I was in Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. Given the need for advance planning and permits, I joined a small seven-day tour: seven people, a guide, and a driver, and let the tour company deal with the details. In addition, we would visit the genocide memorials – learning about the genocide was on my agenda, too.
Rwanda is a beautiful country. It’s roughly 10,000 square miles, and very green because of all the water. There are two rainy seasons and two dry seasons each year in Rwanda. The lowest point in Rwanda is over 3,000 meters above sea level, and it’s old nickname was “pays a la Mille Collines,” or “Land of a Thousand Hills.” There is very little level ground in Rwanda, and yet about 98% of the population farms, building terraces that form giant steps down the hillsides.
From across the ocean, it is easy to lump all of the African countries together, but if you visit more than one, you will find that they each have their own personality. Where Kenya had been about wildlife, and Nairobi rather gritty, Rwanda was about people, and Kigali was an open, airy city, with signs of prosperity blossoming around. Their optimism is expressed in their national anthem, “Beautiful Rwanda.”
I had flown in from Kenya a day ahead of the tour’s start date. Others trickled in the next day, and at dinner time, it became apparent that we were all here for the same reason, and we were all women, which gave the tour an interesting twist. Two from South Africa, two from Australia, one from Canada, me, and another American. Lynda, the Canadian, and I were roommates for the duration, meeting at our rendezvous, the Beausejour Hotel.
The hotel’s restaurant set up a table for us as we introduced ourselves. The guide, however, was missing. The meeting time came and went, still no guide. Finally, as we were finishing dinner, Jacob appeared, full of apologies, blaming flight delays. Questions and answers ensued, and we were starting by visiting the Murambi Genocide Memorial on Day 1.