Saturday, 20 August 2011

Giraffes, gorillas and good times

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been a tourist in Rwanda showing my parents around. As I’ve said before, it makes you look at things with fresh eyes, but it also allows you to do all the touristy things that you don’t normally get to do because you are too busy with daily challenges such as trying not to burn yourself trying to seal the edges of rice sacks with a candle flame or trying to invent yet another tomato and potato based creation that you haven’t tried before.

So the gorillas. Well in theory we should never have seen them. I couldn’t get gorilla tracking permits from the tourist office because they are booked up for August months and months in advance mostly by American tour companies that charge a horrific price. But not to be deterred we still showed up (we had golden monkey tracking tickets anyway) and played the waiting game for no show standby tickets. And because fortune favours the brave we got lucky and got to go.

Now to say we got close to them was an understatement. I was at the front of the gorilla tracking group and as we got close a gorilla literally fell from the sky above my head which was something of a shock. Fortunately it had absolutely no interest in me whatsoever, merely regarding me with curiosity as I madly tried to photograph it. They were amazing actually. If you ever go to this part of the world you must see them! They are so cute, to me they resembled furry black beanbags wedged up in trees. I would have loved to run my fingers through their fur, but I didn’t think it was worth facing the wrath of the 222 kilo big lump of the daddy silverback gorilla, who incidentally spent most of the hour we were watching them sleeping or rubbing his balls!

And from one wildlife experience to another, we also went on safari in Akagera national park. We saw a really interesting array of animals including giraffes, zebras, hippos, buffalo and lots of gazelle like creatures called impala. Now unfortunately the car that was called for us by the safari lodge was somewhat dilapidated. It had a flat battery, a hole in the radiator and no suspension at all. And to top it all off it came with a driver who didn’t speak any English or French and appeared to have no idea how to drive. I must admit I was actually quite relieved when it broke down.  Being sat sideways in the back being constantly thrown from one side of the car to the other, I think I was only about 20 minutes away from losing the battle to keep my breakfast down. Fortunately there were no hippos or buffalo around at that point as we would have been easy pickings if they decided to try tasting human instead of grass. But all was not lost, the car did eventually start (with help) and the show did go on. And what a show it was. Giraffes in the wild are amazing, so graceful.

We had many good times over the two past weeks. My parents were introduced to the local beer, Primus, and much of it was drunk.  We chilled out in Gisenyi by lake Kivu (on the border with the DRC) and they tried ‘brochettes’ in Kigali. And now its back to reality. I’m back in Nzige filling up jerry cans with water and doing a crap job of bargaining for my tomatoes. The term starts again on Monday and its back to work. I’m sleeping in my own bed tonight for the first time in ages and trying to ignore the huge pile of oompa lumpa coloured clothes that I’ve just pulled out of my rucksack.

Up close to a mountain gorilla

Sleeping in the morning sun instead of getting up, a creature after my own heart


Dirty zebras. I'm glad I'm not the only thing that gets covered in red dust all of the time

The parents in Akagera


  1. Hey Cam, your travels sounded lovely ... i'm thinking with the tomatoes & potatoes ... have you made patatas bravas? i could send you some authentic spanish paprika & chilli flakes? made it for the 1st time last night & was yum!! let me know xxx

  2. Hi Cam - sounds like you had a lovely time with your parents xx