In the afternoon after our first day of gorilla trekking, I went on a little river trip in a fiber glass canoe with Kingfisher Journeys down the Mukungwa River with the most wonderful guide, Eloi. The photo below is of Simba, our driver and guide while in Rwanda, who was amazing, and Eloi who works for Kingfisher Journeys. If you’re trekking with the gorillas, this is such a fantastic thing to do in the afternoon. I highly recommend it and Eloi is terrific, lots of fun and very knowledgeable!
It was a magical way to spend a few hours just as the sun began to set. The abundance of bird life was staggering. I saw a grey heron, white egret, spoonbill, Ibis and Hadeda Ibis as well as dozens and dozens of other birds. I’ve never been much of a “birder” but this trip was an amazing experience; I loved every minute of it.
Okay, first things first. My computer crashed on the 3rd day of our trip. As in blank screen, nothing working, enter password, little wheel spins around, weird lights flashing in the upper left corner and then back to asking for my password screen. I don’t know if it’s just run the course of its computer life or if the brown-outs caused it to malfunction, this is obviously not my language or within my skill set to parse. Coupled with the iffy wi-fi and after trying a number of things, I finally gave up. That was what seems like weeks ago, but actually was on August 17th or was it the 18th? It’s impossible to know because each day has been so packed with adventures that it feels like years and at the same time, just seconds all at once.
So I’m on my husband’s computer writing this post, having finally contacted my friend and the person who pulled this site together and made it actually work, our tech guru, Kai of Hostingforwriters.com. She’s amazing, especially when it comes to all of this stuff, as well as being an all around lovely, kind, thoughtful human being, who also happens to be a very talented writer! Thank you Kai!!
So here we are, thanks to Kai, and I’m finally writing a blog post, way overdue. So where was I? Right. Gorillas! As in these amazing creatures.
Nothing can describe the thrill of seeing these beautiful animals in their own habitat. All money collected from the gorilla treks in Rwanda go back to protecting the gorilla population, the community, and education. For example, former poachers become porters and protectors through tourism dollars.
Once I have been able to figure out (if I can) how to log into my youtube account, all passwords were lost due to my computer crashing, I will post videos. In the meantime a little visit with the gorillas in photographs, which does not do them justice, but is better than nothing.
While trekking with the gorillas we stayed at the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge set in the Virunga Mountains. Sabyinyo is also the name of the oldest volcano that looms above the mist and low laying clouds and means “tooth.”
It’s impossible not to contemplate the genocide that ravaged this country, when more than one million people were massacred in 100 days. Think about that. Resulting in a collective trauma that is still felt by so many to this day. It was a brutal time demonstrating the worst aspects of colonialism and the racism that came hand in hand, a government that manipulated its people into seeing each other as enemies, and a world that refused to acknowledge the warnings and reports from so many.
Rwanda. (If you’d like to watch the youtube video I made covering the first few days of our trip, you can do so below.)
A fertile land where the rains allow crops to flourish, yet reveals the bones from those who were systematically and viscously slaughtered and then dumped into shallow graves. So many over the age of 30 have horrifying stories to tell.
And yet to travel in Rwanda today is to be greeted by waving children yelling “hello!” and “welcome!” teenagers eager to practice their English, and adults who do not show, at least not outwardly, any malice towards the tourists coming from countries that turned their backs on them, and allowed the killings to continue.
In fact, the country teaches the importance of kindness, reconciliation, forgiveness and how everyone prospers as a result. There are large posters and billboards everywhere encouraging exactly this.
And while coffee and tea are the country’s largest export, it’s the chance to catch a glimpse of the gorillas, who live mainly in a mountainous region among volcanoes shrouded by wisps of clouds, that draw many of the tourists.
Gorilla conservation, transforming poachers into porters, convincing the local population that their lives can and will improve if they do not encroach upon the gorilla population, but instead protect them, has changed lives.
Compassion. Kindness. Caring for others. Being a good person.
“We are gathered here to remember those who lost their lives in the Genocide and comfort those who survived.
“As we pay tribute to the victims, both the living and those who have passed, we also salute the unbreakable Rwandan spirit, to which we owe the survival and renewal of our country.
“To our parents, children, brothers, and sisters who survived — to Rwandans who defied the call to genocide and to those who give voice to their remorse — it is you who bear the burden of our history.
“We have pursued justice and reconciliation as best we could. But it does not restore what we lost.
“Time and again these past twenty years, Rwandans have given of themselves. You have stood before the community to bear witness and listened to others do the same. You have taken responsibility and you have forgiven.
“Your sacrifices are a gift to the nation. They are the seed from which the new Rwanda grows. Thank you for allowing your humanity and patriotism to prevail over your grief and loss.”
Paul Kagame: President of Rwanda at the 20th Commemoration of Genocide Against the Tutsi
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