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Nyungwe is a mountainous rain forest in the southwestern corner of Rwanda (that also contains the most distant source of the Nile! fun fact). I tend to get disproportionately excited about anything rain-foresty, so this was… indeed very exciting. Compared to rain forests in Belize, Puerto Rico, and Costa Rica, Nyungwe feels less tropical, more untouched–roads have only been developed to access it since 2004 or so.

chilly green

chilly green

The elevation shrouds everything in a layer of mist, and the topsy turvy topography means you can see layers of forest floors and canopies at the same time.

The elevation shrouds everything in a layer of mist, and the topsy turvy topography means you can see layers of forest floors and canopies at the same time.

Unfortunately, Nyungwe is also price-gouging at its best. Foreigners pay $40-$50 per TRAIL for the privilege of a basic jungly stroll, and $90-$100 to potentially encounter creatures of the monkey/chimpanzee variety. To enforce this, it is forbidden to wander anywhere in the park without a guide, even along the main road.

playing with a 300mm zoom

playing with a 300mm zoom

I understand that tourism contributes pivotally towards Rwanda’s economic development, but it’s depressing that such a primeval natural area has been  ruthlessly zoned, regulated, and closed to personal exploration. (Would it not be better to have visitors pay a larger park entrance fee and give free reign throughout the park?)

monkey tracking...

monkey tracking...

unhabituated colobus monkey

unhabituated colobus monkey

Also–would recommend coming to Nyungwe with a car/driver and lots of snacks. Traffic is very scanty on the road through the forest, and it was a while before we managed to flag down random vehicles to take us back to Kigali.

Matt, Austin and I hopped on a $6 bus out of the city last weekend to Lake Kivu, a giant volcanic lake on the eastern border of Rwanda and the DRC. My plan to peacefully snooze during the ride there was happily interrupted by the beautiful landscapes of small towns and sloping farmlands along the Kigali-Ruhengeri road. The villages we passed through were simple, nestling harmoniously into the surrounding countryside (these people are living on dollars a day, but gosh what a view).

Few vehicles and even fewer roads in this part of the country means there are lots of people traveling on foot along the main road.

Few vehicles and even fewer roads in this part of the country means there are lots of people traveling on foot along the main road.

We arrived in Gisenye, the largest of the three towns on Lake Kivu, and took a gorgeous moto-trip along the lake out to the smaller fishing village of Rubona to enjoy the water in a more intimate setting.

Lunch was at the adorable/honeymooney Paradis Malahide Hotel, the top-rated hotel in Rwanda on TripAdvisor.

Lunch was at the adorable/honeymooney Paradis Malahide Hotel, the top-rated hotel in Rwanda on TripAdvisor. Travel tip: STAY HERE

Fishing pirogues

Fishing pirogues

After a very leisurely stroll around the lake + village, we hiked to the border to cross into Congo (what happens in Congo must stay in Congo). Everything in this area is elevation 8,000 feet or higher, which made strenuous physical activity a bit harder..or more likely I’m just really out of shape.

Lakeside serenity

Lakeside serenity

DRC border

DRC border

All three of us had lugged our SLRs along and were salivating for photo opps, so the next morning we did it Japanese-tourist-style and, for the price of a cab to Logan, commandeered a small private bus to take us the 100km to Rushengiri. This freed us to stop anywhere along the road to shutter away, talk to people, or just linger longer in places that we found particularly lovely.

Our photo-bus

Our photo-bus

Lake Karago...not the most beautiful of lakes..

Lake Karago...is not the most beautiful of lakes..

Seas of lush Rwandan teafields on the way to Ruhengiri

Seas of lush Rwandan teafields on the way to Ruhengiri

Traveling around Rwanda is fairly laid back and non-touristy feeling, probably because there actually aren’t too many tourists. This is definitely nice, but it also means that entire streets stop to stare as we walk by, and  troupes of children are constantly following us around everywhere. Lots of them try to touch my hair and attempt communication in creative french/english phrases (or even /cringe/ asian-y sounding things), sometimes asking for photos, sometimes asking for money.

Austin/Austin's camera being smothered by curious village children

Austin/Austin's camera being smothered by curious village children

Very different from traveling around rural China, where kids seem to be equally fascinated by foreigners but are usually not bold enough to go up to them or say anything in English, even though they study it diligently in school.