(R)Wanderer Diaries: Things to do on a 1 day trip to Karongi (West)

Hello!

This is the second last installment of this series. Hope you enjoy!

 

On my trip to Rwanda, I was only able to have a total of one day in Karongi, located in the Western province as the rest of the time was spent traveling. However, it definitely wasn’t a wasted trip. In that time, my friends and I were able to visit two places:

  1. Museum of Environment

Located a few minutes from Karongi city centre, the museum opened in 2015 and is the only one of its kind on the continent. It lives up to its name, with a pristine green compound teeming with all sorts of plants and trees, all carefully selected, both for decoration and for their medicinal purposes. To top it all off, the entire building is strategically positioned on the shores of Lake Kivu, and from the roof, once can see the sun reflect on the calm waters. It makes for a perfect photo-taking session with friends. The whole tour costs 1000RWF, however, one is not allowed to take pictures inside the museum itself, only outside and in the reception area.

Inside the museum is a lesson on geography, history, environmental science etc. It is an information hub presented in three languages (Kinyarwanda, French and English) on energy sources on earth and how human beings should use them while still conserving the environment. The study is not confined to Rwanda, but draws examples from all over the world.

On the rooftop is a garden with a variety of exhibitions of traditional medicinal plants, all neatly labelled with the scientific name, local name and its uses. The guide is friendly and will answer any questions you might have about all the things on display. The traffic is slow so you will probably have the museum to yourself when you visit.

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Guide explaining uses of plants on roof garden, Museum of Environment, Karongi – Photo credits: Soila Kenya

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Museum of Environment, Karongi – Photo credits: Soila Kenya

  1. Lake Kivu – 15 islands

Another trip to The Lake. But it is well worth it as from this point, one is able to take a boat ride for 10,000RWF per hour and visit the islands littered around the lake.

This is an activity best done with friends as there are many opportunities to take photos. The views are spectacular as you can see numerous hills in the distance and the lake extends beyond where your eyes can follow.

The boat makes stop-overs at some of the islands, depending on how many hours you are able to pay for. Examples include Napoleon island which is a bird watching site and we got to see bats circling around at 12 noon. The island is in the shape of a mound and takes a bit of work to walk up. However, its white shores are magnificently beautiful as the moss and algae gather where the land meets the water to create a green ring around the shore.

Another island is Monkey island where we got a glimpse of a rare, newly discovered breed of monkey called the Lesula monkey. It is only the second new species of monkey to be discovered in Africa in the last 28 years. Its unique feature is its brilliant blue testicles, noticeable from a distance. It came to our boat with the promise of bananas from the guide then quickly ate and scurried away.

The last island we docked at was Peace island which used to have a bar that was closed down by the government. The trees at its shore make for a brilliant canopy to take pictures.

The whole journey is a very calming experience as one can doze while the boat steadily moves through the waters.

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Fresh waters of Lake Kivu, Karongi – Photo credits: Minnie Gitonga

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Lesula Monkey on the shores of Monkey island on Lake Kivu, Karongi – Photo credits: Soila Kenya

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On a boat visiting the 15 islands on Lake Kivu, Karongi – Photo credits: Minnie Gitonga

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View from top of Napoleon island, Lake Kivu, Karongi – Photo credits: Soila Kenya

Catch my last piece on Kigali city in the Involvement Newspaper.

This marks the end of the series 😀

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(R)Wandarer Diaries: 5 must-see places in Musanze (North)

Hello!

Let the journey continue. To the North we go!

Musanze is a cosy agricultural town in the Northern part of Rwanda. Compared to Kigali, life is more relaxed and the inhabitants of the town are friendly and accommodating. Things are cheaper, especially food and one can tour the town, even on a small budget. The best forms of transport which are all affordable are motorcycles, minivans and bicycles, which are fun to take, especially if you’re in a group. The weather can get chillingly cold at night, though, and it is advisable to travel with a couple of heavy jumpers or sweaters.

