Category Archives: Vacation

Weekly Photo Challenge: Anticipation (II)

A second submission to this week’s photo challenge: Anticipation

Two years ago we were lucky enough to visit Zanzibar just before Christmas – an island of the coast of Tanzania which is a dream destination for many but right on our doorstop it’s an affordable destination.

This Christmas we are spending the holiday period back on Zanzibar and very much anticipating our return to this Island Paradise.

Istanbul

We travelled back from the UK via Istanbul in Turkey. We flew using Turkish Air with a 15 hour delay between flights. We wanted to take the opportunity to visit the city, though this was planned long before recent events, we felt reassured it was going to be safe to visit. 

What we didn’t realise was that as part of the flight we had the option of a free walking tour of Istanbul with breakfast and lunch. This took in two of the most famous sites in Istanbul, the Blue Mosque  and the Hagia Sophia, a former church turned mosque, turned museum. 

Here are some pictures of the day.

A Mountain Detour and an Italian

Our journey back to Kigali was straight forward enough. Having decided against the Congo / Nile Trail as the roads were quickly becoming impassible (we started along it and quickly gave up – having had some unfortunate recent experiences!), we returned via the route from whence we came. 

   

  

  
    
    
    
    
 However, and hour or so in and seeing signs to Volcano National Park we decided to turn left. The next hour or so took us up into the mountains skirting the edge of the park and gave us some excellent scenery. The road itself remained good and doubled back to our original route puting us about 10K further back. It was worth the diversion and provided an interesting view of rural Rwanda.  

    
    
 
  



 Later we passed and explored a rope suspension bridge. 

    
    
   
Stopping in Ruhangeri we found virtually all the shops and businesses closed or closing. We managed to get a lunch order in for Brochette (meat kebab) and chips at a small bistro/bar before it too closed. Here in Rwanda they are observing a National Week of Mourning in commemoration of the 1994 Genocide. In this annual event the Rwandans gather at  memorials to remember their loved ones, this daily event closes businesses early in the afternoons with some re-opening in the evenings. We saw many Rwandans walking from these ceremonies as the finished or gathered in specific locations in every village and town. 

  
Approaching our destination we got some excellent views from the top of the ridge as we descended down towards Kigali. 

   
Reaching the Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel our only frustration was the poor parking of other guests who made it impossible  to park inside. Seemingly unwilling to move their vehicles we unloaded and headed out to a fabulous Italian Restaurant (Sole Lunar) possible the nearest good Italian Restaurant to Mwanza (another 13 hours journey away).   


    
Tomorrow we head home. We have greatly enjoyed our first family  trip to Rwanda and hope to be back soon.

A Boat Trip to the Hot Springs

One of the things we wanted to do whilst here in Gisenyi was to take a trip to the Hot Springs. A result geological conditions here in the Rift Valley and the location on the volcano ( Mt Nyiragongo) super heated water emerges from the rocks on the coast of Lake Kivu where it mixes with the lake waters.

Initially we intended to walk to the Springs (a 4 hour round trip) but whilst on the beach we encountered a man with a boat and negotiated a trip by water – much more relaxed. It also gave us a chance to view the coast from out in the lake, including the massive Nyiragongo Volcano across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – see previous post

Our trip took a circuitous route out past the gas drilling platform avoiding it’s pipeline before heading around the coast.

Rounding the peninsular we approached a fishing village, this was also the location of the hot springs where we disembarked. Walking to the Spring we were shown to a bench and placed our feet on rocks in the hot waters of the lake, which had been cordoned off by sanbags. Two ladies then began a massage of arms and legs using the hot water which they rubbed onto the skin. The water in this pool was very warm – the temperature of a hot bath. There were other springs on land which were scaldingly hot as well as some in the lake which bubbled up into the lake water making the waters warm. After the massage we made our way to a second pool where I went for a dip in warm water – I will spare you the close up pictures!

The springs are sited opposite the local brewery which we passed upon our return. The boat sailed back past the peninsular and gas rig and on to the Congolese border before returning to the beach. Our return gave use excellent views of the Volcano plus a front row seat of a thunderstorm.

    
 

Gisenyi Beach Hotel

We’re here for four days in the Discover Rwanda- Gisenyi Beach Hotel. We booked this place on a last minute deal with Expedia and we’re really pleased with our choice.
    
This old colonial house is part of a group of hotels run by the Discover Rwanda Group which is linked to AEGIS Trust a charity supporting the country following the 1994 Genocide. They also run the Youth Hostel where we stayed in Kigali and the Genocide Memorial in Kigali. From AEGIS’s own blog the following quotation 

Through the Museum Cafe, the Museum Gift Shop and the Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel we offer beneficiaries career opportunities in various industries by providing training in high-demand areas such as tourism, customer care and the culinary arts. We are committed to providing top-level training in skills that will create the best career opportunities for our beneficiaries and put 100% of the proceeds back into Aegis’ continued work in Rwanda

This also applies to our location too. We’re in a family room with a great view overlooking the garden towards the beach. 

  

  

 Gisenyi Beach Hotel has a relaxed home from home feel. A place to chill and unwind. 

   

     

  

  

 Food is excellent and in the evening as it cools to a chilly 21°C (for us that is cool!) they light the open log fires.  

   
 The hotel is a stone’s throw from the beach, just beyond the palms which are alive to the chatters of the hundreds of fruit bats hanging in the branches. The noise is actually quite soothing as you drift into sleep.   

