DAY 3: Today, we travelled from Nairobi to Kigali to Kisoro, arriving at the Traveller’s Rest Hotel by late eveningWe set off early so we could settle all custom issues with our equipment (we really wanted to return with it all!). We then took Kenyan Airlines (new plane with movies!) to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, population roughly a million. We were met by our drivers Arun and John and drove through heavy rains to the Rwanda-Uganda border crossing near Kisoro. After a rather lengthy crossing, we then drove on to our final desitination – the Traveller’s Rest in Kisoro. Five quick things:
- Rwanda: Beautiful country known positively for its gorillas, green hills and beautiful lakes. What strikes you immediately is the deep terracotta of the soil, which covers the roads, and seeps up the foundations of the houses, combined with the deep green of the vegetation. It is known negatively, of course, for the horrible 1994 genocide that was launched from its capital. Rwanda is roughly the size of the US state of Maryland, or Wales in Great Britian and has a population of 11.4 million. It’s econony was devasted by the genocide but is recovering; a major source of its recovery is the tourist industry, centred on the famed mountain gorillas.
- Uganda: Known as the ‘pearl of Africa’ – it too is covered with hills and lakes. Like Rwanda it has the mountain gorillas. It is a completely land locked country. It shares Lake Victoria with Kenya and Tanzania.
- Crossing the Border: Rwanda was colinised by the Germans and Belgians, Uganda by the British. The result? As you cross the border between the two countries you switch sides of the road. Our drivers had left hand side drive, which was fine in Uganda, but meant that those in the passager side were left in the ‘middle of the road’ driving around Rwanda. Everyone seems to keep it straight, as we had no head on collisions.
- Kisoro: Located in the Mufumbiro Mountains which are part of the Virunga Mountain range. This range holds all the mountain gorillas and has the national parks Parc Des Volcans and Parc Des Virunga. This becomes important because so many of the Batwa songs are about the ‘Parcs.’ Kisoro is quite a small town, population 12,000. On a map we are about as far west and south in Uganda as you can go.
- Traveller’s Rest: We stayed at the Traveller’s Rest, a hotel famed for being a meeting place for gorilla observers. They write about this on their website: “In 1955 Travellers Rest was bought by Walter Baumgartel, and quickly became a meeting place for people interested in the mountain gorilla. Amongst them was ‘gorilla-woman” Dian Fossey, who said: “Walter’s hotel was an oasis to many scientists who came here before me.”. Fossey visited the hotel many, many times in the sixties, to do paperwork, to relax or to meet people. She defined the hotel as her “second home.”
The photo shows us ‘on the road’ between Rwanda and Uganda, about to climb the second mountain range, just as the rains hit. We arrived safely, obviously, but hydro-planed a little too often, a little too close to 1,000 foot drops. We are now in the heart of gorilla country, surrounded by trekkers who have come to see the beautiful silver back males. But we are here to record the Batwa tribes, who were displaced from their forest homes by the understandable desire to protect the mountain gorilla. Right sentiment, horribly executed, as we’ll discuss over the next few blogs. But we are safe at our hotel and eager to begin recording in the morning.
The Singing Wells Team