Burundi and Rwanda
21st Oct ; We were up well before the sun toady and on the road by 5.30am. The trip to the border was uneventful and we had crossed over into Burundi by 8am.
Well this turned out to be 7am on the Burundi side of the border because they are at GMT+2 so we gained an hours driving time.
Not only were they on a differnt time zone they drive on the wrong side of the road!!!!! We did not realise this until we came around a corner and there was a rather large truck on "our side" of the road shouting at us to move over. A quick scrabble through the Lonely Planet revealed that we should be driving on the RIGH hand side of the road - opps!!!!
The customs post was in the next village from the immigration so off we went loking for them.
When we got ther ethe carnet was stamped without a problem and Patrick was asked if we could give someone a lift to Bujumbura. After a bit of rearranging we had room for a passanger in the back seat.
Passenger loaded we were off.
As we drove we chatted the the chap in the back only to find out that his name was Jerome and he was the Head Officer in charge of the Customs and Immigration station we had just come through!!!
This made our life so much easier at all of the police check points as Jerome spoke up and we were ushered through without a passport ever seeing the light of day!!
We dropped Jerome off in Bujumbura and continued uo the long winding road up the side of the mountains that would eventually get us to the Rwanda border post.
On the climbs up the mountains we were kept ammused by the people on bikes going down the road. They had everything from Plantain bunches (bunches as each bike had at least 4 on it) to 6 goats and everything in between loaded onto the bikes and were going down at such a speed that they would not be able to stop even if they wanted!! At one point we were following a bike which was carrying 4 people at it pulled away from us down the hill whist we were doing 45km/hour!!!!!!!!!!!!
Gerty the GPS was telling us that we were close to the border controls, but there was noting in sight apart from rolling hills and green banana trees!!!
Gerty was now sure that we were well into Rwanda but we still hadnot come across any form of border control. Starting to worry a bit we rounded a corner and there infront of us was the brider controls!! Gerty was very wrong and had us worried for a bit!!!!!
The crossing into Rwanda was easy and we were off again within and hour.
We arrived in Butare (Huye as it is now called) around 4pm knackered and in need of a cash machine so that we could get some food!
We found the Ibis Hotel which was suposed to allow camping. When we arrivewd we took one look at the very dark storm clouds that were rolling in a decided to take a room for the night!!
It cost RS22,000 a room (around £11 per person) for B&B. It did not take much convincing to get us to take the room over camoing in the heavy thunder storm which loomed over us!!!
Room booked, we went off in search of money so that we could have dinner and get an early night.
Oct 22nd ; Went down for breakfast, after our fill we hit the road to Kigali. We wanted to get there and go to the ORTPN office to see if we could sort out a Permit to visit the Mountain Gorillas in the Voulcano's National Park.
We had been talking to people in Kigoma and they had to wait 3 weeks to get their Permit so we were not to sure we would get on in a hurray!!!!
We arrived in Kigali and OMG it was another mad African city with no road rules and people everywhere! Gerty the GPS was very good, she told us were we had to go and we got to the Office without any problems.
We were still not expecting to get a permit when we arrived. We had already decided that we would not wait any longer than a week for the permit in Rwanda and see if we could get one in Uganda.
We walked into office to see what we could do. Patrick asked if there was any chance that we could get a Permit asap, thinking we were stuck here for a while. Would you believe it she says
"We can do a Permit for 2 people on 23 if that is ok"
OMG!!!!!!!!! We snapped it up! We had a Permit for tracking tomorrow!!!
We paid our stupidly high fee ($500 per person!!) and went back to the car very happy!!
We had wanted to go to the Genocide Memorials whilst we were in Rwanda, but now we had to be in Kinigi Village ready to leave at 7am tomorrow morning.
We had a look at distances and decided that we could get to the Memorial sites and to Kinigi Village in one day of we were quick.
Well nothing could have prepared me for what I was going to see. The first one we visited was in Nyamata.
This is the site where 10,000 people were massacred within the "safety" of a church.
The clothes were still in the church, the walls were riddled with bullet hole and the roff was splattered with dried blood.
The excerlent guide (who was old enough to have lived through the Genocide) then took us outside where the remains of the people had been put. There was 2 tombs which were packed full of bones from the victims.
It was the most sombre, emotive thing I have ever ever witnessed.
When we emmerged from the tomb, the guide asked us if we had seen the coffin in the bottom. She then told us that within this coffin was the remains of a woman who had been repeatedly raped then impailed through to the brain and left to die. This made me feel sick, that humans can do this to each other.
After a shocking but worthwhile 30 mins we left and went to the Ntarama site.
This was another church where 5000 people had sort safety for 3 days and then were killed within the church.
I found this church worse that the first because the remains, clothes and belongings of the people had been left in the church.
The skulls told the story of the brutal deaths these peole had suffered.
The visiting of the 2 sites made me question why the UN did nothing to try and stop this Genocide. There had been warnings 4 years before this when the Huto's killed thousands of Totsi in a "mini Genocide" and still nothing had was done by anyone to stop it.
The main thing to come from these visits is that is shouold NEVER be allowed to happen again.
From here we drove to Kinigi Village where we spent the night. W e were both physically and emotionally exhausted from the day and so decided to get dinner in the resaurant here.
The rain was coming down and there was the occasionaly runmble of thunder. The thunder and rain got worse until lightning struck the restaurant and killed the electricity!!! We had a candle lit dinner and the retired to the tent in the rain.
Oct 23rd ; Today was the big day, we were going off to see Mountain Gorilla's!!! We were awake at 5am and could not sleep any more!
We arrived at the Headquarters at 6.30am ready and eagar. By 7.30am nothing had happened apart from the coffee and tea coming out. Finnaly around 7.45am all of the people gathered waiting, were split into ythe groupd they would be climbing with.
Patrick and I were put in a group that was going to see a group of 15 individuals, one of which was only 4 months old.
At 8am we were off, drving to the carparking point from which we would have to walk to the park and then to the Gorillas.
After a good 30 min walk we arrivied at the entrance to the park. It was then that the guide told us that the Gorillas were 1 hours walk from here, but they may move s it may be further.
Off we went, through thick bamboo and shrub which reduced us to walking doulbed over at some points.
After what felt like an age, the group was stopped and told to leave everything here with the trackers and to bring only cameras.
10 metres later there they were!!! Infront of us were 10 Gorillas including a HUGE Silver-back.
As we watched another 3 came out of the trees surrounding us and came down to rest.
It was amazing to watch them.
At one point wthe whole group had moved around to see the animals. The Silver-back decided that he wanted to get to the food behind us and so calmly got up and then charged toewards the food he wanted. However, between him and the food was Patrick and I!!!!!!!!!!
I moved to the side and he ran past, when I looked to where Patrick was standing, he was not there! When I looked closer he was on his back in the nettles with the Silver-back 2 metres from him!! As he had tried to move away he had caught his foot in a root and fallen backwards whilst filming everything!!!
This amuzed the whole group!!!!
After our allicated 1 hour we started to the climb back down to the car - HOWEVER - the Gorillas had moved into the track we had just come down so we had to fiught our way through the jungle to get to a track!!!!!!!!
Finally back on the track we were back to the cars within 45mins and off to the Headquarters again.
Everyone who had climbed was issued with a certificate to say that they had seen Gorilla's.
Certificate safely stored we went back to the Hotel carpark we were camping in and sat talking about the day over a few beers.
5 individuals having fun
Tomorrow we plan to leave early and go to Uganda.