28 – In the Treetops

28 – In the Treetops

Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda is one of the few remaining primary forests in the world (meaning it has not yet been significantly disturbed or exploited by mankind). Realising that this forest, the largest mountain rainforest in Africa, is a valuable carbon sink and increasingly endangered, the Rwandan government is working hard to preserve it. We were looking forward to visiting it.

We took a bus southward from Kibuye to Gisakura. We swapped seats a few times until we were both sat together, at the back, next to a lady and her baby. Her baby stared at us with his beautiful big eyes. He was particularly fascinated by our white faces and Arnaud’s ginger-tinted beard. Every now and again he would touch his own chin to feel if he had grown a beard since he last checked! Heather and Otis played with him for a while. Seeing as we were distracted and unaccustomed to short bus journeys, we missed our stop! We signalled we wanted to get off (by banging on the windows), then attempted to negotiate a price with the moto-taxis to take us back to where we needed to be. Alas, they were too expensive for us. As it was still early, we decided to walk to our destination (about two hours away). A few minutes in, two motorbikes caught up with us and insisted on taking us for a lower price. We hopped on, thanked them and said we would use their services tomorrow to go to the forest. They were pleased, as were we: it saved us having to find reasonably priced motorbikes the next day!

Gisakura is a (very) small town on the top of a hill. The accommodation options are somewhat limited. We opted for Keza Guesthouse. Our room was small, dark and dingey. There was no hot water and the shower only released a trickle of water. For twenty-five US dollars, it was practically a scam. Thankfully they served hot chocolates – though they were not enough to convince us to stay another night!

As the bus journey did not take the whole day, we still had the afternoon to go exploring. We wandered behind our hotel, through a small market and up and down a windy road. The locals looked surprised to see us. Children ran around us, shouting: “Mzungu! Mzungu! Mzungu!!!”. Evidently they use the same word for white people as in Kenya and Tanzania! We admired the beautiful hills carpeted with thick rainforest.

The next day we wrapped-up two egg sandwiches for our pack lunch, gobbled our breakfast down and shared our coffees with the motorbike drivers. Then off we went, deeper and deeper into the forest. Friendly soldiers lined the perfectly paved road. The region has previously been targeted by Paul Kagame’s opponents, crossing from Burundi into Rwanda through the forest. Rwanda takes its security very seriously, hence all the soldiers every few metres.

We were the only tourists at Nyungwe Forest National Park for the eight o’clock tour. We left our backpacks with a dozen soldiers and forest rangers at the reception outside, then set off with our guide. We had decided to visit the forest in an original way: by walking above the trees. Yes, above the trees on a canopy walk – the best one in the world apparently! After thirty minutes walking down some slippery paths in the forest, we arrived at a long suspension bridge made from steel. The bridge was one hundred and sixty metres long, sixty metres from the ground and wobbled when we walked!

The view from up high was impressive. The forest floor was completely hidden by trees which looked like broccoli heads beneath our feet. We stayed for a moment to admire the view then went back along the bridge and up the slippery path. It was nice to chat with our guide who spoke of opportunities in modern day Rwanda and his ambitions for the future (this does not include getting a wife as he thinks a wife would spend all his money!).

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See the slideshow below for more photos…

Back at the reception, a ranger asked us how our tour was and then fell into a fit of laughter, “a monkey stole your pack lunch!”. We laughed with him, thinking it was a joke: “Haha, yeah…funny..”. He then pointed towards the trees and insisted, “No, really! Look over there…”. That’s when we saw a mountain monkey (L’Hoest’s monkey) sat in the long grass munching away on an egg sandwich! “Hey! That’s ours!”. He was clearly still hungry, as he went back for more! Too bad for him: we had already retrieved the other egg roll! The Park’s restaurant made a second egg roll for us. Not a bad technique for getting more money off tourists: monkey thieves! Ha ha.

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We rang and booked two seats in a bus going to Kigali. It picked us up just outside the park entrance. There was another white guy in the bus: a South African in Rwanda for business. He was exploring the country in his free time. Funnily enough, his daughter lives in Paris!

Our tour of Rwanda was coming to an end. Although we felt like we had made the most of our time, it still felt like we had barely scratched the surface of Rwanda’s treasures. It was time to move on. A complete change of scenery was awaiting us!

3 Replies to “28 – In the Treetops”

  1. Fabulous! Cheeky monkey! Who took the photographs of you on the bridge and on whose camera? Exhilarating scenes, thank you 🙂

  2. What an experience, you appear to be fearless!! Of course you met a South African with a daughter in Paris on a bus in Rwanda——-love it!!!!! G Ma xx xx

  3. Wow love the broccoli 🥦 🥦 trees beneath your feet. I have not had a desire to visit Rwanda till reading your blogs. Loads of ♥️ to you both. Lxxx

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