Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

North London ‘derby’ in Nyakarambi!
November 21, 2010

We have been promising ourselves a Saturday afternoon visit to KMC to watch a match on Msafiri’s big screen. Given that this weekend we were at a loose end in Nyakarambi and that Mark is a ‘Gooner’, the North London ‘derby’ seemed an obvious call.

Sod’s law decreed that this would, of course, be the Saturday afternoon that Msafiri had let his function room for a wedding party, so no football. Fortunately, however somebody else with an eye for the main chance had set up a 26 inch TV in a back room behind Uncle Innocent’s café.

We dutifully paid 200RWF entrance fee and took our place on wooden bench, hemmed in by about seventy football mad locals, and with a distant view of the small screen. About 75% of the crowd were Arsenal ‘fans’ and the rest were cheering on Spurs because they were followers of Chelsea or Man Utd.

The first half was a cake walk for Arsene’s team and the camera even caught him smiling. Perhaps it was too easy, because the second half saw an amazing turn around and Harry’s Spurs surprisingly found themselves 3-2 winners,  without really playing that well. A ‘game of two halves,’ if ever there was, and  Arsene was finally shown throwing his water bottle on to the ground in frustration!

To be honest all five goals were the product of dubious defending and who knows what Cesc Fabregas was thinking of when he stuck up an arm to let Spurs back in with an equalising penalty which provided, an out of condition, Rafael Van der Waart with his one and only meaningful contribution  to the game.

Game over and we repaired to the ‘front terrace’ of KMC to drown Mark’s sorrows and catch the dying embers of the day. As we watched the wedding guests, dressed in their finery, come and go we were soon joined by Msafiri sporting his ‘Tora Paul Kagame’ T-shirt and a long face. He is also a Gunners fan and had been watching the game up in his room.

Msafiri has taken to wearing a range of PK leisure wear since last Sunday when he attended a FPR meeting addressed by a local MP who apparently robustly refuted the findings of the recent controversial UN enquiry.  

Msafiri maintains he has never been into politics too much but understands the current standing and popularity of PK and, being rather astute, he clearly recognises that nailing his colours to the mast can’t be all together bad for business.     

He has been very friendly and helpful to us since we moved to Nyakarambi and is a bit of a local Mr Fixit. I had set him the mission of trying to find someone local who might be prepared to transport me and my luggage to Kigali Airport in two weeks time, at a decent rate, so I don’t have to struggle with it on the bus.

It seems he might have come up trumps and in typical African style, with a big smile on his face he declared that he could confirm arrangements two days before I’m due to leave. My response that I needed to know at least a week before leaving was met with another big grin and a, ‘Don’t worry Phillip I won’t let you down!’ Past experience suggests he won’t so I’ll just relax and go with the flow.          

On arriving home a  quick trawl on the internet soon put  the North London ‘derby’  into perspective. The result of the day was obviously down in Cardiff where Billy’s Boys beat the table toppers 2-0 to move the Tricky Trees into the top six of the Championship!

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Mutesi’s World
November 21, 2010

‘Well I came upon a child of God, she was walking along the road, I asked her where she was going and this she told me………..’

Her name was Mutesi and she scribed it in the red earth with a stick to make sure I had got it. Mutesi was about nine years old, wore an easy smile and spoke a little English. She was carrying a small yellow plastic water container along the ‘road’ to Mushikiri.

Having seen my camera Mutesi was quick to ask for a ‘photori’. She struck a bashful pose and was clearly pleased with the end result as she stared at the display on the back of my camera.

Thereafter she walked beside me as we passed the simple clay built homes, many of them freshly rein this way for about an hour gradually attracting a number of adults, intrigued to see what all the fuss was about as their children giggled and pointed at their digital images.

Normally reticent people were suddenly lining up to have their photographs taken; a group of old men sitting with their sticks and chewing the fat in the shade of a tree, a young mother proudly showing off her one month old baby, a family group selling sweet potatoes by the roadside, a woman up to her arm pits in a bucket of mud for rendering the house, and women bearing huge loads on their heads.

The Rwandan people aren’t naturally ‘smiley’ but a bright and breezy, ‘Mwaramutse, amakuru?’ is usually rewarded with the response , ‘Ni meza!’ accompanied by a thawing of the features.

