A Gorilla Tracking Diary by Carole Nicholson
Tuesday 8th October
All too soon the alarm went off at 4.15am. Somehow we endured a tedious wait at Nairobi airport for our Kenya Airways flight to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Landing just after 8 am (there being a time difference of one hour) we were greeted immediately we cleared immigration by Robert, our guide from Virungas Safaris. Although it would have been all too easy to say that we wanted to proceed straight to our lodge, Robert suggested that we should do a scenic tour of Kigali and visit the Genocide Museum. Kigali is quite remarkable in that a very large proportion of the city has been built since the 1994 genocide atrocities, and somehow they have brought themselves back from the brink with people going about their business and daily lives with ease. The genocide museum gave a raw insight into the transition from a pre-colonist era to one where the Belgians, in particular decided that they knew better about leadership. Out of a population of around 7 million, over a million were killed in 1994, with far more displaced and/or mentally affected by what they saw. The museum also gave an overview of other genocides of the 20th century - the Holocaust, Cambodia, Armenia, the Balkans........One left feeling that although one wanted to be hopeful that this could never happen again anywhere in the world, sadly one also felt that there is probably no hope for mankind in the long run. A very moving experience.
We had lunch at a very pleasant hotel Les Mille Collines before setting out on a two hour drive up to the Virunga Lodge. Kigali has expanded significantly in the last 19 years, and the overall population of Rwanda has climbed to over 11 million. We saw the impact of this with deforestation giving way to agriculture on terraces rather reminiscent of Madagascar. Little wonder that the road had been washed away in two places by landslides. Can the country successfully expand technologically at the same time as caring for the environment - which they claim to be passionate about. But the over-arching question has to be how on earth have they managed to achieve all their success in such a short space of time since the atrocities of 1994? For now a stunningly beautiful country, passionate about its achievements and above all going about its new era in peace and harmony! Long may it last!
We arrived at the Virunga Lodge to be greeted with a passion fruit drink before being taken to our room, Bunyonyi, with stunning views from the private verandah over the volcanoes and lake. The room is large with three sections - perfect!
Dinner, served at 7pm, was in the company of six Americans and a honeymoon couple from Australia. We managed an early night at last at 9pm - it seemed so special!