Out of the several scenic places to visit within the town and its outskirts, these are the 5 must-see places:

  1. Lake Kivu

You haven’t seen Rwanda if you haven’t gone to Lake Kivu. From Musanze, you must take a 1 hour bus ride to Rubavu City for about 1500RWF. The public beach is easily accessible in Serena Hotel, Lake Kivu Beach where entry is free. The view of the Lake is best seen at sunset or sunrise but one can go at any time. Boat rides are also available for a reasonable price (about 1500RWF). On the Lake, you will get to see small islands that litter the lake. Also, if you don’t have a camera or want a professional one taken, there are photographers who can take you pictures and even print them for you for about 800RWF per picture. The sea breeze is relaxing and if you can find a quiet spot to rest along the beach, it can prove to be an emotionally stimulating experience.

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Lake Kivu at dusk, Rubavu City. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. Congo Border

This is also in Rubavu City and can be seen on the same day you go to the lake. The bustling border is flowing under a constant stream of Congolese crossing over to Rwanda. The difference between the Congolese and Rwandese is distinct, mostly in their dressing style, destroying the notion that Africans all have basically the same cultures. When allowed through to go see the border itself (it is advised to go with a Rwandese who knows the area), you can see the gate that separates Congo from Rwanda and stand in the no-man’s-land between the two countries. It’s quite a sobering experience to see how different the two countries are, even at their borders. The border security is tight, though and you might not be allowed to take pictures.

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Suzan Kinyanjui in front of the Congo Border. Photo Credits: Alvin Ngugi
  1. Rubindi River

This is a great chance to witness the domestic life in Musanze. It is located in Byangabo Centre and is a short walk off the main road. One can see the locals as they plant various agricultural products such as sorghum and dry them in the sun. The river snakes through various settlements where the farmers take full advantage of it. The area is rocky, making it necessary for them to gather the volcanic soil form surrounding areas and pack it onto rocks so they can plant. There is also a natural spring that bubbles up from the ground and is used as drinking water. The river ends in an unseen underground waterfall that can be heard if you stand near it. Lots of legends and myths surround this wonderful phenomenon.

 

 

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River Rubindi. Photo Credits: Soila Kenya
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Natural Spring near Rubindi River. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. Caves

For those more daring, visiting the various caves available at these caves are a great delight as you enter the pitch blackness with torches and find your way among the slippery muck to the other side. Children in the area are willing to guide you for a small fee (about 100RWF depending on how many help you). The cave varies between wide echoing caverns to narrow barely-there spaces that you have to squeeze through. It takes about 10 minutes to traverse the whole cave and the pictures you can take are well-worth the trip.

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A couple of friends in one of the caves. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. Hot Springs Massage

These are located near Lake Kivu (but in a different section from the beach). It costs 500RWF for East African members to enter. The natural hot spring bubbles up near the lake and the masseuses use it to give customers an herbal massage for 1500RWF. It lasts about 15mins and by the time they’re through with you, your legs and feet feel amazingly refreshed. Also included in the treatment is a foot mud bath where they encase your feet in hot mud for 5mins. It’s great fun, especially with friends.

There are lots more places to visit in Musanze such as the volcanoes etc, and if you have time you can explore more places.

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Daphne Bochaberi enjoying a foot mud bath at the side of Lake Kivu. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
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Suzan Kinyanjui at the hot springs

Join me next week for a trip to the West!

 

(R)Wanderer Diaries: 8 things to do in Huye (South)

Guess who visited the land of 1000 hills? img_20170105_114834

I did!!

Through AIESEC. I was there for 5 weeks and I had an amazing experience I would like to share with you all in a series of blog posts. I was doing a project called Explore Rwanda which included traveling around the country and documenting the beauty of Rwanda through articles, videos and pictures. So because of that, the format of the posts will be more like a guide for people interested in traveling to the country who’d like to tour. I try give prices and locations of the places I talk about in the hopes it will be beneficial to you all.

We start off with a trip to the South!

8 things to do in Huye (South)

Huye is a town located in the southern part of Rwanda and is a traveler’s paradise. It has lots of tourist attractions, both conventional and unconventional. Most of them can be seen within 3-4 days and most of them are located within the town itself. The weather is moderately hot, but perfect for traveling around.

