Travelling Blog - Rwanda
Home Travelling Blog

Back To Blog Homepage

I made 3 trips to Rwanda in as many weeks and liked it more every time I went back.

First, I came to organise some gorillas permits, unobtainable in Uganda where I wanted to see them. With Rwanda being less of a tourist hub than Uganda, the expensive permits were still readily available. In hindsight I count myself lucky that they were. Seeing the gorillas was one of the greatest things I have done so far.

Due to meeting a great fellow traveller (you know who you be) I was told how to make sure we got to visit the Susa Group, the biggest and most rewarding gorilla family on the Rwandan side. After a 2 hour trek through fields and bamboo forests we finally found them. There was one big oaf sitting calmly in the undergrowth chewing on something leafy (which didn't taste good.) We all stood there as quietly as possible amazed by him. In total contrast he looked totally bored by us, no doubt used to the daily tourust visit.

I'm not really sure how to describe a gorilla or what the whole experience was like. I think "cool" would be an apt word. There were several silverbacks, mostly eating or running around, and numerous youngsters, playing or fighting with each other.

One of the little guys thought it would be fun to kick me as he walked by. He then thought it would be even funnier to pause as he continued walking, look back at me as though to give me the finger, and to kick me again with his back foot. Then the little shit ran off. I would have taken him had his mum not been 3 times bigger than me.

The $375 for one hour with the gorillas was definitely worth it. And word on the street is that they're putting the price up to $500 from June(2007). My advice is if you have the time and money and are in the area to go and see them for yourself before they hike the price up again.

Before my parents had arrived I had had time to kill in the capital, Kigali. By coincidence I happened to be around on the last Sunday of the month, when everyone goes out and cleans up the country, eg cut the grass or sweep the streets. This was great and some people even asked me to help them out. It is a real testament to see everyone working so hard to rectify the problems of the past and getting on with life.

I also went to see the famous Hotel Des Milles Collines, synonymous with the movie 'Hotel Rwanda,' previously one of my favourite movies. I went with the intention of staying there for one night. It had been here that so many people had been murdered and a hero had been made as he saved thousands of lives. However, a few of the locals I spoke with had other things to say, and many of them were not concurrent with what had occurred in the movie. I do not know who to believe, or whether the movie exaggerates the heroics of its main character far more than it should do, or whether it exaggerated things at all. For this reason I will not delve any further into what actually happened, because in all honesty I don't really know.

I learnt much from visiting several memorial sites around the country, including 2 churches and a museum-like building erected on one of the biggest massacre sites. They were left as a reminder of the ghastly Genocide of 1994, in which Hutu militia systematically murdered over a million people, mainly Tutsis, in just 2 months.

The blood-stained clothes of the victims were still there. Thousands of skeletons lay in piles in churches where several atrocities took place, sometimes at the command of the clergymen and nuns. (Of the 2 churches I visited 5,000 had been murdered in one, 10,000 in the other.) Thousands of skulls remain stacked on shelves. One could still see where bullets had penetrated. On the smaller skulls you could see the indentations where children and babies had been swung by their feet against brick walls. Horrifically it even seemed like some of the church walls were bleeding.

There were stories of how people with money had paid their murderers to kill them with bullets; the easy, more painless option. It is sad that I will always remember seeing machetes stacked in the corner of one church memorial as I was walking out.

The memorials were a shocking, yet important, reminder of what had happened and what should not happen again. It is amazing that the world did nothing when this was going on. I would like to think that it will never happen again, but this is an unlikely reality. The world fucked up, just like they are doing now in the Sudan and Chad. And yet looking around me I have rarely come across people so friendly and welcoming. It just doesn't make any sense how your next door neighbour or your friend or your priest could turn out to be your killer.

1,000,000 lives in 2 months
500,000 lives in one month
125,000 lives a week
17,857 lives a day