Four of us women (teachers and an engineer) boarded Rwandair full of anticipation, but not yet fully grasping the life moments and lessons that this country and her mountains had in store for us. Once landed in Kigali, our exceptional guide, Patrick, whisked us away in our chariot (AKA Safari Jeep) for a night stay at the elegant Hotel Serena. We were pampered like queens as we rested up for an amazing journey.
After an exquisite breakfast buffet, we left for a somber but necessary outing. We paid our respects at the genocide memorial. It remembers the two million people lost to this tragic time in 1994, and although heartbreaking, it is beautifully and respectfully presented. Next was lunch at the original “Hotel Rwanda”. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted my pictures from this afternoon before they made it to google photos. We then drove over two hours; climbing through rolling hills, farms, and villages towards the mountains. The crops, local people, immaculate streets (not a piece of garbage to be seen), and grazing livestock spoke volumes about the wonder and resiliency of this unique and beautiful country. It was evening as we arrived at the Mountain Gorilla Lodge, nestled at the foothills of the Volcano National Park. We were now at over 7,000 feet, and evenings were cool and perfect for a cozy fire.
A few games of cards by the fire, a delicious four course dinner, and we were off to our cozy cottages to snuggle in and rest up before our hike to the gorillas tomorrow morning. We had a fire waiting for us in our room, as well as a hot water bottle under the quilts to warm us…so comfy!
The big day arrived. A healthy breakfast and then off to meet our guides and porters for the gorilla trek. We rented gators for protection from the jungle elements and learned about the gorilla family that we would be visiting.
We were to hike to the “Agashya Group”…agashya means “special” in Swahili and they certainly did not disappoint…they lived up to their name. Off we went full of childlike excitement and anticipation. We trekked into the farmland, rolling hills, bamboo forest, and finally deeper into the mountain to the gorillas.
- The first one took our breath away! We came closer; there were babies, a mischievous mother trying to play with us, a silverback pounding his chest…all so close and tolerant of our presence. It was an honor, almost sacred, to witness their family life. Sometimes there are no words, just fluttering heartbeats and goosebumps.
Our time with these magnificent animals passed far too quickly, but for one precious hour we shared the jungle with these wonderful, witty, and complex creatures. We said our quiet goodbyes, took one last look and left them to their mountain. Of course I slipped in the mud descending the mountain and took two porters down with me! We all laughed as we slide on our bottoms down the steep, muddy trail.We returned to the resort in the afterglow of the experience-hungry, happy, and tired. I am not sure which was more delicious, the gourmet dinner or my luxuriously soft and quilted bed near the fireplace.
Off to bed, but our Golden Monkey trek tomorrow…more to come!