   
The waters of Lake Kivu are warm and though the sand beneath makes the water brownish the lake is clean. 

   

Rwanda Genocide Monument

Genocide is the intent to systematically eliminate a cultural, ethnic, linguistic, national, racial or religious group.

The term did not exist before 1944 when it was used to describe the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany against the Jewish People. Sadly this was not the only occasion in which it has occurred and since 1944 there have been further atrocities.

In my lifetime there have been three major genocide events among others.

  • Cambodia – 1975-1979
  • Bosnia – 1992-1995
  • Rwanda – 1994

In 2013 I spent a short time in Cambodia and visited the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center in Phnom Penh – you can read about this place here. It was a both humbling and awesome experience and one which lives in the memory still.

 

On our visit to Kigali we visited the Genocide Memorial.

This like Choeung Ek is a place to commemorate the innocent victims of mass slaughter and both explain the causes and warn future generations of the dangers which led to genocide.

The account below is my understanding of the events leading up to 1994 and beyond and  any inaccuracies are my own. However I have tried to convey a simplified account based on information gleaned from the exhibit.

In the case of Rwanda the origins of the genocide lie with the colonial powers who ruled this country, Germany and notably Belgium in the post world war 1 era. Belgium strove to impose a view which divided the hitherto uniform Rwandan society into three groups Hutus (85%), Tutsis (14%) and Twa (1%). In particular they allied themselves with minority Tutsis whom they regarded as more intelligent than the majority Hutus. Over time this differential split society into privileged and underprivileged. All Rwandans were allocated identity cards which (in some cases arbitrarily) conferred one of the three ethnic groups. Hutus were discriminated against but as general education levels rose became more vocal. Eventually the Belgians realizing the errors of their ways reversed the situation and Hutus took power. On independence in 1961 Hutu goverments dominated and discriminated in their turn against Hutus. Even so in many communities Hutu and Tutsi lived alongside one another and we’re friends, in some cases their was intermarriage. When in 1973 a hardliners sized power tensions increased still further. A narrative developed referring to Hutus as ‘cockroaches’ and stirring up racial tensions. Many Hutus were driven out of the country and a rebel group RPF was formed made up of mainly Tutsis. The army was solely Hutu and there was also the Hutu militia (Interahamwe) who were being trained up. In spite of attempts at a peace treaty, and following a plane crash (shot down by assailants unknown) which assassinated the Rwandan and Burundian Presidents in 1994 the violence erupted.

On April 7th 1994 the genocide began, Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in a 100 day period. Neighbour turned on neighbour, friend on friend, urged on by the Hutu government and it’s militia.

An estimated 1,000,000 people were killed in this period (20% of the population and 70% of Tutsis). Much of this killing involved machetes, clubs and other blunt objects. Tutsi women and girls were raped (many by men with known HIV), Tutsis were maimed and killed. There was no leniency shown to children or the old all were targeted and often mothers and fathers were murdered in front of their children or vice  versa. The West ignored or in France’s case actively supported the Hutus prior to the genocide and in spite of warnings the UN reduced it’s peace keeping forces prior to the genocide. The RPF mobilized and strove to regain the country and after 100 days drove out the Hutus, many fleeing to Congo DR.

Below are images from the memorial.


Particularly harrowing are the images of children all murdered in the genocide, either hacked to death, burned, shot or stabbed.

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The time since 1994 has seen a reorganization of the country and attempts at reconciliation, which appears to have been largely successful. The large death toll and HIV infection have nonetheless left an impact, but the country looks to be booming 22 years on. It is only to be hoped that the racial tensions of the past have been reduced. The exhibition ends on a positive note referring to the way survivor victims have moved on.

The gardens beyond the memorial house the mass graves and like Choeung Ek are a place of peace and reflection.

From the grounds of the Memorial Garden you can see the skyline of Kigali rising like a Phoenix from the ashes a symbol of hope for the future of this country.

Peponi

The Peponi Bandas and Beachside Camping Complex is located along a stretch of coast between Tanga and Pangani on the Indian Ocean Coast of Tanzania. 

 There are a range of accommodation options ranging from a Banda ($630 pp for a 6 night stay) to a bring your own tent option ($6.50 pppn).

Regardless of the option you have access to the same facilities including a small pool, beach bar and restaurant area and numerous places to relax.
    
        
We chose the bring your tent option which has been good value, the tent is pitched under a Banda and provided with a light and an electrical socket. When our air bed sprung a leak the manageress was happy to loan us some bedding from the pre-erected tents (a third option for accommodation). 
  
 
The menu is tasty and well prepared. At 13000 TZS it is a lot cheaper than many places in Mwanza, where we live in Tanzania.WIFI is provided free of charge but is purposely limited to a small area is of the complex well away from the beach front so that people are not permanently on their phones which has been quite refreshing. 
 The property leads onto a beach front whilst not the pure white sands of Zanzibar the beach is nonetheless excellent.
    
 The beach teems with crabs which scurry for their holes, numerous wading birds trawl the beach which has a large tidal range as much of this coast does. There are many varieties of birds in the trees along the coastline too.
   

       
    
  

  

 The site is laid out in a landscape of palms and other trees. Bush babies clamber the trees by night and monkeys by day. A large curiosity of Banded Mongooses roam the grassy areas in the afternoons.
 

     
   

 We are really enjoying our stay here and after two solid days of travel it has been good to go no further than a stroll along the beach.