Similarly even those who consent to having their photograph taken are very wary and either stare blankly into the lens or avert their eyes. It was therefore really surprising and rewarding that so many people responded so positively to having a camera lens intrude into their lives and with a bit of encouragement most of them even smiled.

One lady, clutching a lovely pair of mangoes, posed for me in a resolutely dead-pan way but when I said, ‘Show me your teeth!’ she let out a huge guffaw, her head rocked back, face illuminated and mouth opened to display the lovely gap toothed smile that I was after.

My chance meeting with Mutesi had opened the door on to her world and provided a rare opportunity to capture her people going about their daily business.

‘We are star-dust, we are golden and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden………’

(Woodstock lyrics courtesy of Joni Mitchell)

Mützig and jambo with the lads!
November 17, 2010

Today was my final visit to Nyamateke School, to lead a training session on Classroom Observation, although I will be seeing the teachers again when they join with the staff at Nyabitare next week to start a four-week MINEDUC national English training programme for teachers. 

Sadly Wellars, the Headteacher, was not present today. One of his five children, a son, has gone down with malaria and he needed to take him to hospital for treatment. Fortunately, I understand it is not too serious.

Malaria is still rife and a big killer out here and we have recently received an email alert from VSO warning us that an unusually warm wet season has led to an increase in mosquitoes and reminding us to keep taking the tablets and bed down under our nets.

In Wellars’ absence Anaclet, a young teacher with good English, had been briefed to look after me and he was insistent that the headmaster had said he must take me for ‘refreshment’ after the session to thank me for my work.

Before we set off down the hill to the local ‘bar’ I lined all the teachers up for a group photograph outside the school and promised I would send them a copy on my return to England.

Six of us squeezed into the small, dim room with its rustic furniture and coloured poster of a smiling Shakira, adorning the wall. Things had gone full circle as this is where I had been treated to ‘Fanta Coca’ on my very first visit to the school.

This time around we were on the beer – well it is the school holidays! Once the bottle tops had been removed Xavier, ‘a good Christian’ according to Anaclet, said ‘grace’ in Kinyarwanda. Xavier later told me he had given thanks for the work I had done with them and asked God to be with me when I return to England – very touching!

Next I was told I had to partake of ‘jambo’ for lunch. Jambo turned out to be a tin of sardines with the brand name ‘Hello’. The barman cut open the small cylindrical can with a large machete and we all sat scooping the fish out with a fork before slurping down the remains of the tomato sauce!

As is often the case the best conversations are those over a shared beer and we touched on a whole number of varied but interesting topics. We somehow got on to university fees. All of my drinking companions were still in their twenties and keen to continue in part-time higher education.

Apparently a part-time university course costs around 450,000 RWF (£450) a year plus travelling expenses every weekend. It may not seem excessive to us but is prohibitive for many of them.

I tried to explain the English student loan system. Their faces displayed instant recognition and I was told the same set up had recently been adopted by Rwanda. All was made clear as they informed me that Paul Kagame is very close friends with an English adviser, Tony Blair!

Cows are never far away from the thoughts or conversation of Rwandans. They still can’t comprehend that we don’t keep cows as domestic animals in the UK!

It was explained to me that each year one teacher from each sector is nominated by his colleagues to receive a cow for his services to education. Last year in Nyarabuye sector it was, Seraphin, one of the Nyamateke teachers who received a Friesian cow from Paul Kagame (not Ankole!).

Ankole cattle with their enormous horns, whilst well adapted to East Africa and able to survive on limited water and poor grazing, are short on milk. Friesians which produce far more milk are gradually being introduced. Unfortunately Seraphin’s cow had not lasted long but he had been promised a replacement.

Anaclet had phoned my moto driver and rescheduled him to pick me up from the ‘bar’ not the school (a good advert for VSO volunteers!) and it was with some regret that I had to depart the scene so soon. I’m sure it is enjoyable interludes such as this that will remain with me for a long time when I return to the UK.

