Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Kigali to Buhoma - Gretchen's trip report #2


Rwanda was the second stop on my most recent African journey. A quick flight of just over an hour from Nairobi, Kigali is the vibrant capital city spread out over several hills and located in the center of the country. Its population is nearing a million residents, yet is one of the cleanest African capital cities I have visited, and has a very welcoming feel to it. Kigalis central location also means you can get to most other areas in Rwanda within a day with its notably good roads.

I stayed in the recently renovated Kigali Serena. They are putting the finishing touches on the renovation, however the bulk of the work is complete. The new rooms are smartly furnished with little luxuries like large, sunken baths, flat screen tv's and some are extra large with sitting areas and balconies. There is a great workout facility and a very nice outdoor pool. There are two dining options; a more formal buffet restaurant as well as a more casual open air restaurant next to the pool. The food was excellent at both. There was live entertainment poolside one evening during my visit, which provided a nice atmosphere.

From Kigali, I travelled overland to Buhoma in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. The roads are good throughout Rwanda and the border crossing into Uganda is very easy. From the main road turnoff towards Buhoma the roads deteriorate, however. This journey isn't required to be done via vehicle; we can also arrange flights to an airstrip only an hour's drive from Buhoma. That said, the drive is very beautiful and interesting; there are people out and about everywhere (including on market day in the photo here) and on the more rural roads nearly everyone greeted the vehicle with a smile, a wave or a shout.

Along the roadside, you will see people and intensive subsistence agriculture. Crops such as banana, sorghum, millet and beans dominate the hillsides, and people are working in the fields or transporting goods along the roads. Driving will take you from these agricultural areas one moment and into the 25,000-year-old rainforest the next where you might see animals such as the black-and-white Colobus monkey or forest elephant. You'll pass through villages and see more common creatures such as cows, dogs and chickens. Eventually, you will reach Buhoma and the Bwindi park headquarters.

During my time in Buhoma, I stayed at Gorilla Forest Camp. This camp is situated within the park boundary and will get you to the headquarters with little fuss on the morning of your trekking. The camp has only 8 tents, each with lots of elbow room. The tents have comfortable beds, verandahs, and full en-suite bathrooms with both shower and huge soaking tubs which are kitted out with candleabra if you are
inclined to have a hot bath after a hard day of trekking. The common area is close by and consists of a lively bar/lounge area as well as a dining area. The camp is known to sometimes have the occasional forest visitor, so you might get a lucky sighting staying here.

I double checked my bag for my trekking accessories; I brought long pants, a long sleeved shirt, a hat, gaiters and sturdy gloves for the trek, and I was glad for each of them, though I didn't discover all of the reasons for each of them until the next day.

Next installment: Gorilla trekking to find the 'H' group and a local community visit



Photos courtesy Serena Hotels and Gretchen Healey

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