Kibuye, home of the spectacular sunset

I was only able to spend two nights in Kibuye, but on both occasions I was treated to amazing sunsets. On my first night I went over to the Centre Bethanie, a guesthouse a short walk from where I was staying, which has a fabulous lakeside setting and fragrant grounds filled with flowers.

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

The Centre Bethanie has a nice restaurant, with average food delivered very slowly, right on the water’s edge. It was the perfect place to watch the sun set over the water while sat outside having dinner and a cold beer. The red and orange sky was dramatically reflected in the still waters of Lake Kivu, while every now-and-then a small boat would silently move across the lake. Truly serene.

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

The changes in colour, which turned the sky and land purples, blues and pinks, finally ended with an intense fiery sun which seemed to set the sky and water alight. It was magnificent and it is seared into my memory of Kibuye.

Kibuye: Land of a Thousand Islands, in the Land of a Thousand Hills

Rwanda, with good reason, is known as the Land of a Thousand Hills. Every part of the country I passed through involved a journey on twisting roads, through mountainous landscapes. In fact, the whole of Rwanda is at altitude, the lowest point in the country has an altitude of 950 metres, only slightly lower than the highest point in England. The highest point is Mount Karisimbi which reaches a whopping 4507 metres in altitude.

When you reach the tranquil Lake Kivu port of Kibuye though, Rwanda stops being the Land of a Thousand Hills and becomes the Land of a Thousand Islands. Dotted throughout the lake are numerous small islands, little hills in their own right, which make the views over the lake so wonderful.

Views over Lake Kivu, from the road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Views over Lake Kivu, from the road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Views over Lake Kivu, from the road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Views over Lake Kivu, from the road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

I didn’t have much time to visit Kibuye, but so many people had told me to go there, I felt I should make the effort to leave the beach at Gisenyi behind and journey further south. My map showed what looked like a good road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, but all the public transport seemed to go to the capital, Kigali, where I’d have to get another bus. Asking around, people told me the direct route was possible, and passed through Rwanda’s tea growing country. I decided to hire a car and driver.

The road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

The road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

A village on the road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

A village on the road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Tea plantation on the road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Tea plantation on the road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

The journey started uneventfully. The road was dirt but well maintained, and for an hour or so we slowly climbed from Lake Kivu into the hills. The views over the lake were spectacular, but the further we went the worse the road became. There were some truly scary moments, once almost being run off the road by a truck. More positively, as one of the few vehicles on the road, we regularly stopped and gave lifts to people. In a mixture of bad French and faltering English, I found out more about life in the villages we were passing through.

Bizarrely, high in these hills, the landscape started to remind me of Switzerland – just with plantains growing everywhere. At one point we passed through an area of dairy farms, which took me by surprise. It turns out this is a major dairy farming region.

Countryside on the road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Countryside on the road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Countryside on the road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Countryside on the road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Eventually we saw Kibuye spread out below us, and we dropped out of the mountains back towards Lake Kivu. Soon we were on a paved road and heading towards the lovely Moriah Hill Resort Hotel, where I decided to splash out for a room with a view in the best hotel in town.

Looking down on Kibuye from the road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Looking down on Kibuye from the road from Gisenyi to Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Moriah Hill Hotel on Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Moriah Hill Hotel on Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Canoes on Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Canoes on Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Traditional fishing boats, Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Traditional fishing boats, Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Kibuye is a peaceful place. At weekends the town sees an influx of people from Kigali, here to enjoy the lake and healthy environment, but during the week the town is very quiet.  It is so tranquil and relaxed, that it is almost impossible to imagine the horrors that took place here during the genocide. Over 90% of the Tutsi population of this area was murdered, and yet again the killing centred on the local church. The story of what happened in Kibuye is told evocatively by journalist Chris McGreal. It is a report that is shocking but should be made compulsory reading.

St. Jean Catholic Church, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

St. Jean Catholic Church, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Genocide memorial, St. Jean Catholic Church, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Genocide memorial, St. Jean Catholic Church, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

View over Lake Kivu from St. Jean Catholic Church, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

View over Lake Kivu from St. Jean Catholic Church, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Government officials directed people displaced by the violence to gather at the St. Jean Catholic Church and Home Complex, which stands on a hill and commands a beautiful panorama over the lake. More than 11,000 Tutsi took refuge here, most of them were murdered, often in horrendous ways, by people they knew. The Hutu priest of the church of St. Jean’s, unlike so many of his co-religionists who collaborated with the genocide, acted with great bravery. He was given the choice to leave the church and save his life, but he chose to die with his Tutsi ‘congregation’.

It’s hard to contemplate while standing in this place today, especially as the sound of music drifts out of the church and over the surrounding countryside, but it was here that the first massacre of unarmed civilians took place in Kibuye. Thousands were killed with guns, grenades and machetes. A simple memorial overlooking the lake bears silent witness to those events. The Rwandan government had wanted to keep the church as it was in 1994 – bullet holes, grenade blasts and blood stains – as a memorial to the dead, but the Catholic Church resisted and the church was ‘cleansed’ and reconsecrated.

