Rwanda is a small east African country located between Uganda and Congo, with a stable (although authoritarian) government. Since the Genocide in 1994, there has been tremendous modernization in infrastructure and the economy. Environmental responsibility is widely practiced. The current population is thirteen million.
It just may be the the greenest place I’ve visited. The grass, the trees, the mountains are splendidly and lushly green. The hills are terraced and farmed with tea plantations, corn, potatoes, and Pyrethrum flowers, used to make pesticides. Growth is robust as a result of the mild climate and abundant rainfall. Such a contrast to eternally-drought-stricken California!
Juliet and I are spending three days in Volcanoes National Park where we’ve come to see Golden Monkeys, Mountain Gorillas and to hike Mt. Bisoke. The elevation is high, 8000 feet and above.
We spend an hour in the forest with the Golden Monkeys, a rare and endangered species. The best part is being up close with them in their favored bamboo habitat where they jump from tree to tree, and playfully chase and wrestle with each other.
Photo courtesy of Juliet
The same night, we experience hours and hours of drenching rain. The following day, we visit the Mountain Gorillas, the most critically endangered apes on earth. We are driven an hour to the trailhead, then walk an hour through the jungle in thick and slippery mud to where the trackers have located the gorilla family we have been assigned. There are thirty-four family members. We see twenty-four of them. They are so close to us. Two of the three silverbacks are present as well as five babies. The others are females or juveniles. One such juvenile plays with us by coming toward us (even brushing by my leg), and then backing off. We watch the youngsters tumble and climb, while others scratch and frolic. The hour goes by quickly and we are thrilled by the experience, recognizing ourselves in their behavior.
Bottom two photos courtesy of Juliet
On our last day, we hike Mt. Bisoke, over 12,000 feet in elevation. It is memorable primarily for its steepness and the colossal amount of mud on the trail. I slip and fall three times. My boots are encased in the wettest, heaviest, and stickiest mud I have ever seen. I turn back at 10,000 feet halfway to the summit. Juliet braves the entire distance and reports it is “type three fun,” otherwise known as no fun at all. Then it starts to rain on our way down! And so it was that we came to understand why our gorilla guide responded to our report that we planned to hike Bisoke with an incredulous why?
Postscript: and at last, we saw rhinos in Akagera National Park!