A severe dose of ‘man flu’…………..
November 15, 2010

Apologies to my ‘regulars’ for the lack of postings over the last week or so, principally the result of a severe bout of ‘man flu’ which I’ve managed to recover from with the help of an emergency cache of paracetamol, Strepsils and Lemsip which Dorothy had stashed away before her departure and for which I was very grateful.  

A moto-ride to O Sole Luna

Following my whistle-stop tour of the Volcanoes National Park and Lake Kivu I returned to Kigali and met up with my VSO colleagues who had been toiling through another week of in-country training.

I was running a bit late when I left the Hotel Isimbi and immediately realised that I had not allowed for the Friday night rush hour in the capital city. I decided to forget the matutu (mini-bus taxi) and take a moto. It was quite an exhilarating experience (one I wouldn’t even have considered when I first arrived here)  as we bobbed and weaved through queues of traffic, surging between the static rows, with a hair’s breadth to spare, in order to take pole position at the traffic lights.    

I made the rendezvous with time to spare and we enjoyed a really pleasant evening at a highly recommended Italian restaurant on the edge of Remera, called O Sole Luna, which provided stunning views from its terrace across the twinkling lights of Kigali (no power-cut that night) and more importantly a genuine wood fired pizza oven!

Service was a bit on the slow side, which is pretty standard anywhere – time is not considered important here, but well worth waiting for. My four cheese pizza even had genuine chunks of brie and gorgonzola!

At the end of the evening it was time for hugs and fond farewells with a number of very nice people who I have come to know over the last ten weeks and who I will not see again before I return home. I wish them all the very best for the remainder of their long-term placements.     

A rising temperature but the show goes on!

By Sunday afternoon, and a three-hour bus journey courtesy of International, I arrived back at Nyakarambi with a rising temperature, sore throat and streaming nose. A throbbing head soon joined in and basically I felt pretty grim for the next three days.

Unfortunately it coincided with my first two scheduled workshops which I didn’t want to cancel so I dosed myself up and ploughed on regardless. I wouldn’t recommend facilitating a four-hour session on creating an effective classroom environment as the best remedy but I got through and lived to tell the tale.

It was rather disappointing, given the work I’d put into the preparation, that only 50% of the staff showed up at one school and about 75% at the other. It is the school holidays (for pupils) but I had been led to believe teachers were expected to attend any in-service training that was made available to them. I’m still not clear whether their contracts oblige them to put in an appearance. Clearly some of them think it’s optional or don’t fancy the idea of a muzungu droning on about raising standards for four hours!    

Going Postal in Kibungo & Caribbean curry

On Saturday I visited Kibungo in search of our nearest Iposita (post office). These are a rare commodity in Rwanda. This one, quite a walk from the centre of town, is the only place that sells stamps ‘locally’ and is the sole repository for incoming mail.

None of the properties in Nyakarambi and the surrounding villages has a postal address and there is no postal delivery service so if residents or schools wish to receive mail they need to set up a ‘post box’ in Kibungo.

Periodically they then have to make a bus journey clutching the key to their numbered box with its little yellow door situated outside the main post office building, which incidentally doesn’t strike me as being overly secure.

It’s been a ten week odyssey to find and purchase post cards, and then locate the post office in Kibungo, which of course was closed by the time I arrived.

Fortunately there are two young lady volunteers living in Kibungo who will post the cards for me later this week. Cathy and Louise also kindly offered to cook me a meal and put me up for the night in their ‘guest room’. So it wasn’t a wasted journey.

We had a pleasant time shopping in the local market where they both showed how their Kinyarwanda lessons are paying off as they enquired about prices and exchanged pleasantries with the stall holders who now recognise them as local regulars.

A very healthy, vegetable laden, Caribbean curry (due to the presence of fresh pineapple) and rice went down very well later on Saturday night, followed by a rare treat of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (made under license in Kenya). On Sunday morning they also kindly rustled up pancakes for breakfast I left for home. I must have looked in need of a good feed. Thanks for looking after an old-timer girls!                   

This week I’ve got four consecutive days of workshops, two on lesson planning and two on classroom observation. I’m pleased to say things have started quite well with an improved turn out today.        