Genocide mass grave, sports stadium, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Genocide mass grave, sports stadium, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Genocide memorial, sports stadium, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Genocide memorial, sports stadium, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

The second massacre in Kibuye happened at the sports stadium. People had gathered at the stadium because the authorities directed them there for their ‘safety’. Once there, they weren’t allowed to leave, nor were they permitted food or water. People became so desperate they ate the grass from the football pitch. On April 18, 1994, a single gunshot was fired into the air, the signal for the killing to begin. Ten thousand people were killed at the stadium, their remains are buried in a mass grave next to the demolished stadium.

Over a two day period more than 21,000 men, women and children were butchered at the church and stadium. A level of killing which is beyond imagination, both in its savagery and efficiency.

Houses in Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Houses in Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

As Chris McGreal‘s article points out, today the surviving Tutsi are forced to live amongst the killers of their families and friends. More and more Hutu murderers have been released from prison, many have moved back into the communities they destroyed in 1994. As a visitor, none of this is especially obvious, and Kibuye seems like a place that is looking towards a brighter future. A future that is embracing tourism for all the right reasons, but which remains tainted by the past.

Taking your life in your hands in Gisenyi

Lake Kivu is beautiful. A vast and tranquil ocean-sized lake set amidst wonderful scenery. At the Rwandan lakeside town of Gisenyi there are beaches, delicious fresh fish to eat and cold Primus beer to drink as you watch another glorious sunset from a lakeside bar. If you’re visiting Rwanda, a stop in Gisenyi is an absolute must. That said, there is a small chance that this peaceful lake will kill you. You take your life in your hands visiting Lake Kivu.

Lake Kivu near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Lake Kivu near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Typical countryside near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Typical countryside near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

The public beach in Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

The public beach in Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Three hundred meters below Lake Kivu’s surface, lies something which could cause the death of a high percentage of the 2 million or so people who live around the shore. Dissolved in the water at the bottom of the lake is a vast amount of carbon dioxcide (CO2) and methane, which, if released, could cause a mass extinction of humans and animals. There is evidence that this has happened here in the past. It certainly happened at a lake in Cameroon in 1986, killing more than a thousand people. Lake Kivu contains several thousand times more CO2 and methane than the lake in Cameroon: it could literally explode, releasing tonnes of CO2.

Typical countryside near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Typical countryside near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

The main bus station in Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

The main bus station in Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

CO2 and methane are found in extremely high densities in Lake Kivu because of all the volcanic activity in the region. It is volcanic activity, perhaps a massive earthquake or a huge lava flow from a nearby volcano, which could disturb and ignite the methane. This would cause an enormous explosion and release all the CO2 to the surface. The CO2 would, silently, suffocate every living creature on the side of the lake.

Not all is doom and gloom however. There is a local brewery which extracts the methane on a small scale to power its operations. The Rwandan government has now done a deal with a US company to extract the methane, and use it to fuel a power station to provide much needed electricity. Removing the methane should make the lake safer, but there are worries it might itself cause an explosion, or harm fish stocks – an important source of protein for communities around the lake. Sipping a cold beer on the beach, its hard not to look out over the water and contemplate the chemical composition of Lake Kivu.

Painted advert for Primus beer in Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Painted advert for Primus beer in Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

There is little to do in Gisenyi, especially if you don’t have your own transport, but the friendly and relaxed vibe makes it a good place to recharge the batteries. Despite the fact that it is located on the border with the benighted town of Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it feels very safe. I walked around day and night and never felt insecure. People largely just leave tourists alone, occasionally coming to say hello and to practice their English on you.

Lake Kivu near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Lake Kivu near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Lake Kivu near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Lake Kivu near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

This is a recurring theme throughout the country. After the genocide, the Rwandan government (with no small reason), blamed the French and Belgian governments for not only failing to stop the genocide, but of supporting those perpetuating it and assisting many to escape justice. In retaliation, the Rwandan government changed the national language from French to English, and have recently joined the Commonwealth (a group of nations that were formerly British colonies).

Rwanda also sees its future as part of an East African community, alongside English speaking Kenya and Uganda. From 1st January 2014, people will be able to get one visa which will be valid for all three countries. As a result, many people are now learning English, and being an informal tutor became something of a pastime for me as I travelled around.

Women with an umbrella, Lake Kivu near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Women with an umbrella, Lake Kivu near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Traditional fishing boats, Lake Kivu near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Traditional fishing boats, Lake Kivu near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

I decided to take a lakeside walk to the village of Rubona, about 7km from Gisenyi, where there are a couple of lakeside hotels to have lunch and take in the view. I thought I could walk on the lakeside road, until I reached an army roadblock – probably the friendliest soldiers I’ve ever met, all of whom were keen to practice English – and was redirected to a route which went over a large hill instead. On a hot day, the hill was a bit of a trial, but the effort was rewarded with panoramic views over the lake.