  1. Ethnographic Museum

The museum, located near the Huye bus park, contains the culture of Rwanda from the pre-colonial era to the current age. For a fee of 1000RWF for East African Students or 3000RWF for East African residents, you are provided with a guide to take you through the museum, however, pictures are not allowed.

You get to see Rwandese musical instruments, weaponry, alcohol brewery, basketry and much more. There are several replicas of ancient tools used such as umbrellas, boats and smoking pipes. There is also a room with a replica of a traditional Rwandese hut that you are allowed to enter. The entire tour takes about one hour and is well worth your time, especially for any history buffs.

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Outside the Ethnographic Museum. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. Huye Stadium

The stadium is located very near the museum. If you are lucky to get inside, you can take pictures on the track and of the stands. It’s especially fun to do with friends. The best time would be to get them when a game is ongoing.

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On the tracks at the Huye Stadium. Photo credits: Minnie Gitonga
  1. University of Rwanda Arboretum

The university is located in the centre of town and requires an ID to enter. From the main entrance, the arboretum is a stone’s throw away. You can take a leisurely walk through the forest.

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My friends and I inside the arboretum. Photo credits: Daphne Bochaberi
  1. Cathedral

The cathedral is the oldest one in Rwanda and still hosts church services. It is an awesome site for photographers as the numerous towers majestically jut into the sky. It’s best visited at dusk or dawn for the added dramatic effect of the sun’s rays.

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Cathedral Huye at dusk. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. Huye Mountain Coffee

Among all these touristic locations, this is the most fun – but it involves hiking. The tour consists of a walk up Tale hill where there are large plantations of Arabica coffee. You get the full history of coffee, first in the world, and then in Rwanda. Actually, at the end of it all, you may consider yourself a sort of rookie coffee expert. The steep hill might prove tiresome but is worth it in the end. Once on top, you can roast your own coffee beans that will be ground and packed for you to take home. The friendly guide, nicknamed ‘Mr.Coffee’ makes the whole experience ten times better with his friendly personality. When you get back down the hill, you are served with the freshest blend of coffee that you can drink to your fill. The whole tour costs 8000RWF for East African students.

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Roasting coffee with ‘Mr. Coffee’ on Tale Hill. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. King’s Palace Museum

This is one of the collection of museums found in Rwanda, located in Nyanza, a 45-minute bus ride from Huye. It focuses on the history of Rwandese royalty, from their dress to their dwellings and to the traditions surrounding their existence. The tour consists of first seeing the traditional abode of a King – the museum has a replica of this traditional hut. You get to see the interior whilst being given an explanation of the King’s courtly duties and how he was treated by the community. The next part of the tour is another walk round a replica of the modern house that the last King of Rwanda lived in before Belgium occupation of the country. The whole tour costs 1000RWF for East African students and 2000RWF to take pictures.

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My friends and I in front of a traditional King’s hut in the King’s Palace Museum. Photo credits: Tour guide
  1. Murambi Memorial

This is one of the more graphic genocide memorials in the country. It is located in Nyamagabe, which is about 30 minutes from Huye. It is located in a compound that was meant to become a technical college, and was still under construction. However, what happened instead was a dark and haunting tale. 50,000 unsuspecting Rwandese were rounded up there under pretense of protection but were instead brutally slaughtered en masse and buried in the compound in mass graves where volley ball fields were built on to try and cover up the atrocities that took place there. Bodies preserved in lime are put on display in some of the would-be class rooms as physical evidence of the lives lost on that fateful night. Visitors are allowed to leave messages on a board in the museum in condolence with the victims and their families. The whole experience is jarring and brings the genocide into stark relief, especially for outsiders, but is not for the faint-hearted.

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Front view of Murambi Memorial. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. Inzozi Nziza

The name means ‘Sweet Dreams’ in Kinyarwanda. This is an ice cream parlour located within Huye town, a stone’s throw away from the university. At affordable rates one can be served a variety of ice creams with different toppings. They also have other beverages and munchies, all served with extremely friendly service. It proved a nice way to wind down after a full day of touring.

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Ice cream at Inzozi Nziza. Photo credits: Soila Kenya

That’s it for this post. Please look forward to the next installment next week where we’ll be going up North!