‘Salon de Coiffure’ – African Haircut Sir?
November 5, 2010

For some time I had been thinking that a haircut was in order. Although I don’t have much hair, it has a tendency to grow in all the wrong places and after two months away I was beginning to sport what my daughters lovingly refer to as the, ‘Coco the Clown look’ (second only to the Bobby Charlton comb over in the pantheon of baldy hairstyles!).

As I was making my way back through Kibuye ‘centre’ towards the Home St Jean my eyes were drawn to a rendered building, painted in a lively shade of turquoise, with a sign above the open doorway announcing that it was a ‘Salon de Coiffure’. To reinforce the message two men’s heads were portrayed sporting stylish African hair styles.   

I decided to take the plunge. My opening gambit was, “Do you cut muzungu hair?”  to which came the convincing reply, “Yego!” and I was asked to take a seat.

So there I sat, in small town Rwanda, staring into a mirror bedecked with fairy lights while posters of Arnie ‘the Terminator’, the Back Street Boys, Chelsea and Manchester United looked down at me from the walls. Well, they all had western hairstyles so surely it shouldn’t  prove too much of a problem. To make a point I pulled out my VSO card, which has a passport photograph, and showed it to the ‘hair stylist’  to give him some idea of the optimum length, before finally stressing, “Not African style!”  

He smiled and set to work. There was not a pair of scissors in sight.  The whole job was done with an old set of electric hair clippers, with copious amounts of talcum powder and purple methylated spirit applied to my scalp throughout the procedure!

Well, cutting to the bottom line, I won’t need to dash to the hair dresser again before Christmas. I’m trying to kid myself that I’ve got the Bruce Willis look but it’s probably nearer to the Mitchell brothers. Anyhow it’s better than Coco the Clown and what do you expect for 600RWF (60p)?

Jean-Claude – ‘Batman!’
November 5, 2010

There is a lovely circular walk which follows Kibuye’s one –way system and affords beautiful views across Lake Kivu.

As is always the case in Rwanda there is a never-ending stream of people walking at the side of the road. I always go out of my way to greet them in Kinyarwanda and in most cases they respond with a smile, pleased that a muzungu has made the effort to use their language.

However at Lake Kivu, an area that has received a lot of international aid, there seems to be an expectation, perhaps born of this, that muzungu equals money. I was regularly approached by children and women holding their hands out and saying, “Give me money/argent/ amafaranga,” (just to cover all bases!)

I was also approached, in a friendly and polite way, by a number of young men offering boat excursions on the lake. Given that it is low season, they are trying to scrape a living at the moment and eventually I relented and agreed a deal with Jean-Claude.

His wooden boat with a canopy and bench seating for 30 odd people was moored near the Golfe Eden Rock, an up market hotel where I’d stopped off for breakfast overlooking the lake. It had an outboard, oars in case of an emergency, and most importantly life jackets.

I agreed what I thought was a one hour  jaunt on the lake passing close to  two nearby islands; Napoleon’s Island, so named because its shape resembles his hat, and Amahoro (Peace Island).  I was the only passenger so 20,000 RWF (£20) for a personalised tour seemed a decent enough deal.

It was bright and pleasantly warm as we set course for Napoleon’s hat, which as is always the case was further than it looked. It was close on an hour by the time we arrived at the base of the island where to my surprise Jean-Claude tied up the boat and indicated that I should get off.

I had not been expecting to land on the island and could have done without the steep ascent towards its summit, clambering over rocks, following little more than a precipitous goat track. After climbing for half an hour or so, in what was now quite hot sunshine, we approached the top and Jean-Claude signalled for me to stop.

The reason for all this effort was revealed as he picked up a few large rocks and hurled them down into a wooded area clinging to the slope. Thousands of fruit bats ascended, forming a huge black cloud of fluttering wings against a bright blue sky.

Jean-Claude smiled and proudly announced, “Bats, you take photograph!”  After throwing a few more rocks to maximise the effect, we began to work our way back down towards the boat, which eventually spluttered into life,  and we set off across the short distance to Peace Island.

Again I wasn’t expecting to stop, but as JC cut the engine and we coasted towards a landing stage he informed me, “You can get everything here, Fanta, beer, whatever you like!”

After our exertions climbing Napoleon’s hat the sound of a beer was pretty tempting. I invited JC to join me in sitting under a parasol on a small stretch of sand where we were served from a timber built bar/restaurant by the owner, Augustine.  