People board a boat, Lake Kivu near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

People board a boat, Lake Kivu near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Lunch spot on Lake Kivu near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Lunch spot on Lake Kivu near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Rubona is a small place, but the lakeside setting was lovely. I had a late lunch of fresh fish and cold beer in the garden of the Hotel Malahide Paradis, and, feeling particularly lazy afterwards, decided to take a motorbike taxi back to Gisenyi. The driver turned out to be homicidal. At one point I thought we were going over the edge of a cliff into the lake, but he got me back in time to see a sublime sunset from Gisenyi’s main public beach.

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Ruhengeri and Lake Burera

Most people visit Ruhengeri (which is also known as Musanze) because it’s a convenient place to base yourself before heading into the Volcanoes National Park for gorilla tracking. While the town itself isn’t particularly attractive, and has little in the way of attractions, it’s a friendly place to hole up for a few days and to use as a base for exploring the surrounding area. Like everywhere else in Rwanda, the region suffered during the genocide, and there is a graphic memorial to the dead set amidst a peaceful garden.

Genocide Memorial in Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Genocide Memorial in Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Genocide Memorial in Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Genocide Memorial in Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

My plan had been to get a permit to track rare and beautiful Golden Monkeys, which live in the National Park. As well as being truly odd looking, the Golden Monkey is also one of the most endangered primates in Africa. It seemed like too good an opportunity to miss, but that was before I encountered Rwandan bureaucracy. Despite visiting the National Park offices and the RDB tourist office, I couldn’t find anyone who could tell me how to get a permit.

Hotel Muhabura, the best brochetes in town, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Hotel Muhabura, the best brochetes in town, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

After wasting a morning in a fruitless search for a permit, I decided to hire a car and driver to take me to Lake Burera. I’d been told by a friend in Kigali – and my Bradt guidebook was enthusiastic as well – that the area around the lake was one of the most beautiful landscapes in Rwanda. If anything, that is an understatement, and it went a considerable way to making up for missing the Golden Monkeys. The road around the lakeshore zigzags around bays and inlets, up and down hills. Almost every time you turn a corner you’re presented with breathtaking panoramic views over the lake.

Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Boats on Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Boats on Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

At its northern tip, Lake Burera is less than a mile from the border with Uganda, and theoretically it is possible to do a 120km circuit around the lake – which I was planning to do. The road leaving Ruhengeri is paved and in good condition, but as soon as you turn towards the lake the road becomes a dirt track. After about 30km we reached a small and bustling fishing village on the edge of the lake; we stopped for a drink and my driver, Jean Baptiste, asked around about the condition of the road south of the village.

Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Boats on Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Boats on Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

According to villagers, the road was in a bad condition further south. Jean Baptiste was understandably reluctant to put his car (and livelihood) at risk. We travelled several kilometres further before the road became too muddy and rutted for our small car. We did a quick u-turn and headed back the way we had come. It was disappointing not to be able to complete the full circuit, but the scenery was still magnificent. On the way back every vista was dominated by the conical volcano, Mt. Muhabura, which straddles the border between Rwanda and Uganda.

Village on Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Village on Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Village on Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Village on Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Mt. Muhabura, Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Mt. Muhabura, Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

There is very little tourist infrastructure around Lake Burera, and the area only receives a small number of visitors, which might account for the reception you receive from local people. We stopped near a school at one point and, after being surrounded by dozens of pupils, I found myself having an informal English discussion class with a couple of the teachers. I suspect the area will slowly develop for tourism, but at the moment there is no easy way to visit without your own transport. Even then, you really need a 4×4 to do the trip.

Sunset over the Volcanoes National Park, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over the Volcanoes National Park, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over the Volcanoes National Park, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over the Volcanoes National Park, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

We arrived back to Ruhengeri just in time to see the sun set behind the volcanic chain of mountains, which form the core of the Volcanoes National Park. It was a good way to end my time in Ruhengeri, the following day I would set off for Lake Kivu and the relaxed lakeside town of Gisenyi.

Rwanda’s glorious Mountain Gorillas

There is something emblematic about the Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda. They have become cherished symbols of hope for a nation so recently torn apart by genocide – not to mention being significant earners of tourist dollars. In a small country with a rapidly growing population, where the pressure on land for agricultural is intense, the identification of the gorillas with the well-being of the nation may, ultimately, prove to be the thing that secures the future of the Mountain Gorilla.

Dominant silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Dominant silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Gorillas grooming in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Gorillas grooming in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

There is a ceremony, made famous by the support it gets from the President of Rwanda and international celebrities, which celebrates newborn gorillas. The annual naming ceremony – giving names to baby gorillas – takes place in the foothills of the Volcanoes National Park and attracts a large national and international gathering. The ceremony serves to cement the fate of the gorilla with that of the nation, and has done much to persuade local communities to tackle poaching and protect habitats.

Mountain Gorillas are extraordinary animals, and seeing them close up in their natural habitat was the highlight of my visit to Rwanda, and one of the most wonderful animal encounters I’ve ever had. Gorillas are extremely intelligent animals, living in complex social structures within extended families. They have a strict hierarchy within the group, at the head of which is a dominant male, known as a ‘silverback’ thanks to the grey hair they develop on their backs.

