Meeting Mathieu

12 Nov

I was using my best French to talk to the information ladies in Bujumbura to figure out how much taxis costed around the city when a young guy came up and started talking to me in English. He was a university student on holiday break and he said he would just drive us around if I covered the gas. He ended up being much more than a guide as he showed me much more than the average tourist sees. We toured the black market since he needed a new laptop and we even tried getting into the DRC but even his persuasion skills couldn’t quite manage that. I also needed an extension on my visa which costs $40USD but he had friends in high places and only set me back $10, which I am sure ended up in a pocket. It is always great to be shown around by someone who really knows a city well and a huge thanks to Mathieu for doing that!

Foggy

Avoid non-essential travel

8 Nov

The Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada has the following to say about Burundi:

 OFFICIAL WARNING: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to Burundi. While the general situation in the country has started to stabilize as a result of peace agreements between the National Liberation Forces (FNL) rebel group and the Government of Burundi, sudden outbreaks of violence and civil unrest are still likely to take place throughout Burundi, including around FNL demobilization camps. There are large amounts of small arms and weapons in circulation, easily available to various groups. Violent attacks and ambushes by former soldiers, rebel forces, and youth gangs against humanitarian workers, including foreigners, occur frequently. These incidents include robbery and murder. The presence of refugees returning from Rwanda and Tanzania also continues to exacerbate tensions.

Like the sensible traveler I am, after reading this I decided to go anyways. I am definitely glad I made the decision because Bujumbura was an amazing city. I didn’t feel unsafe once and people were a lot more welcoming then they were in the neighbouring country of Rwanda. The one thing people in Bujumbura know how to do well is party and it doesn’t matter what night of the week it is, naturally I fit in quite well. The local drop was Amstel Bock and you can guess this traveler had his fair share.

Foggy

Bujumbura, Burundi.

Rwanda Genocide

8 Nov

In 1994 approximately 800 000 people were murdered in Rwanda over 100 days as the international community stood by and watched. The killing was between the Hutu and Tutsi, definitions given out during the colonization period in the 1800’s. Today Rwanda is perfectly safe but the scars of such a recent tragedy are still apparent. A visit to the capital Kigali can not be done without stopping by at the Genocide Memorial. There is a mass grave here on sight as well as a museum. The museum is by donation with an audio tour costing you $13 ($10 if you have a “valid” student ID like me). The museum is in three parts with the first taking you through Rwanda’s history from the beginnings all the way up to today. The second part of the museum compares this genocide to others that have happened over history. The last part of the museum is when things really hit home as it shows you pictures of children killed during the genocide, and tells you tales of what there favourite things were. It then tells you one by one how each were killed or what their last sight was. It is quite a sombre experience but something you must do if in the country. You can also take a 40 minute bus ride from Kigali to Nyamata where there are two churches where mass murders took place.

I was lucky enough to bump into a guy who was my age at the bar, which would have made him seven during the genocide. He was a Tutsi and told me the story of how him and his family hid in a hole in the ground for three weeks. His father was killed just feet from the covered hole when he left to find the family bananas. The rest of them eventually made their way to Uganda where they were safe until things were over. I asked him how the country can get along now knowing what happened. He went on to mention that the only way for their country to move forward is for the one side to forgive and the other side to ask for forgiveness. He said that without this their country would be stuck in a vicious circle and never get anywhere. Very forward thinking as I don’t know if I would have had the same level head if my dad would have been killed. My hat is off to the Rwandan people who are making leaps and bounds in the recovery from such an atrocity not too many years ago.

Foggy

Rwanda Genocide

6 Nov

In 1994 approximately 800 000 people were murdered in Rwanda over 100 days as the international community stood by and watched. The killing was between the Hutu and Tutsi, definitions given out during the colonization period in the 1800’s. Today Rwanda is perfectly safe but the scars of such a recent tragedy are still apparent. A visit to the capital Kigali can not be done without stopping by at the genocide Memorial. There is a mass grave here on sight as well as a museum. The museum is by donation with an audio tour costing you $13 ($10 if you have a “valid” student ID like me). The museum is in three parts with the first taking you through Rwanda’s history from the beginnings all the way up to today. The second part of the museum compares this genocide to others that have happened over history. The last part of the museum is when things really hit home as it shows you pictures of children killed during the genocide, and tells you tales of what there favourite things were. It then tells you one by one how each were killed or what their last sight was. It is quite a somber experience but something you must do if in the country. You can also take a 40 minute bus ride from Kigali to Nyamata where there are two churches where mass murders took place.

