Our last Rwanda getaway

Community Highlights Africa & The Middle East Our last Rwanda getaway

We've been super busy working lately, trying to finish as much as possible before our time in Rwanda is up. But we wanted to take one more in-country trip, so last weekend Dennis, Myles (a medical student who is living with us) and I went first to Butare for some work, then to Nyungwe National Park to go chimpanzee trekking, then we drove up the west coast along Lake Kivu to Kibuye, a calm vacation destination on the lake, before returning home.

On our way to Butare we stopped at King's Palace — one of the place's on our to-do list. It rained the whole two-hour drive but conveniently stopped just after we arrived. We toured the traditional huts that the king of Rwanda lived in at the end of the Victorian Era. The king lived in the biggest hut with his wife (or wives). He would drink banana beer every morning when he woke up and several young women would sing songs all day long in his hut. A separate smaller hut was for the milk girl, who saw after the king's milk. She had to remain a virgin to keep the milk pure. A boy who lived in a third hut acted as the king's guard.

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Next we toured the modern house that more recent kings lived in. Finally, we got to see the famous long-horned cows that live here. They are regarded as sacred, so no one drinks their milk. Nowadays they are used in festivals or can be hired for weddings and other special events. The span between the tips of their horns can be up to six feet long.

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When we arrived in Butare, we had to hit up the Chinese restaurant for what was my last time (Dennis went back to Butare a couple more times - he made sure to eat there every time). Everyone calls it The Chinese Restaurant, but we realized it has a name — Good to Back Restaurant. I think they forgot the word "Be."

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The drive to Nyungwe National Park was beautiful, like all drives in this small, vibrant, hilly country.

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We arrived to our guest house just in time for dinner and then hit the sack early. The next morning we were ready at 5:55 a.m., when our chimpanzee trekking guide was scheduled to pick us up.

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At least, that's what we thought we had arranged. The guide never showed up. After an hour of waiting and several phone calls, we drove to the ranger station, then to another ranger station across the park. Eventually we got a guide and hit the trail at 8 a.m. We heard the chimps screaming almost immediately after we started walking, but we couldn't find them. We continued to hike off-trail and down a steep hill in the thick rainforest for an hour, where the trackers knew that another family of chimps was hanging out.

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When we first saw them, they looked small because they were high up in the trees, but then we found another group in a closer set of trees. We spent an hour and a half watching them scoop something out of the inside of flowers and eat it until they'd exhaust all the flowers on one tree and swing to the next one. We saw about 10 chimps total but spent the majority of our time watching three — a mom with her baby and what I presume was the dad. The single one peed twice while we were there, which is pretty impressive considering they don't drink water and get all their H20 from the trees. My photos of the chimps are terrible, but it was pretty amazing seeing these human-like creatures in the wild.

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It was amazing just gazing at them up above until — OW! I yelped at the pain. It was a fire ant. You wouldn't think an ant bite could be so painful, but this one made me bleed! Our guide found several more on my feet and legs. He picked each one up and threw it off me. He knew just how to pick them up, pinching them from the back, so they wouldn't bite him, kinda like picking up crawdads!

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After our relatively quick, but steep, hike back up the mountain, we stopped for a traditional lunch of rice, beans, french fries and cooked spinach and then set off for Kibuye. The drive, again, was stunning. I'm really going to miss the gorgeous scenery here and watching all the locals go about their lives, carrying supplies on their heads and babies on their backs and yelling "mzungu" when we drive by.

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We arrived to our guest house just in time to get a hot shower and a cold beer and watch the sky turn dark over the lake.

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The next morning Dennis and I decided to hire two local young men to take us fishing. We couldn't help but notice the roof of the boat was a giant portrait of the president. First we stopped at "Monkey Island," which we visiting several months ago but didn't see any monkeys. This time, we had better luck. This monkey, named Monkey, ate banana right out of our hands.

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The fishing was the highlight of the morning though. We joined some locals and fished off their boat. The fishing poles were long, flimsy sticks of bamboo with a short piece of fishing line tied to the end. There was no reeling in the line. Just grab the little hook at the end of the line, put some nasty little piece of smushed fish head on it and toss it in the water. The fish who nibbled at our lines were all teeny tiny, and most of the time they managed to eat the bait and swim away. But luckily, just one time each, we were able to feel that tug that was a little harder than the others, and pull up a little baby tilapia as the local cheered for us! It was an authentic experience and a fun way to end our last weekend getaway.

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The bait and the catch.

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This featured blog entry was written by karenanddennis from the blog Roaming Rwanda.
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By karenanddennis

Posted Tue, Jun 04, 2019 | Rwanda | Comments