Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Rwanda Trip-Natural Beauty

Chris and I were so fortunate to be able to meet up with my dad and stepmom in Rwanda. It was wonderful to be able to catch up with them in person for the first time in almost 2 years and it means the world to us that people are willing to take the time and spend the money to come all this way to visit us. Plus, they invited us to join them on their Rwandan nature adventure, which is something we couldn't have done on our own. I'm so happy we were able to experience with them some of Africa's most precious creatures and its stunning beauty. Some of the sights we saw in Rwanda can not be found anywhere else in the world. What a precious gift and a privileged to experience it!

Rwanda's countryside is stunning. Rolling hills into mountains, lush greenery (even in the dry season!), clean paved streets. Chris probably snapped 100 pictures just along the roads as we were driving.

The only downside to the beauty is that every square inch of the country is cultivated. As soon as a protected forest ends, the fields begin. If I didn't understand before, I definitely fully appreciate the need for preserved spaces.

Beautiful plantations
I don't know how people worked these fields. They were so high up!

Monkey following us on the road.
When we took a break from the twisty roads, this little guy came out to greet us.

Tea farms. Such beautiful color.
Tea plantations spread out all over the countryside. The color is just spectacular.

Because we were so close to Congo, there were several refugee camps along the road.
Because we were so close to the boarder of the DRC, there were several refugee camps plopped right into the middle of this mountain beauty. A sad reminder of the conflicts nearby.

Our first outdoor adventure was chimp trekking in Nyungwe Forest in the south of the country. It was a steep climb into the jungle and then, using trackers, we followed the chimps to where they were eating breakfast. It was tough to follow them because they move fast and hide in the trees and on the ground. But we got some good views of them, still.

The tracker in the woods.
Big thanks go to the trackers who spend their whole days out in the forest following the movement of the apes.

Monkey watching us watch him.
Monkeys seemed to be watching us as much as we were watching them.

Another monkey. I mean, my hubby looking sexy. Had to tuck in to make sure ants didn't crawl up!
Tucking your socks into your pants is important if you don't want to get ants in the pants! Ultimate dorkiness transformation complete!

Laughing with dad.
Relatives of the chimps.

Chimp taking a break by a tree.
We spotted this guy on the trail.

Pensive moment.
He didn't much like being followed, so he kept his back to us and ran away if we tried to get any closer.

Eventually he said, "Forget this!" and climbed away in the trees.

This little baby was making a lot of noise!

Later in the week we took our next hiking adventure to see the gorillas in Volcanoes National Park in the north-west of the country. We'd heard from many people that the hike is very difficult and it can take hours just to find the apes. Just like the chimps, you use trackers to find their location and once you find them you follow them through the forest. Because they don't stick to scenic trails, you could have to whack your way through the forest, which can be steep and slippery. Imagine our surprise, then, when the gorillas actually walked out of the forest into the surrounding fields to meet us! It all happened within the first 15 minutes of our hike. We didn't even make it into the woods!

The first silverback came right out of the forest to us!
This silverback walked out into the clearing and slapped the ground so hard right next to me, I could feel the ground shake. It about scared me half to death!

Here they all come! So close to us.
After the silverback announced his presence, the rest of the crew came out. There were 14 in this family, 2 silverbacks (1 dominant), several adolescents not yet of age, some mamas and 2 babies.

A baby eating.
They were just out looking for some food.

They don't call them silverbacks for nothing!
The silverback leader.

A momma.
One of the mamas.

Dad and Holly so close to the silverback.
So close!

Might be my all-time favorite picture. Everyone wants to take pictures of you with the gorillas but I wasn't so keen to sit with my back to them!
Everybody wanted to take our picture with the gorillas behind us. I wasn't that thrilled to have my back to these huge creatures! You just hear them moving and breaking things behind you. Kinda nerve wracking!

They really loved that bark. Apparently the underside is sweet.
Apparently, the inside of the tree is sweet.

Resting for a second.

A quite face.

The big guy guarding his flock.
This guy weighs about 260 kilos (almost 600 pounds)!

Beautiful hands.

Just a few seconds earlier this guy tripped over my foot and I almost fell on him.
This little guy actually hit my foot, which scared me and I almost tripped on him!

Our guides and trackers.
Our guide, in the middle, was talking to and playing with the gorillas. He's the oldest guide and was once the porter for Dian Fossey. All he said about her was that she liked animals more than people, which was probably quite true.

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