Jean-Claude was largely French-speaking and his English was just enough to get by whereas Augustine prided himself on his English and was keen to impress. As we drank our Mützig (iconje cyane – very cold) I asked him if he could give me a definitive version of ‘cheers’ in Kinyarwanda.

He scuttled off and returned with a piece of green paper, torn from his receipt book, on which was carefully and boldly written : ‘Kubuzima bwanyu, A votre santé (French), Anjoy yourself.’    

As I was settling the bill Augustine proudly presented his visitors’ book and asked me to sign. I can assure you not too many Englishmen have penned an elegy to the Pleasure Island Beach Bar, in the middle of Lake Kivu!    

My one hour boat trip with Jean-Claude had now extended to a little over three hours and there was just time for one more adventure!

With the mooring spot at the Golfe Eden Rock within sight, but still several hundred yards distant, the outboard coughed its last –  we were out of fuel. I readied myself for paddling the rest of the way but fortunately there was enough current for us to slowly drift towards a couple of boats that were moored at a nearer part of the shoreline, where JC was handed a plastic container with enough fuel to get us safely ashore.

Lake Kivu – A Creation Myth & Cautionary Tale
November 5, 2010

Long ago, back in the mists of time, the area which is now covered by Lake Kivu was a hot, dry grassy plain where the people toiled to scratch a living from the scorched earth.

One kind-hearted man helped his older neighbours to farm the land and harvest their crops. This was much to the annoyance of his wife who scolded him for spending so much time filling the grain stores of others at the expense of their own.

However Imana (the creator) had observed the man’s deeds of kindness and rewarded him with a cow that not only yielded milk but also millet, beans and peas! As this was a very special cow, and one that might be coveted by others, the man had to milk it in secrecy and tell no one.

His wife wasn’t sure where the increased amount of produce came from but scolded her husband a little less.  

One day the man was called away from the land to do some work at the court of the Mwami (King). He was anxious about his cow and spoke to Imana who said he could now reveal the secret to his wife so that she could milk the cow while he was away, but in no circumstances should she tell anyone else.

With her husband out of the way his wife invited a young man to her house where she fed him on the fine produce provided by the cow. He couldn’t believe that such a poor piece of land could yield so much and set about using all kinds of devious questioning and persuasion to uncover the secret.

Eventually the woman weakened and milked the cow in front of him. The young man couldn’t believe his eyes and immediately ran to tell his neighbours that there was no need for them to toil away on the land anymore as the secret cow would produce enough for everyone.

Imana heard of this and was annoyed that the woman had not been able to keep the secret. He prepared a punishment.

Before retiring at night it was customary for the woman to go out into the fields and relieve herself. On the next occasion that she squatted down the flow from her bladder was unstoppable. It flowed relentlessly flooding her home, field and the surrounding land. It became so deep that it covered the trees and the woman herself disappeared below the surface and drowned.   

When the sun rose the next morning it illuminated the shining surface of Lake Kivu as we see it today.

When the woman’s husband returned from his work at the Mwami’s court he found a lake, brim full with fish and water birds, gently lapping at the edge of his now fertile fields.

The cow had disappeared but a huge pile of millet, peas and beans were left behind which the man planted and thereafter the newly irrigated land always yielded a rich crop.

Imana was pleased for the man and smiled. He had also had the last laugh as far as the wife was concerned, he’d certainly taken the p—-!

‘Home St Jean’
November 5, 2010

For the last two nights I have been staying at the small town of Kibuye on the banks of Lake Kivu.

Kibuye is about half way down the eastern side of this ‘inland sea’ which runs for almost 100km along the Congolese border. It is the most easily accessible lakeside town from the capital city of Kigali, about three hours by mini-bus.

The first hour of the journey is relatively gentle but the two-hour stretch from Gitarama is something of a slalom course cutting through hillsides and teetering around precipitous valley sides. Despite that it is a well made and maintained road and a tribute to the engineering skills of the Chinese who built it.

When I arrived at the bus depot, looking a bit green about the gills as if I’d just come off a fairground waltzer, I was approached by a moto driver who was not at all phased by transporting my suitcase as well as me complete with rucksack up the steep hill to my lodgings.