Dominant silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Dominant silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Dominant silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Dominant silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Dominant silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Dominant silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Gorilla groups are generally very peaceful, spending most of their time eating, grooming, playing and resting. Even in groups with more than one silverback, like the Susa group I was observing, there is no conflict between adult males. The dominant male retains his place at the head of the group until he dies, when an orderly transition to the second string silverback takes place. So strong are family ties, when a dominant silverback dies the group will often remain with the body for several days, before moving off to another location.

Silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Gorilla groups have territories which overlap. Occasionally this leads to conflict with a male of another group, but interestingly the males defend their group rather than their territory. Gorillas are also extremely long lived, often to between 40 and 50 years, and like humans are largely active during the day. At night they build a nest on the ground to sleep in, often in family groupings.

Watching the Susa group at play and rest was magical. The huge and powerful dominant silverback – totally undisturbed by our presence – walked to the centre of his extended family and sat down. He gave our small group of awe-struck tourists the once-over and, realising that he had little to fear from puny humans, got down to the real work of the day. He played a little with one of the baby gorillas and groomed with some of the females.

Dominant silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Dominant silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Baby gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Baby gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Gorillas grooming in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Gorillas grooming in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Occasionally he’d lift up his giant head and check on the rest of the group. Eventually, content that all was well in his world, he lay down and rested. Around him the group continued to play and groom, thanks to his calming presence, ignoring the tourists snapping photos and pointing out other gorillas to each other. The Susa group is big, more than forty individuals; there is activity going on all around you and gorillas will suddenly appear out of the foliage, sometimes too close to us for comfort.

Dominant silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Dominant silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Baby gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Baby gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Dominant silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Dominant silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Dominant silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Dominant silverback gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

After about an hour in the presence of these glorious gorillas (visits are limited to one hour each day), we started our descent back down the mountain. I think I managed the entire journey back with a smile on my face.

Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park

Rising early in the half light of dawn, I stumbled around my cabin on the outskirts of Ruhengeri, the closest town to the magical Volcanoes National Park. I hadn’t slept well, the night was filled with unusual noises and was surprisingly cold, but these weren’t the real reasons for my fitful night’s sleep. I was too excited to sleep: in the morning I’d have the chance to see Rwanda’s famous Mountain Gorillas. The excitement I felt as I tried to rustle up a cup of coffee can only be described as ‘child-like’.

Silverback dominant male Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Silverback dominant male Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

There are few animals on the planet that have captured the imagination in the same way as the Mountain Gorilla. In part, this is due to the work of controversial zoologist, Dian Fossey, who dedicated her life to the study and survival of the Mountain Gorilla. Fossey did much of her research in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, and it was here in 1985 that she was murdered and buried. The film Gorillas in the Mist, staring Sigourney Weaver, made Fossey’s story – and the Mountain Gorillas she loved – world famous.

The Mountain Gorilla is still endangered. Approximately 880 survive in the wild, all of them wedged into a corner of East Africa which has seen decades of conflict, poaching and habitat loss. While gorilla populations in Rwanda and Uganda have stabilised, the lawlessness of the Democratic Republic of Congo has seen massive habitat loss and many gorillas killed by poachers. Half of all Mountain Gorillas live in Rwanda, and I had secured a US$500* permit from the Rwandan Tourist Board to visit one of the eight habituated groups.

Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

The driver I’d hired to take me to the National Park headquarters was late, my initial frustration gave way to gratefulness when we stopped to pick up two National Park guards hitching a lift to work. We had a chat about their work and, when it came to sorting the assembled foreign tourists into groups (maximum of eight people per group), they sorted me into the Susa group with only three other people. The Susa group is the largest of all gorilla groups, with over forty members, including two Silverbacks and a pair of twins.

Landscape around the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Landscape around the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Landscape around the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Landscape around the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Landscape around the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Landscape around the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Its a long drive to the volcano where the Susa group lives, and they’re often found high up the mountain – requiring a long and steep climb. The scenery en route up the volcano was glorious. We passed small farm huts and people working in fields of what looked like potatoes. Our guide said they were ‘Irish’ potatoes, a staple crop in this part of Rwanda. In the past, the gorilla habitat has been destroyed by farmers. Much work has been done with communities to reinforce the gorilla’s importance to the local economy, most are now supportive of the national park.

We reached the boundary of the park – little more than a wall – and suddenly we were walking through dense vegetation. It was a hot and sticky climb, but we got lucky, the Susa group was quite low down the mountain. After a surprisingly short walk – we’d been warned it could take five hours – we found them, along with the armed park guards who protect them.

Entrance to Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Entrance to Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

We heard the gorillas long before we saw them; several young gorillas were charging around chasing each other and play fighting. They were so oblivious to our presence that a young gorilla even ran into the legs of one of our group. That was unfortunate, but unavoidable. Typically, tourists have to keep a good five meter distance from the gorillas. Because of our shared ancestry, anyone with a cold or similar infectious disease cannot visit the gorillas for fear of transmitting human diseases, to which they have no immunity.

Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Aping around, young Mountain Gorillas, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Aping around, young Mountain Gorillas, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Aping around, young Mountain Gorillas, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Aping around, young Mountain Gorillas, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

While we were watching the young gorillas playing, and taking in the sheer magnificence of these truly amazing animals, the dominant male Silverback made his entrance. I can say, without fear of exaggeration, I have never seen a more noble and commanding animal in all my life…he was so human in his attitude to his unruly family, casting a fatherly eye over the group, chastising the occasional miscreant and showing a remarkable amount of affection for such a powerful and intimidating animal. Basically, a model father.

Silverback dominant male Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Silverback dominant male Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Silverback dominant male Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Silverback dominant male Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Silverback dominant male Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Silverback dominant male Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

It was pure joy to watch this family of gorillas interact, to see the group dynamic and to see them at play in the safety of the national park…but more of that later…

* The price has been increased to US$750 in the last year

The Rwandan Genocide, Nyamata and Ntarama Memorial Sites

‘Genocide Tourism’ wasn’t a term I’d heard before visiting Rwanda. The very idea is enough to send a shiver down the spine but, after visiting the Genocide Memorial Centre in Kigali, I felt it was important to visit the memorials to the genocide outside Kigali and try to understand better what happened and why.

“Genocide is not really a matter of poverty or lack of education… In 1959 the Hutus relentlessly robbed, killed, and drove away Tutsis, but they never for a single day imagined exterminating them. It is the intellectuals who emancipated them, by planting the idea of genocide in their heads and sweeping away their hesitations.” – Innocent, a survivor of the genocide (From A time for machetes. The killers speak by Jean Hatzfeld)

The origins of the Rwandan Genocide are many and complex, pitting the majority ethnic Hutu against the minority Tutsi. There are many excellent accounts of the genocide and how it was carried out, but perhaps the overriding theme is of ethnic divisions, created by the German and Belgian colonial administrations, giving rise to a vicious and one-sided ethnic struggle post-independence. These ethnic tensions were fed a diet of hatred for more than three decades after independence, finally they were exploited to brutal effect by the Hutu elite on 7th April 1994.

Ntarama church, Rwanda, Africa

Ntarama church, Rwanda, Africa

Interior of Ntarama church, Rwanda, Africa

Interior of Ntarama church, Rwanda, Africa

The genocide was no spontaneous uprising of one ethnic group against another; it was a meticulously planned and executed attempt by the Hutu leadership to exterminate all the ethnic Tutsi in Rwanda. As the notorious Hutu extremist radio station, Radio Libre des Mille Collines, repeatedly broadcast, Tutsis were ‘cockroaches’ who must be exterminated, including women and children.

Without external intervention, the result was never in doubt. Nearly one million Tutsi and moderate Hutu were murdered in a one hundred day period of collective savagery. The two villages, Nyamata and Ntarama, which I visited, tell the story of the genocide. The unthinkable atrocities and the thousands of people killed in these two villages was something replicated across the whole of Rwanda.

Nyamata church, Rwanda, Africa

Nyamata church, Rwanda, Africa

Interior of Nyamata church with clothes of the victims of genocide, Rwanda, Africa

Interior of Nyamata church with clothes of the victims of genocide, Rwanda, Africa

Interior of Nyamata church with clothes of the victims of genocide, Rwanda, Africa

Interior of Nyamata church with clothes of the victims of genocide, Rwanda, Africa

What I still struggle to understand is how, in small rural communities, where everyone knew everyone else, neighbour so readily turned on neighbour. In close knit villages people who had lived side-by-side for years, who worked together, attended church together and who’s children played together, woke up one morning and slaughtered each other.

Of course it wasn’t as spontaneous as this. Much preparation was involved, including a grotesque propaganda campaign demonising and dehumanising the Tutsi (think 1930s Germany). The campaign of hate went on for years, effectively creating an environment where the persecution of the Tutsi was normalised, and reducing the common ground between the two communities to a point where friends and neighbours were seen as natural enemies. In Kigali lists of Tutsi and moderate Hutu were prepared in advance of the genocide; in small villages lists weren’t necessary…everyone knew everyone else.

Interior of Ntarama church with possessions of genocide victims, Rwanda, Africa

Interior of Ntarama church with possessions of genocide victims, Rwanda, Africa

It seems too extraordinary to imagine, yet it happened in community after community, day after day. The shock and trauma these communities suffered was profound, and attempts to heal the psychological wounds of survivors have been hampered and overwhelmed by the size of the task. So many people were involved in killing that the justice system was similarly overwhelmed, and Rwanda introduced a traditional form of community justice to deal with the backlog of trials.