 I was lucky enough to bump into a guy who was my age at the bar, which would have made him seven during the genocide. He was a Tutsi and told me the story of how him and his family hid in a hole in the ground for three weeks. His father was killed just feet from the covered hole when he left to find the family bananas. The rest of them eventually made their way to Uganda where they were safe until things were over. I asked him how the country can get along now knowing what happened. He went on to mention that the only way for their country to move forward is for the one side to forgive and the other side to ask for forgiveness. He said that without this their country would be stuck in a vicious circle and never get anywhere. Very forward thinking as I don’t know if I would have had the same level head if my dad would have been killed. My hat is off to the Rwandan people who are making leaps and bounds in the recovery from such an atrocity not too many years ago.

 Foggy 

(Photo to come due to slow internet)

 

 

Rwanda Border

4 Nov

I was told that for Canadians you had to obtain your visa online before you got to the border. The form is very simple to fill out and can be found at the following address https://www.migration.gov.rw/singleform.php. It tells you that it will get back to you within three days with your visa in an attachment you will print out and take to the border. Three turned into five and I still had not received anything, so I said screw it and headed to the border. We got there early in the morning and they certainly were not happy about me not having a visa but American dollars always seem to smooth things over in Africa and I got my stamp and entry into the country. Another thing to remember at the border is that plastic bags are illegal in Rwanda so leave them at home as your bag gets thoroughly searched for the contraband and you can be subsequently fined.

Foggy

Mzungu the Local Celebrity

3 Nov

While wandering through East Africa you will begin to wonder who is this Mzungu you keep hearing about. You always seem to just miss him as people always start yelling his name while you are around. Mzungu is obviously the word for a foreigner and as a white man in Africa you kind of stick out a little… Children run to the road side to shout out your Mzungu name and wave at you. It’s definitely fun but after a while this travel bum realized this is the closest he’s ever getting to celebrity status. Until next time my Mzungu’s.

Foggy

When in Uganda…

2 Nov

Who wouldn’t want to beer bong on The Nile if you had the chance?

Foggy

Fishing on the Nile

31 Oct

I met Peter and Warren rafting the day before who were up from South Africa selling wine for their wineries. Warren was the marketing manager at Guardian Peak and Peter’s family ran De Westhof Estate. That night we spent testing their products and they invited me along to go fishing the next day. We met captain Rob and set out to catch some *Nile Perch. It was a pretty sophisticated fishing trip as the boys brought some wine and cheese to enjoy out on the water. Lake Victoria has been extremely over fished and we were warned that pulling anything out would be difficult. That didn’t stop big Peter though from pulling out a whopping 20Kg Perch. I tried to pay the boys in the end for my part of the boat fees but Peter said no way as I had a lot longer trip in front of me.

Huge Cheers to you boys!

Foggy

*Nile Perch is a huge fish found in Lake Victoria and the Nile that can weigh up to 200Kg.

Lake Victoria

Rafting the Nile

29 Oct

If you are looking for a little adventure in Uganda make your way to Jinja. It is the adventure capital of the country. I booked with Nile River Explorers and they came to pick me up in Kampala. $125 will get you a full day of rafting which also includes three meals. We got lucky on our boat and got the river manager of the company Jane as our guide. With over 21 years of guiding experience all over the world she definitely knew her stuff out there. We were a little sticky for her in the boat though as she kept trying to knock us off in the rapids and couldn’t quite manage, she eventually gave up and told us to jump out on the last rapid so we could swim through it. Until my next near drowning experience!

Foggy

Nile River Explorers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

28 Oct

Getting to Buhoma where I was to stay for my gorilla trekking was interesting to say the least. It involved many “shortcuts” of muddy terrain going up and over hills while dealing with heavy rain fall. I eventually got to my destination 11 hours after leaving Kampala early in the morning.

The next day my group set out to find the Mubare family of mountain gorillas in the National Park. I was an easy target for the rangers as I was the only person hiking in shorts (there was no way I was doing that in jeans). Once we set off you found out why they called it the impenetrable forest as it was extremely thick bush. Two hours and a few bug bites later we reached the trackers who had gone out ahead of us. The next hour we spent hanging out with these huge animals watching them lie about and snack on the vegetation. Here is some video of the massive animals deep in the jungle.

Foggy