Thursday, July 28, 2011

Nyungwe National Park

The 3 Laws of Nyungwe:
1. What goes down must come up.
2. Double any length and time you are told. (A "4km hike" is at least 8 or 9km)
3. Energy cannot be created, only destroyed.

Nyungwe National Park is a huge span of afro-montane rainforest on the Albertine Rift. It was BEAUTIFUL. Some of our plans to see primates were sadly foiled (we didn't get to see chimps or black and white colobus) but we did see mona monkeys and grey-cheeked mangabeys. The rainforest totally made up for everything though. The place we stayed was the camp for all the Rwandan students studying to be park rangers. It was pretty nice, but the food was horrible (haha). We had the same thing every day (I think the soup was a different color one night...) and by the end of the week we were all ready to be done eating soup and rice and peas twice a day. 

The hiking was absolutely gorgeous, but it was probably one of the most physically demanding things I have ever done. The entire first half of every hike goes straight downhill (and I mean painfully downhill). And then, once you're good and tired and you've watched monkeys for an hour or so, you have to climb straight back uphill (see law #1). But, it was all worth it in the end because it was so dang beautiful. Our motto: Go big or go galago!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Akagera National Park

This past week was spent camping in Akagera National Park, a reserve located on the Rwandan savanna. We were there to study mainly baboons and vervet monkeys, but the park had a lot more to offer. In addition, we saw cape buffalo, warthogs, hippos, zebras, impala, topi, giraffes, and the infamous Mutware.

Mutware is a 42 year old bull elephant, who lost his tusks and has been ostracized from the other herds of elephants, so he roams the savanna day to day bothering as many people as he can. He has been known to demolish cars and push them into the lake, and on quite a few occasions he thwarted our attempts to observe baboons at the fishing village (he scares them all away). Another pest of Akagera were the wonderful tsetse flies. Having no air conditioning on our bus, we have to keep the windows open. Unfortunately, tsetse flies like to follow large fast moving objects, and we all suffered quite a few painful bites (they literally dive bomb you). However, it was pretty fun keeping kill counts of how many flies you successfully judo chopped (they often still lived after swatting them two or three times, one even came back to life after being smashed on the bottom of a shoe).

Camping was dirty and a little uncomfortable, but worth it. Our campsite overlooked one of the huge lakes that create the border between Rwanda and Tanzania, and the sun rose over the lake every morning. We had an amazing cook, Moses, who made the best oatmeal and french fries that I have ever tasted. We learned that fuzzy caterpillars are not nearly as cute as they look (they shoot spiky needles when scared that get everywhere), and that baboon and human children are not all that different. We're in Kigali for the night, but tomorrow we head out into the jungle to Nyungwe National Park!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Intore Dancers

We had the pleasure of watching a performance by traditional Intore dancers. Intore  is a traditional form of warrior dance, done by men and women. The costumes were fantastic! I got a few incredible videos but the internet here will probably prevent me from uploading them until I get home.

Genocide Museum

The genocide museum in Kigali was particularly moving. It was so depressing to see the horrific things that happened in 1994, but Rwanda has come so far in the years since. Rwanda is probably the most progressive country I’ve ever encountered – they’ve rebuilt so incredibly in the years since the genocide that it’s almost unbelievable. Everyone is friendly and welcoming, and the people here are so beautiful.

One of the mass graves at the museum.

Genocide, Orphans, and Liberation

I haven't been able to post much so far, the internet in our hotel is a little...slow. But I thought I'd get on and tell you what we've been doing for the past few days. Shortly after arriving, we took a trip to a local orphanage called EDD (enfants du dieu?). It's a boys orphanage that takes kids off the street and gives them a place to live, food, and gets them into schools. Some of the older boys are orphans due to the genocide. All the boys were so sweet and were so happy for the company. We played soccer and basketball and just talked to them. They love to practice their English, and they're great dancers!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

En Route

We have safely arrived in Washington, D.C., and I must say that I couldn't be on this trip with a better group of people. I'm more excited than ever for the adventures that are to come!