I have been staying in what the Bradt guide-book describes as ‘the cheapest accommodation in Kibuye.’ It is called the Home St Jean; a Catholic guesthouse perched on a hill-top at the edge of town which enjoys panoramic views of the surrounding lake.

It has recently been renovated and my comfortable en-suite accommodation (with a very good hot shower) opens on to a shared terrace directly above a beautifully kept hillside garden with a steep path down to a small lakeside beach. All of this for 15,000 RWF (£15.00) per night!

I have been awoken each morning by the first rays of the rising sun dancing on the water and the echoing voices of singing fisherman as they paddle across the lake.

Apparently Home St Jean ‘took a battering’ during the genocide. I’m not quite sure what that entailed but certainly the Genocide Memorial Church, which shares the same promontory a few hundred yards back up the track was the scene of a terrible three-hour killing spree, by a mob fuelled on banana beer and armed with grenades, in which 11,400 Tutsis died.

It seems incomprehensible that Kibuye, with its idyllic, tranquil lakeside location and picture postcard vistas, was the scene of the most comprehensive slaughter of Tutsis in the whole of Rwanda.

There had been a relatively high proportion of Tutsis, about 20% of the local population, totalling around 60,000. When the French arrived, after the genocide, they estimated that 90% of the Tutsi population had been wiped out leaving few witnesses to the crime.

The Genocide Memorial Church remained a broken and desolate reminder of these events for a number of years but has now been lovingly restored, with bright new stained glass, mosaics and wall hangings and once again each Sunday it is filled with the joyful sound of worship.

It still amazes me that so many people have managed to cling on to their faith in the aftermath of such carnage.

Primate Safaris
November 2, 2010

With school teachers on holiday for the week and my presence not required at the second installment of VSO in country training, which is only relevant for long-term volunteers, I have planned to make good use of some free time to explore a little more of Rwanda.

On Sunday afternoon I travelled up to Ruhengeri in Northern Province, gateway to the Volcanoes National Park, in preparation for a two-day primate safari in the Virunga Mountains.

The Volcanoes National Park is 91 km north-west of Kigali. On this occasion I opted for the comfort and extra expense of being chauffeur driven in a four-wheel drive booked through a local travel agency. My driver, Aloys, remained with me for two days making sure I arrived everywhere on time and with the requisite paperwork and permits.

It was an enjoyable two and a half hour drive through the beautifully terraced hills, which are so characteristic of rural Rwanda, to the town of Ruhengeri which like many has undergone a name change post genocide and was formerly called Musanze.

The Gorillas Volcanoes Hotel, where I was staying, had good views across to the Virungas, which are not actually a mountain range but a chain of free-standing volcanic cones, three active, six inactive, straddling the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and DRC and all exceeding 3,000m with the tallest Karisimbi at 4,507m.

Tracking mountain gorillas in the Virungas is one of the great wildlife experiences and indisputably one of Africa’s travel highlights. It was therefore with great anticipation that I left the hotel at 6.00 am on Monday morning.

Aloys drove me to the mountain gorilla centre, at nearby Kinigi, where I met up with 55 other lucky people. In order to minimize behavioural disturbances to the gorillas only 56 permits are issued  daily, eight for each of seven habituated groups in the Volcanoes Park, at a cost of US$500 each.  As a temporary Rwandan resident with a green card I was eligible for a half price permit, still expensive but bearable!

At Kinigi I was allocated ‘Group 13’, the second largest gorilla family, consisting of 25 members led by one silver back. Francis our guide gave us a briefing on how to behave in the presence of the gorillas. Once we had located them, with the help of trackers who go ahead and maintain radio contact with the guide, we would be in their presence for one hour at a minimum distance of seven metres.

I had feared dismal rainy conditions but the sun was shining  as we set out from the trail head. One and a half hours later, following a steady climb through semi deciduous woodlands and bamboo forest – having reached a height of around 2,700m, we made contact with our trackers. The gorillas were just a head!

Most people have seen David Attenborough’s wonderful BBC documentary Gorillas in the Mist and somebody actually asked me how I could expect to get a better view of them than that? In truth I had been ready for a big let down but needn’t have worried.

