It has been a while since I last updated my blog and the reason is because I have finally taken advantage of my girlfriend Laura being here to do some vacation traveling! For the past couple of weeks, I have accompanied her while she did some work for her organization in Kampala and Kamuli. We then had a few days in Jinja where she graciously took photos and conducted interviews for a story on St. Francis.
We then began our vacation travels! We first traveled to Kampala to spend the night before catching a bus to Kigali, Rwanda the next morning. The trip took about 8 hrs and took us through western Uganda and then into the mountains of Rwanda. Rwanda is also called the “Land of a Thousand Hills” – for good reason since it is one hilly area after another. It is stunningly beautiful there. Also, even though it is just below the equator, the higher elevation means it is a bit cooler than expected. The city of Kigali rests on the side of a hill and stretches across a valley. I don’t think it is as hilly as San Francisco but it would be good to ensure good brakes on one’s car! We stayed at the Hotel des Mille Collines (Hotel Rwanda) while we were there and it is a top notch place! The first full day, we decided to go to the Genocide Memorial in Kigali. It is a powerful museum and very well done. On the grounds is a mass grave where an estimated 250,000 bodies are buried from all over the country. The exhibits were good and chronicled the history of events leading up to, during, and after the genocide. The upstairs sections talked about similar genocides in WWII, Cambodia, Balkans, and in Africa. The guidebook says that this stop is a must for visitors and I fully agree. The second day, we traveled to Huye (Butare) in the south to visit the National Museum. This is also an excellent stop and the exhibits are well displayed and documented. The other thing we hoped to see was the famous Intore Troupe. This is a dance troupe that showcases local tribal dances. Unfortunately, they perform on Sundays only but we did get to see some of the drummers perform which was good. We also visited the largest cathedral in the country there that was built by King Albert of Belguim in the 1930s. The next day, we left to head back to Uganda.
We took a bus from Kigale early the next morning which dropped us off in the town of Mbarara. From there we took a (very) crowded taxi north to a town called Kasese near the famed Rwenzori Mountains (Mountains of the Moon). Before we got there, we got off at a town called Katunguru to get a private taxi into Queen Elizabeth National Park. We arrived at our destination, Mweya Safari Lodge, which is located on a peninsula that juts into Lake Edwards. It is a beautiful location located in the central part of the Western Rift Valley. The Lodge is well managed and the staff knew how to cater to their guest’s needs! The first full day we spent relaxing and then went on a boat safari in the Kazinga Channel which connects Lake Edwards with Lake George. We saw many hippos, Nile crocodiles, buffalo, birds, and even elephants! What amazed us was that there was a small fishing village in the park and we saw men and women working with hippos just a few feet away! The second day we took a guided car drive safari through parts of the park. We saw scores of Ugandan Kobs, Waterbucks, birds, a few hippos, elephants, and – highlighting it all – a small pride of lions. This ended our stay and we were fortunate enough to hitch a ride with an American woman and three Ugandan men who work for Compassion International. They were gracious enough to take us to Mukono, east of Kampala, where we took a private taxi to Jinja and home.
All-in-all, it was a wonderful trip!