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

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Since the start of our African adventure in Entebbe we had very much looked forward to travelling the way local people 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 from A to Z without a tour guide or a lovely driver. Well the least we can say is that our pre-conceived ideas of what a bus terminal should be / look like in Rwanda were 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 very helpful and as soon as 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! For our first attempt to use the Rwandan public transportation system, we had successfully jumped on a bus to Nyamata and we were now ready to go to the Volcanoes National Park!

We arrived early at the bus station and easily found a bus that was leaving… right away. Because why not. No time for street food (we struggled to find street food anyway – we learnt later that street food was not allowed as streets otherwise would be dirty), we had to go now! Our trip to Musanze (or Ruhengeri City) 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. 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. Well, sure but we had none. They couldn’t quite understand what we were saying until they realized we had not booked any lounge. 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 (for a minute or two, we thought that we might have thought we would have to go back to Musanze…) we followed him and found a lovely place. Phew!

Kinigi was indeed really close to the rangers headquarters. Since gorillas “chasing” was off the table (who can seriously afford $ 1500 for a permit alone?), we had looked into other activities offered in the area. We decided to stay only a night so we picked two activit√©s. One for that 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. Well 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. Enthusiastically (and luckily) we accepted and we realized that the meeting was happening in Muzanse not downtown Kinigi.

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 claustrophobic and borderline distressing. Our ranger asked to turn off our light. Yeah sure, why not. Let me think, erm no thanks. He insisted and we reluctantly obliged: this was an interesting experience. If our lights all failed, we were absolutely f#%^* as we had no way to find our way out with or without our ranger. Luckily after a while, that definitely seemed like an eternity, we were allowed to turn our lights 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 still had a long way to go before reaching the final exit. We survived and even tho it wasn’t as scary as our caving experience in Honduras, we certainly had our adrenalin rush.

The next way was an easy one, it took us almost longer to gather all the tourists who had forgotten their passports, the ones who preferred to wait in their private cars and the others who were wandering around lost in space than to walk to the golden monkeys. We could see why the rangera had a laugh at us the day before. This activity was really for older people. That day, the monkeys had decided to venture out of their forest… to eat Irish potatoes. Such fine connoisseurs, aren’t they! We had a blast observing them. When we hiked the gorillas in Uganda, our group was solidaire and nobody acted like a selfish ass to take pictures. Well let me tell you that, this group was a nightmare. Every time I was ready with a beautiful composition, a bloody tourist jumped in front of me.

I gave up. I walked far way from the group when suddenly a golden monkey had also enough and joined me in my exile. 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 opposite our group headed towards to and separated from my annoying group, I put my camera away and listened… 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 planed to take a bus to the Lake Kivu where we would spend the last days of our African adventure.

Next stop: Kibuye!
Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!