Interior of Ntarama church with clothes of genocide victims, Rwanda, Africa

Interior of Ntarama church with clothes of genocide victims, Rwanda, Africa

Human remains of those murdered in Ntarama church, Rwanda, Africa

Human remains of those murdered in Ntarama church, Rwanda, Africa

What happened in Nyamata and Ntarama is the genocide in microcosm. As the preplanned killing erupted across the country, desperate and terrified people fled to the local church in both communities, seeking shelter and protection from machete wielding death squads supported by the army. In both places the sanctity of the church proved illusory – and there are many documented cases of priests and church officials assisting with the genocide.

Gathering thousands of people in one place served only to make the genocidaire’s gruesome work easier. Over several days, those who had taken refuge at the churches were murdered, the vast majority hacked to death with machetes. Women and girls were brutally tortured and raped before being murdered. Throughout the bloodshed survivors and killers alike describe an almost carnival atmosphere amongst those doing the killing.

Human remains of those murdered in Ntarama church, Rwanda, Africa

Human remains of those murdered in Ntarama church, Rwanda, Africa

More than 5,000 people were murdered at the Ntarama church, over 10,000 people at Nyamata church. The scene that awaits visitors today is highly emotional. The churches have been preserved more-or-less as they were left at the end of the genocide: bloodstained clothes, walls and floors, and the few pathetic possessions people carried with them are piled inside both churches. The skeletons of the dead remain there as well, shocking reminders of the sheer number of people who were killed.

Today, many of those who took part in the killings have been released from prison and have returned to their communities. At the church in Nyamata I spoke to a guide who’d been a child at the time of the genocide. His entire family had been murdered. The man responsible for the murder of his mother had recently returned to the village, he hadn’t spoken to him but he’d seen him in the street several times. He said he’d forgiven the people responsible for the deaths of his family, but living in such close proximity to the killers must take enormous courage.

Interior of Ntarama church with possessions of genocide victims, Rwanda, Africa

Interior of Ntarama church with possessions of genocide victims, Rwanda, Africa

Exterior of Ntarama church, Rwanda, Africa

Exterior of Ntarama church, Rwanda, Africa

In a flat and emotion free monotone, another guide told me about some of the appalling crimes committed inside the church. They are too distressing to repeat. It left me feeling physically repulsed, but the extreme brutality was just a fact, nothing exceptional during those murderous days. The tranquil and peaceful surroundings of the churches today stands in stark relief to the terrible events witnessed in 1994.

As a side note to the killing in Nyamata, a UN military column appeared in the village bringing hope to the terrified Tutsi. They stopped only to evacuate eight white people, five priests and three nuns. When they departed, they did so to the sound of the jubilant Hutu militia, who were seen celebrating in the streets. The last barrier to the slaughter, and the last hope for Nyamata’s Tutsi population, left with them.

Bearing witness, memorials to the Rwandan Genocide

“In 100 days, more than 1,000,000 people were murdered. But the genocidaires did not kill a million people. They killed one, then another, then another…day after day, hour after hour, minute by minute. Every minute of the day, someone, somewhere, was being murdered, screaming for mercy. And receiving none.” – Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre

There is scene in the film Hotel Rwanda that sticks in my mind. As the terror and killing of the Rwandan Genocide spread, foreign nationals are being evacuated. As TV news cameraman Jack Daglish, played by Joaquin Phoenix, leaves for safety, hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, played by Don Cheadle, tells him he needs to make the world aware of what is happening in Rwanda. Phoenix’s character delivers a devastating critique of international apathy:

“I think if people see this footage, they will say ‘oh, that’s horrible’, and then go on eating their dinners.”

Genocide Memorial Centre, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

Genocide Memorial Centre, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

Views over Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

Views over Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

The tragedy is that the international community responded in exactly that way. For one hundred bloody days, while international leaders argued over whether genocide was happening, Rwandans were slaughtered in the most barbarous manner imaginable. Admitting what was happening in Rwanda was genocide would have meant taking action the international community was unwilling to take. A visit to Rwanda requires acknowledgement of our collective failure to prevent the slaughter.

Before arriving in Rwanda, it struck me as ghoulish to visit sites where thousands of people died. After visiting the Genocide Memorial Centre in Kigali, however, I was convinced it was important to see the places where atrocities took place. Over the course of a couple of days I visited the site of two notorious massacres in Nyamata and Ntarama. Both rural locations about an hour outside of Kigali where people sought refuge in churches. I also spent half a day visiting the Genocide Memorial Centre and other sites in Kigali.

Coffins draped in purple, Genocide Memorial Centre, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

Coffins draped in purple, Genocide Memorial Centre, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

Mass graves, Genocide Memorial Centre, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

Mass graves, Genocide Memorial Centre, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

The Genocide Memorial Centre is a permanent memorial to all who died in the genocide, but it is also the site of a mass grave. Some 250,000 victims of the genocide are buried here. It is a powerful and profoundly moving experience to walk through the exhibition and grounds – which overlook the city. The most emotional part of the experience was seeing the hundreds of photographs of men, women and children murdered in the genocide. Taken in better times, these simple photos were donated by surviving family members, and are mute reminders that behind the horrendous numbers and lists of names were real people with real lives.

