Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rwanda : Part One

In the mid ‘80s I drove through vast tracts of central Africa. One place I visited was Rwanda. I will never forget the two odd weeks I was there. Amazing place. I have in my Africa DVD collection the films Shooting Dogs and Hotel Rwanda and they are extremely haunting, even more so as I recognised many of the settings.

In a recent Open University forum for my latest modem, I literally stumbled upon another student who has also been there – in fact; it appears we were almost sitting next to each other at a recent tutorial. Anyway, she mentioned the incredible moving experience of seeing the Mountain Gorillas in the Parc des Volcans.

Here are some of the pictures along with some comments.

This is the border between Tanzania and Rwanda. It was notorious for flowing red and filled with bodies as it meanders down to Lake Victoria during the slaughter.
Crossing the bridge was weird. One minute you’re speaking English, driving on the left and the next you’re on the right, one hour behind and the official language is French. Not only that, every second day seems to be a public holiday, custom officers need a two and half hour lunch break and beer only comes in quart sized bottles. Mind you, it is excellent stuff as the Germans built them a brewery. The coffee is first class also.

The main roads are excellent, thanks again to the Germans. That’s why my Ex didn’t need a visa, but I did. Amazing what a bit of aid can do. The country is stunningly beautiful.

It was in Rwanda that our poor little Toyota Hiace packed in. It was bloody amazing it had got this far! Luckily, of all places, Rwanda was No 1 Toyota land, and they had a huge workshop in the capital. We were towed there by a strange couple we met outside the German Embassy. They later scammed us for US100. The very kind Belgium manager allowed us to camp in the huge yard overnight.

On the way to the park we nearly drove down a massive hole created by a landslide, n pitch darkness and then using the ‘detour’ through a banana plantation, got stuck in the mud. Former No1 boy scout (that’s me), was very Be Prepared. I had a bag that you fitted on to the exhaust pipe that ‘lifted’ your car out the mud. Well, that was the plan. Sadly, the exhaust had a leak. (It would get a bigger one later) Not to worry…I had a winch on the front. One problem – ever heard of a banana tree pulling an overloaded van out of quagmire so sticky you could use it to immobilise an invading German panzer brigade. (Maybe that’s why they paid for the tar roads.) And it was lashing with rain.

Still, there is always help at hand as Rwandans have this really odd habit of gathering around a white person and just well, stand there and look…for hours if need be. Whilst waiting for Toyota to open after their two hour lunch break, we pulled over and made lunch. Within minutes we were surrounded. Things got worse when a motor cyclist ploughed into the crowd!

Anyway, there in the mud, loads of locals dug the bus out whilst EX, screaming in terror, gunned its guts out and didn’t stop till she hit the ‘main’ road again. AND – to add insult to injury, our kind ‘helpers’ were now circling us like sharks closing in for the kill. I scream - ‘Give them money.’
She screams – ‘How much’. I say, ‘20 francs.’ She says, ‘The smallest note is a 100!’ I say ‘Give it to them; it is better than being eaten alive.’

She hands it over, …and…a fucking party breaks out! (Oh, it was about £100 in today’s money.)

Here are the guide lines. One says don’t look straight into the eyes of a gorilla. Especially the big one. It forgot to add that a large 500mm mirror telescopic lens might also be considered ‘aggressive’.

 This shot is very interesting. It is taken from the side of the rain forest. That fence is the ‘border’. Rwanda is massively cultivated, and all the mountains have just little tops of forest.

These are some of  the shots I took. I was lucky, for the group I and my fellow tourists (most well heeled and dressed in brand new ‘Wolfskin’ Safari gear, the whinging posing twats), would look for a group not that far from drop off point. If you didn’t find your group…tough titty - $300 US down the tube, hence only I went because our six month old advice sheet had been half the price. You get exactly one hour with them.

1 comment:

ColoredOpinions said...

Very beautiful pictures.