On Friday we crossed into Rwanda for a brief visit. We got to the border early and had no problems getting through, then headed straight for Kigali (capital) to visit the Rwanda Genocide Memorial. It was a very moving visit, around 250,000 victims of the genocide are already buried there, with more remains still being found. The outside area was made up of various gardens - a rose garden, a series of three gardens starting with one representing Rwanda as it used to be - a central round area representing their houses, banana trees round the outside and water flowing gently through. The next one represented the genocide and the water from the first garden dropped down a waterfall and ran into a star shaped pool, representing the fighting between tribes. The pool was surrounded by large pots, one of which was decorated with an elephant holding a mobile phone, supposedly telling the world what had happened so they wouldn't forget. The third garden represented the rebuilding of the country, with a fountain built of rocks taken from different parts of Rwanda. It was very well done. Inside the memorial were sections from before the genocide, during and after - very confronting and difficult to watch. Particularly sad was the children's room which had photos of children who had been killed, together with details about them - what food they liked, what they liked to do, who their best friends were, and how they were killed. There weren't too many dry eyes amongst us after.
After this visit most of us were fairly quiet on the truck, taking it all in. We reached Ruhengeri later in the afternoon and got settled into our lodgings for the next two nights.
Today was gorilla day - we got up early for breakfast at 5.45am, then our jeeps arrived to take us to the Volcanoes National Park to track the Mountain Gorillas. We stopped first to watch some Rwandan drummers and dancers - they were fantastic, such energy! From there we went on to the village where we started our trek. There are 10 gorilla families that have been 'habituated' and each of our groups of 8 were assigned one family. Trackers had been out early to see where the gorillas were and radioed their position to our guide. Our family was called "Special" (though the Rwandan name) and was called this because originally there were two silverbacks and one died. The remaining one wasn't up to the job and a silverback from outside the group moved in and chased him away. This new silverback then proceeded to bring in his girlfriends from Uganda and the Congo to form the new family. He also killed two newborns because they were the young of the previous silverback. There are now 22 gorillas in our group. We trekked through the jungle for an hour or so before we found them and were able to get really close. Just as we got there another family arrived and the silverbacks started fighting with each other - quite a sight. In all, with the two families, we saw 41 gorillas of all ages, the youngest being only 3 months old. It was an amazing morning, just a shame we could only spend an hour there?, which was all we were allowed. Then it was back down the track in the mud to reach our jeeps and return to our hotel.
Now it's a lazy afternoon to have a beer and sort through the photos.