That time when we watched Golden monkeys eat Irish potatoes in Kinigi, Rwanda…

While our journey to Mr & Mrs. has been packed with excitement and challenges (2 weeks exactly today until we say “I do”! Ahhhhhhhhhh), traveling was not forgotten along the way. Au contraire, having found my match 5 years ago in Bolivia (another “wanderluster” with the ambition to conquer this world, country by country), our wedding naturally became a travel themed wedding and our honeymoon plan was drafted very early on. To be fair, this was probably our first conversation as a newly engaged couple: where to go as a married couple? We are going to have to wait a while longer to go on our (very exciting) honeymoon but this year, we were already blessed with two wonderful trips and planning our honeymoon (where to? I’ll let you know soon!) made me think of that time when we watched some golden monkeys eat Irish potatoes in Rwanda! (I’m certainly known for my random associations of ideas).

Last January, on our African adventure that started in Entebbe (Uganda), we had looked forward to travelling the way locals do. We had jumped on countless boda boda, sometimes barely making it out alive (dramatic effect? check!) but it was not enough. We wanted to experience crowded public buses, dodgy bus stations and the thrill to find our way without a tour guide or a lovely driver. Well the least we can say is that our pre-conceived idea of what a bus terminal should be like in Rwanda was rubbish and our expectations pretty primitive. The terminals Nyabugogo and Nyanza gare in Kigali were almost spotless (and needless to say completely safe), people with their limited English were very helpful and when the bus arrived, passengers quietly and promptly started to queue. The police even ensured that no bus would leave with more people than the available seats. Brilliant!

We decided to head to the Volcanoes National Park. Gorillas “chasing” was off the table (who can seriously afford $ 1500 for a permit alone?) but we were told the area was anyway worth a detour. We arrived early at the bus station in Kigali and easily found a bus that was leaving… right away. Because why not. No time for street food, we had to go now! (we had anyway struggled to find street food in Rwanda. This was later explained to us by a local: street food is not allowed as streets would otherwise be dirty). Our trip to Musanze (or Ruhengeri City. Many cities have been renamed but both names are still being used) was eventless and very easy. The scenery was beautiful and peaceful. When we reached Musanze, without thinking much nor planing, we asked for a bus to Kinigi. We only knew that that village was closer to the Park and strategically it seemed to make sense. It was pretty bold as we didn’t know for sure we would find an accommodation (read: an affordable one!). Getting off the bus was interesting: we were welcomed by a bunch of boda boda drivers who wanted to take us to our guest house. They couldn’t quite understand what we were saying until they realized we had no where to stay. The boys stood there uncertain of what to do with us. Luckily one of them knew a place within walking distance that might have free rooms. Grateful (we almost thought that we might have to go back to Musanze…) we followed him and found a lovely place. Phew!

Kinigi was indeed really close to the rangers headquarters. We decided to stay only a night so we chose two outdoor activities. One for the afternoon and one for the morning after. Our ranger told us to meet him “downtown”. We didn’t quite understand where we were to meet him but when he offered to give us a ride, we politely declined. In need of movement, we decided to walk back (you surely do remember that I’m traveling with M, a walking distance kind of person), hoping to figure out on time where the meeting was. After all, there is no adventure without adventure. After walking almost two kilometers, a Jeep drove by and stopped. We recognized our ranger who apologized for not having free seats in the car but offered us a ride in the back. Who could say no to a ride in the back of a pick up car? Enthusiastically (and luckily) we accepted and quickly realized that the meeting was happening in Muzanse not downtown Kinigi. Ah! That would have been far to walk to!

On time and happy, we were ready to explore Muzanse’s underground… literally… we had signed up for a few hours of “caving” and our ranger was waiting for us with the necessary equipment. Apparently bat’s shit is (sorry, I cannot resist) bad shit. We suit up with mask, helmet and head lamp. Our 3-km walk was very claustrophobic. Our ranger even asked us to turn our light off. Yeah sure, why not. Let me think, erm no thanks. He insisted and we reluctantly obliged: this was an interesting experience. If our torches and headlamps were to fail, we were absolutely f#%^*. There was indeed no way for us to find our way out with or without a ranger. Luckily after a while, which definitely seemed like an eternity, we were allowed to turn our lights back on and after a few meters in the darkness, we were seeing again light. Light and life had found their way in through the ceiling and it was a relief. We survived and even tho it wasn’t as scary as our caving experience in Honduras, we certainly had our adrenalin rush.

The next activity was an easy one, it took us almost longer to gather all the tourists (who 1) had forgotten their passports, 2) preferred to wait in their private cars and couldn’t be found 3) were wandering around lost in space) than to walk to the golden monkeys. We could see why the rangers had a laugh at us the day before. This activity was really for older people. On the bright side, the monkeys had decided to venture out of their forest… to eat Irish potatoes. Such fine connoisseurs, aren’t they! We tried to enjoy our experience but our group mates made this difficult. When we hiked the gorillas in Uganda, our group was united and everybody respected other people’s space while taking pictures. Well let me tell you that, this group was a nightmare. Every time I was ready with a beautiful composition, somebody jumped in front of me.

So I gave up. I walked far way from the group. Suddenly a golden monkey, who apparently had had enough, joined me in my exile. Thrilled, I had the cutest golden monkey sitting next to me on a stone wall. What a happy moment. I might have forgotten to take a picture but that moment was mine and I didn’t have to share it with the others. My golden monkey disappeared into the forest followed by his family, hastily followed by us. I walked the exact opposite way our group headed to and I put my camera away. I listened and smiled… it was a peaceful moment, just me and the nature. Priceless! Before we knew it, it was already time to leave those beautiful creatures alone! We headed back to the village and our driver took us to Muzanze where we had planed to take a bus to the Lake Kivu but this, my friends, is another adventure!

Enjoy your Thursday and if you need me, I’ll be crafting, reviewing my wedding excel sheets (you gotta love those), tackling some last-minute issues, going over my to-do list and dreaming about our next adventure!
Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!


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