Photographs of victims of the Rwandan Genocide, Genocide Memorial Centre, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

Photographs of victims of the Rwandan Genocide, Genocide Memorial Centre, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

The Centre charts the disastrous colonial history of Rwanda, and the role of the Catholic Church, which proved decisive in preparing the ground for genocide. It explains the ethnic tensions and periodic killing that occurred after independence and prior to 1994. It explores the origins and execution of the genocide, bringing home the true horror of neighbour killing neighbour. The exhibition on the Rwandan Genocide is put into an  international perspective with explanations of other genocides which have occurred – including the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide.

Memorial to murdered Belgian Peacekeepers, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

Memorial to murdered Belgian Peacekeepers, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

I aslo visited a former Rwandan military base in Kigali, the site of the murder of ten Belgian UN Peacekeepers. These murders were preplanned by Hutu fanatics and were carried out to force the withdrawal of the 450 Belgian soldiers who were part of the UN force. The soldiers had been sent to protect the Rwandan Prime Minister, a Tutsi, when they were captured by Hutu militias and taken to the military base. Once here four of them were immediately killed, the rest barricaded themselves in a room and fought off their attackers for several hours, before being killed and mutilated.

Memorial to murdered Belgian Peacekeepers, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

Memorial to murdered Belgian Peacekeepers, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

Memorial to murdered Belgian Peacekeepers, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

Memorial to murdered Belgian Peacekeepers, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

Memorial to murdered Belgian Peacekeepers, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

Memorial to murdered Belgian Peacekeepers, Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

The site is now a simple but moving memorial to the soldiers. Ten pillars with notches marking the age of each soldier stand alongside the building where they took refuge. Bullet holes and blast marks from grenades remain as reminders of their terrible fate. Their deaths accelerated the process of international withdrawal from Rwanda, and fatally weakened the UN’s response to the growing catastrophe.

There is a wealth of information available on the genocide, so I haven’t gone into much detail on the background and actuality. For anyone wanting to know more about the origins and execution of the Rwandan Genocide, an excellent resource, which gives a critical voice to survivors, is the website Rwandan Stories.

Rwanda, Land of a Thousand Hills

Perhaps the most bewildering thing about Rwanda, is just how ordinary and normal it feels when you travel around the country. It’s history, and the genocide which was perpetuated on its people, looms large everywhere you go. There are memorials to the dead in almost every village and hamlet in the country: inescapable reminders that, for Rwandans, there was no corner of their country left untouched by the brutality, no community or family that didn’t suffer death and destruction.

Yet, in this most exceptional of places, life continues to be lived in the most seemingly unexceptional way. That says a great deal about the resilience of Rwanda and Rwandans.

Silverback dominant male Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Silverback dominant male Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Rwandans don’t want to forget what happened in those murderous days in 1994, when a deliberate and terrible wave of violence was unleashed across the whole country. They certainly don’t want the international community to forget what happened here. The same international community which stood idly by, passively allowing the genocide to claim the lives of nearly one million people. Men, women and children, old and young, were slaughtered by the military and Hutu militias, many tortured and killed in the most horrific manner imaginable.

Interior of the church at the Ntarama Genocide Memorial site, the clothes are those of people killed in the church, Rwanda, Africa

Interior of the church at the Ntarama Genocide Memorial site, the clothes are those of people killed in the church, Rwanda, Africa

Shoes of the dead inside the church at the Ntarama Genocide Memorial site, Rwanda, Africa

Shoes of the dead inside the church at the Ntarama Genocide Memorial site, Rwanda, Africa

If the genocide defines people’s perceptions of Rwanda, Rwandans also want the world to know that their country is much, much more than just that one catastrophic period in its history. Talking to people as you travel around the country is humbling, and every person I met had a thirst to know where I was from, what my life was like and whether I was enjoying my time in their country. Some people talked openly about the family members and friends they lost in the genocide, but mostly it seemed inappropriate to ask too many questions.

Rwanda landscape, Rwanda, Africa

Rwanda landscape, Rwanda, Africa

View over Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

View over Lake Burera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda, Africa

Women sit by Lake Kivu, Rwanda, Africa

Women sit by Lake Kivu, Rwanda, Africa

There is a wealth of information – news stories, academic research, biographies, histories, documentaries and films – detailing Rwanda’s history and descent into genocide. The film, Hotel Rwanda, is one of the more moving accounts; and the book, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, by General Roméo Dallaire, the UN Commander in Rwanda, is a startlingly human account of someone forced to witness the genocide first-hand without the power to prevent it.

In Rwanda, its impossible to avoid the legacy and memory of the genocide, but this wasn’t the reason I wanted to visit. A friend had returned from Rwanda and her description of the country and its people fascinated me, made me want to understand it better. In the end, it was the opportunity to see one of the most iconic of all creatures on this planet, the Mountain Gorilla, that tipped me over the edge into booking my flights.

