While the ladies in Walakuba were making our beads, we took a side trip to Rwanda to experience this country and go trekking to see the chimpanzees and mountain gorillas. Our flight took us to Kigali, where we were met by our guide, Enos. Enos was very knowledgable about Rwandan (and Ugandan) history. Originally from Uganda, he speaks many native languages, and added a lot of "local color" to our trip.
Our first trek to see the chimpanzees was one of the hardest hikes we had ever taken! We went up and down the mountains (no paths of course ... just guide with a machete...)! We trekked for about four hours and only had a few glimpses of the chimps. They were very speedy at moving though the jungle -- and they seemed to want to avoid us! One tracker would have a sighting of the chimp family and would radio our guide. We would hustle (the best we could) to that spot only to find that the chimps had moved! Oh well. We really gained an appreciation for how well the chimps are acclimated to this type of jungle!
Rwanda offers some very sobering memorials to the genocide of 1994. We were there during the 20th anniversary of this mass slaughter. And, instead of sweeping this history under the carpet, the Rwandans have adopted a "never again" approach to the telling of the story. Many school children were visiting the memorials and there were billboards everywhere reminding people to remember the horror of those days.
The highlight of the visit to Rwanda was our gorilla trek. We started out early in the morning and were joined by our other trekkers at a very organized trail head. Enos relayed our previous chimp experience, and lobbied for a trek to a gorilla family who was relatively close by! This was a good thing, as we were still a bit sore from the chimp adventure.
We hiked for several hours, and arrived in this clearing where a gorilla family was enjoying the jungle. We saw the silver back, several moms, a baby, and many young gorillas playing in the trees. It was an exhilarating experience to be able to witness their life in the wild. Even though the trek is quite pricey, the funds go to conservation of this amazing species.
This hour was one of the most memorable hours of our life. Being "up close and personal" was amazing.
We continued on our journey and ended up back in Uganda, for another gorilla trek. Our hotel near the impenetrable forest was beautiful, and perched high on a hill. (This was a fantasy hotel built by a German woman who had been inspired by the location.)
We were very impressed by the quality of roads and beauty of Rwanda. Being here with a terrific guide was a treat.
We even taught Enos a new skill!