if to touch my leg. Wilma has a photograph of that moment which hopefully once she has posted I can forward on.
The hour went so fast and before we knew if we had to say goodbye to Titus and his family. We headed back down through the forest to the wall and then passed through and out to the mountain below. We walked back down the mountain elated and taking in the beautiful views of Rwanda below us.
When we reached the drop off point we jumped back in the 4×4 and headed back to the original meeting point to drop off our gators and collect our certificate which was a nice touch.
We then headed back to the campsite for a shower, nap and dinner before bed and a mouse-less nights sleep.
Wednesday 23rd September
This morning saw us leave Red Rock Campsite and the gorillas and head to Kigali on the truck. We reached Kigali about lunchtime and headed to our hotel. We put some laundry in, used the wifi and generally chilled out for a while before Nicole and I headed to a popular restaurant close by for lunch.
The afternoon was lazy and chilled and we crashed out early as all the early mornings and gorilla trek had knackered us out.
Thursday 24th September
We got up had breakfast at the hotel restaurant and then walked into Kigali, we wandered around the nice residential area we were staying in, swinging by The Serena Hotel (5 star) for a cooling drink and sit in the shade around the pool. Once suitably refreshed we headed to the Mille Collines hotel which was the basis of the film Hotel Rwanda and a key part of the genocide.
Then we hit Nakumatt for essentials before popping next door to Bourbon Coffee for drinks. We then conducted some electrical accessory shopping as Nicole needed her camera on her iPhone replaced and I needed some new earphones and a charge lead for my iPad as mine had died back in Sudan and I am fed up of borrowing other people’s!
Once done we headed to a cool rooftop restaurant called Bamboo for chinese lunch! We shared some spring rolls and a pork dish which made a nice change!
After lunch we wandered back to the hotel for wifi and chill time before a bit of facetiming and a croque monsieur for dinner.
Friday 25th September
Today was a similar story to yesterday although minus the electrical accessory shopping and chinese! We popped quickly to a phone shop we stopped at yesterday and dropped Nicole’s iPhone off for fixing then jumped in a taxi and headed to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Its a very, very dark and sad story but the Museum and Memorial manages to be a peaceful, beautiful and relaxing place to sit and contemplate. It has areas for family to sit and be close to the final resting place of their loved ones and is a lasting testament to them. The journey through the memorial starts with a video containing graphic stories from Tutsi people who witnesses the death of their loved ones and the hands of Huthi friends and neighbours and have been left alone in this world to pick up the pieces and make sense of what happened to their country and people almost overnight.
The video unfortunately stopped playing halfway through due to a power cut….TIA…this is Africa….so we headed off into the gardens and area of remembrance.
We then headed back inside to the museum only to find it still in darkness so we wandered through a section that bizarrely still seemed to be illuminated called the children’s room. It had photographs donated by families of children who had died during the genocide…some as young as 8 months or as old as 10. There was a small snippet of information under each photo with their name, age, hobbies, favorite food, best friend and then the date, place and method of death. Hideous to read, a child of 10 was tortured to death and a child of 18 months was smashed against a wall. Whatever possess people to do this to others is totally beyond me.
We then decided, as the taxi was waiting for us, to wander through the museum using the flashlight from my phone. Spooky and even more dark experience than with the lights on. We read about the beginning of the genocide, how it played out, how the Belgians encouraged it, awful stories and pictures of people’s deaths but also stories of immense bravery and humanity from people who hid Tutsis and kept them safe and saved them from horrible deaths.
The Rwandans have managed to capture and display the absolute horrors of the genocide in a strangely calm, factual and proud way demonstrating how they have pulled together as a country and a nation and have helped each other to move forward accepting but never forgetting.
We saw groups of school children there who although not directly affected would have had grandparents, uncles or aunts that may have been killed in the genocide. They say 70% of Rwandans saw a family member or members killed and figures state 500,000 – 1,000,000 people died in 10 months.
I urge anyone visiting Rwanda to visit and take away with them the importance of humanity, respect of others, how sacred life is and how unnecessary violence is not the answer to any situation.
Feeling somewhat sadder for but also proud of the Rwandan people we left the memorial and headed back to Kigali for lunch and then packed and went to bed early as we had to be up at 12 midnight for our flight to Tanzania.