Baby Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Baby Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Beach on Lake Kivu, Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

Beach on Lake Kivu, Gisenyi, Rwanda, Africa

A couple of weeks isn’t a lot of time, but Rwanda is a small country with probably the best maintained roads in Africa. Travelling is easy and quick, although if you want to get to some more distant places, hiring a 4×4 is probably the best idea. The thing that struck me most about Rwanda, is just how beautiful and verdant the countryside is. Although it is hard to escape the fact that, in this tiny country with a growing population, almost all the available land is already used for agriculture.

This is important. Land rights were one of the hidden causes of the genocide, and competition for land and water could cause future conflicts. Its also important because some of the last remaining wilderness areas are under serious threat from agriculture. This is putting pressure on the habitats and animals which could be the source of a tourism boom; while the loss of trees for firewood and to clear land for crops, could severely effect the watershed.

View over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

View over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over Lake Kivu, Kibuye, Rwanda, Africa

Rwanda is addressing these, and many other issues, with limited resources, but from my experience it is looking to the future with confidence. Although it’s involvement in the conflict and theft of natural resources in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, casts a long shadow over that future.

Sunset over the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Sunset over the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, Africa

Travelling around the country though, Rwanda struck me a stable, safe and welcoming. It certainly deserves the name the Ministry of Tourism has bestowed upon the country – Land of a Thousands Hills. There are hills everywhere, including the volcanic Virunga mountain range, home to mountain gorillas which roam across the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. It was a journey I’m unlikely to forget any time soon.

Africa revisited, past wanderings through the beautiful continent

Travelling for work and for pleasure, I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to visit several African countries: north, south, east and west. Some of the most extraordinary cultures, peoples, landscapes and animals anywhere on this planet are on the African Continent. Back in London after a year and a quarter in Latin America, and looking over old photos, I thought it would be fun to explore those adventures again in this blog. It is a travel blog, after all.

A young girl laughs, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, Africa

A young girl laughs, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, Africa

Football shirt sellers, Yaounde, Cameroon, Africa

Football shirt sellers, Yaounde, Cameroon, Africa

Africa is not a place for preconceptions. If there is one truism, it is that a visit to any country in Africa will quickly disabuse you of most, if not all, your pre-existing views about the continent. This isn’t the place to go into it, but Western media coverage of Africa has been, and is, often negative, if not downright neo-colonial. While conflicts and dehumanising human rights abuses rage on in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, to name two, its unlikely that the mainstream media is going to improve.

As with everything else in life, there are many other Africa’s which don’t make it onto the news agenda. For a start, the continent is vast, and the nations and peoples who populate them are as diverse as is humanly possible. Undoubtably, African countries face a range of problems – environmental degradation, corruption and a lack of political accountability, poverty, ethnic tensions and rampant inequality amongst others – but it also possesses the resources, intellectual capital and desire to overcome these issues. For the visitor, exploring the countries of Africa is a vast adventure.

A Tuareg sits on his camel at sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

A Tuareg sits on his camel at sunset, Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa

The King in his jungle, mountain gorilla, Rwanda, Africa

The King in his jungle, mountain gorilla, Rwanda, Africa

It is almost impossible to comprehend the scale and artistry of the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in northern Ethiopia, or the devotion of the priests and pilgrims who come here to observe a unique form of Orthodox Christianity. Yet, Lalibela seems a million miles away when you’re clambering up the side of a volcano with a AK-47 wielding park guard, only to push back the foliage to discover a troop of magnificent mountain gorillas, in the Parc National des Volcan in north-western Rwanda. The AK-47 is for the gorillas’ protection, incidentally.

Women fish in the shallows, Pemba, Mozambique, Africa

Women fish in the shallows, Pemba, Mozambique, Africa

Is it time to run yet? A lion approaches in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Is it time to run yet? A lion approaches in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa

Descending from the volcanoes onto the plains of East Africa, Kenya’s Maasai Mara seems to extend forever and is home to some of the most incredible animals and beautiful people anywhere in the world. Off to the west, the truly extraordinary cultures that inhabit Mali – a country currently beset by problems – are worth travelling the globe to encounter. It is almost impossible to put into words, but the experience of waking in the Sahara Desert to the sight of hundreds of brightly turbaned Tuareg, racing past on camels, is simply spectacular.

A fish seller in Kampala's central market, Uganda, Africa

A fish seller in Kampala’s central market, Uganda, Africa

That doesn’t even touch upon the thrill of tracking chimpanzees through the Kibale National Forest in Uganda; or swimming in the aquamarine ocean off the coast of Mozambique; or sharing a beer or seven with a group of Zambian football fans in a bar in upmarket Nairobi; or exploring an old Portuguese slaving fort one morning, and climbing a vertiginous volcano the next, while stranded on the isolated mid-Atlantic islands of Cape Verde. On second thoughts, this could be quite a lot of work…

Fishing boats line the shore in the former Portuguese slave port of Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

Fishing boats line the shore in the former Portuguese slave port of Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

…for the next few weeks I’ll be writing about my African wanderings and sharing some of my favourite photos, interspersed occasionally with more ‘news from nowhere’ here in the UK.