Rambles around Rwanda


December 5, 2019 in Rwanda ⋅ 🌧 19 °C

We arrived at our first stop in Rwanda. Musanze (or Ruhengeri) is a city in northwest Rwanda. It’s the gateway to Volcanoes National Park, home to mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. The park encompasses the soaring Mount Karisimbi and 4 other forested volcanoes. On the town’s outskirts, dense greenery surrounds the bat-filled Musanze Caves. To the east, Lake Burera and Lake Ruhondo are set against a backdrop of verdant hills.

The city had a very different feel to the few African cities I have visited, to date. It seems to have been designed from a European template with pavements and single way traffic. I really like it and its the first time I felt ok to ramble around.

I am cooking today, so the cook group, 4 of us, went to the local fruit and veg market with a local guide/porter. Oasis Overland use him every time we’re in Musanze because he’s friendly and reliable. He’s a nice lad called Marcus. He helped us shop and probably saved us a fortune. The food looked magnificent but I noticed our western dress and mannerisms drew several glances. It’s always a struggle finding a balance between respect for the culture and traditions of the land or place you’re visiting and personal comfort. This Irish mzumga finds Africa HOT and wants to wear shorts but you hardly ever see Africa men wearing shorts. I’m not sure how they interpret western adult men wearing shorts; I must ask. Anyway, I try not to wear shorts outside venues or areas accustomed to westerners.

As soon as we walked into the market, a security guard with a large nightstick followed us and seemed to keep an eye on us. Maybe he thought we’d be hassled or maybe he was suspicious of mzungas. Who knows although I suspect it might be the former. There were a few unsavoury looking guys who also followed us with possible ill-intent. It’s important to keep your wits about you when teavelling in far off lands.

I just learned that Ruhengeri is the officual name for this city and capital of Musanze District. Some sources now refer to the city itself as Musanze, after the district in which it lies. This has to do with the adopted policy of renaming Rwanda cities, which was done to eliminate terrible memories of the past and to install new administrational infrastructure in the country.

Dian Fossey Gorillas Museum

December 6, 2019 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

Spent a few hours at this museum and research centre. It us devoted to the study and care of gorillas, both indigenous mountain gorillas as well as others species in Africa. It was very well presented and the displays were very informative. I really liked the idea that the researchers were African, young and bright. One of the aims of the Centre was to train a new generation of African scientists in animal conversation.

Dian Fossey (January 16, 1932 – c. December 26, 1985) was an American  primatologist  and conservationist known for undertaking an extensive study of mountain gorilla groups from 1966 until her 1985 murder. She studied them daily in the mountain forests of Rwanda, initially encouraged to work there by  paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey. 

Gorillas in the Mist, a book published two years before her death, is Fossey’s account of her scientific study of the gorillas at Karisoke Research Center and prior career. It was adapted into a 1988 film of the same name

Crema Coffeeshop

December 6, 2019 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

Following our visit to the museum, we went to a brilliant coffeeshop next door. It had a delightful ambiance and served really good coffee. Coffee here in East Africa is really good. I bought some freshly ground coffee in Nairobi and a cup every morning in my cafetiere or French press, as they call it in this part of the world.

I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more delightful coffeeshop in my life. Everything seemed to tick all the boxes. We ordered our drinks and food from friendly smiling staff and then went outside to consume at a table under a tree.

A few metres away an artist was painting canvases of African scenes, such as gorillas etc. He was also making some, what seemed to my non-artistic eye, very eye-catching abstract art which nevertheless seemed very African. I wished I could buy a few pieces but what would I do with them.

There was a coop craft shop attached to the cafe and I went in to have a gander. It was run by a strong friendly African woman. I bought a bar of lemongrass scented soap and a lovely handmade scarf I can use on my return to Dublin and the cold damp weather.

The scarf cost 15000 Rwandan Francs, about 15€. I was put off by 15,000 until I translated into €uro. What the hell, I said to the woman, it’s only money. There followed a conversation about relative wealth and how one can be rich while having little money. She gave me a big warm hug and I went on my way.

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