Hotel Rwanda

Stephen Quinn
November 23, 2010 share
Artists for Conservation Flag Expedition 11

11/23/10 - Woke up well rested this morning to the songs of bulbuls and grey sparrows around the hotel in Kigali. After breakfast, we hired a driver, named Alex, a duel citizen of Rwanda and DRC to drive us up to Rweungeri in his vintage landrover.

Passing out of Kigali, we stopped at the Hotel des Milles Collines, the hotel made famous in the movie "Hotel Rawanda". You know, all the people we have met and dealt with are so sweet and kind. It is hard to imagine anything bad ever having happened here.

Rwanda's countryside was just as I remembered it in 1984 when I led a previous trip for the museum. Once away from Kigali the landscape becomes saturated with green. Every inch of arable ground is cultivated over, around hills and mountains and throughout the valleys. Though one realizes that this landscape was probably forested when Akeley came through in 1926, and so, it does represent deforestation due to the growing human population, it is still beautiful none-the-less. It is so verdant, lush and fertile. Everywhere in the hills is the patchwork of family farms and the terracing of hillsides to maximize tillable land. It is a landscape painters paradise. Every turn in the road presents the artist with a break-taking view . The landscape is so green it makes you feel good just to look at it. The homes are all wattle and dawb or mud brick with clay tile roofs. Along the roads, many women, are carrying bundles on their heads. They wear brightly colored textile skirts. Babies are slung over their mother's back in a shawl, like a home-made back pack.

In the lower elevations not too much wildlife. Scarlet-chested Sunbird, White-necked Raven, Pied Crow, lots of Black Kites (the African subspecies with yellow bills) , Hadadah Ibis, and tons of grey sparrows. No mammals. In the lower elevations the human population has converted the landscape into a giant rolling mountainous farm. Only up in the highest and steepest regions, the Virunga massif, where it's impossible to farm, is where the regions native wildlife survives. Elephant, Forest Buffalo and that's where we hope to find the Mountain Gorilla.

We arrived in Rweungeri, which I learned today, has been renamed Musanze, and Alex our driver informed us that the best place for us to stay, being within walking distance of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinarian Project compound, was the Muhaburu hotel. I was thrilled because I had stayed there over 25 years ago. Though slightly alarmed because I was tortured by bed bugs the last time. It was here in 1984 that I received a love letter from my, then, sweetheart, Linda, now my wife. I'll never forget it! I was at the bar (where else!) and a little man in a long robe and wearing a fez came up to me and handed me a dusty, tattered letter. How Linda was ever able to find me in the middle of Africa, I'll never know. It was then that I knew she was hopelessly in love with me! Can you blame her - REALLY!

BTW - no sign bed bugs yet

OK - back to the present.

We met staff members, Shadrak and Magdelina, when we got to the Mountain GorillaVeterinarian Project (MGVP) compound and learned that our primary contact, Dr. Mike Cranfield, director of MGVP, was called over to Uganda earlier that day on an emergency. A baby Mountain Gorilla had a poachers snare caught around it's neck and, though it was free, the snare was still wound tight around it's throat. Mike went over to dart (tranquilize) the babies mother and , while she was sedated, grab the baby and free it from the snare. When he darted the mother and she went down, the groups silverback charged and the rangers with him, who should have held their ground to call the silverbacks bluff, fled in fear. The silverback then rushed in and grabbed his offspring , to save it , and retreated off with the remainder of his group. Mike told us, over a cell phone, that he was in the middle of figuring out what to do next. To be continued tomorrow.



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