It is extremely difficult to do justice in print to the exhilaration of encountering these gentle giants at such close quarters, other than to say it was a once in a life time experience that exceeded expectations and was worth every last cent.

For an hour we watched the huge silver back munching stoically on bamboo (a gorilla’s daily intake is roughly 15% of is body weight so in his case about 30 kg) whilst keeping a watchful eye on his extended family. Young gorillas thumped their chests and frollicked around engaging in rough and tumble whilst the very small literally clung to their mothers.

Although we started off at the requisite 7m distance from the gorillas they carried on regardless moving around and about us. At one point we were encircled. The guides would occasionally ask us to stand still or step back as one of the gorillas passed through often within a metre or so of where we were standing!

The gorillas are obviously the stars of the show in this neck of the woods so this morning’s treck to see the much smaller and little known golden monkeys (an endangered species) might have been an anti-climax. It turned out to be another great spectacle.

There are around a hundred golden monkeys in the troop and a fair few of them showed up to  treat us to a display of acrobatics, flying through the tree tops and swinging from creepers. Once they had accepted our presence they came very close scampering around at ground level as well as performing their aeronautics while some of them were seemingly posing for the benefit of their visitors’ cameras!    

Our enjoyment was heightened by Francois, a guide who actually worked with the legendary Dian Fossey. He is extremely knowledgeable and a huge character, who is clearly very in tune with his primates, and treated us to some wonderful gorilla impersonations.

  

 

 

    

 

     

‘High Noon’ at Nyakarambi & Glaws gun down Tigers in Kingsholm showdown!
October 31, 2010

Weekends are the quietest part of the week in Nyakarambi. On Saturday a number of businesses are closed because the owners are Seventh Day Adventists and similarly a lot are also closed on Sunday due to the call of church.  

This Saturday, being the final one of the month, was umuganda so it was even quieter than normal and I had to wait until 12.30 for the first Kigali bound bus of the day.

As I hauled my suitcase up the main street it did occur to me, not for the first time, how similar Nyakarambi is to those out posts of the old wild-west depicted in Hollywood movies.

As the midday sun bore down I had a sudden flash back to the Gary Cooper character in the classic western High Noon (which really shows my age!).

Shop fronts line the main street with their covered walkways, the Auberge Ikirezi does a good impression of a saloon bar, with its fair share of all day drinkers, while the moto drivers coral their machines in the shade of a tree at the edge of the town or cruise around, like latter-day cowboys. There are even, off stage sound effects, with the occasional long-horned steer lowing in the background.

In fact all that was missing, as I waited for the International ‘stage coach’ to pull in, was a piece of tumbleweed cart-wheeling along the road!

Meanwhile, back in the 21st century, it was a tight squeeze on the bus. My suitcase caused a bit of a problem and had to be wedged under a seat whilst I was show horned between a guy snoozing in a window seat and a sister of generous proportions who spread over most of  my seat as well as her own.

The sun soon dissolved into pouring rain and for three hair-raising hours the driver had one hand on the horn and the other clasping a mobile to his ear.

I knew Rwanda had joined the Commonwealth but I hadn’t realised they had switched to driving on the left hand side of the road, which is where we spent most of our time – swerving back to the right at the last-minute to avoid on coming traffic!     

Luckily the rain had abated by the time we reached Kigali and I was soon ensconced in the bar at my hotel of choice, the Isimbi  (where I’m becoming recognised as a bit of a regular) settling my nerves with a much-needed beer whilst watching a similarly edgy Gunners sneak a 1-0 win over the lowly Hammers at the Emirates.   

Game over and I went straight on-line to find that Forest’s recent recovery had stalled as they suffered a touch of the blues with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Pompey, apparently conceding two soft goals and converting just one of 13 chances that came their way!

However in the ‘egg catching’ game Gloucester, who seem to be going from strength to strength, tweaked the Tiger’s tail, to steal the points with a last gasp try from Lesley ‘the Volcano’ Vanikolo.

This type of final flourish is usually reserved for the likes of Leicester, not Glaws, particularly in televised games, but this young Cherry & Whites side seems to have a bit more steel about them than last year and just maybe they might surprise a few people, come the end of the season!