16. NYUNGWE NILE MISSED MONKEYS
Back on the highway after our visit to Murambi we continued in the direction of the town of Cyangugu which is as far west, and almost as far south, as you can go in Rwanda. It's located at the bottom of Lake Kivu across from the Congo city of Bukavu.
But to get to Cyangugu we would be driving through Nyungwe National Park and that was one of the main reasons we were going to Cyangugu. I mistakenly thought Cyangugu was part of Nyungwe Forest (having not brought my map of Rwanda with me and for some frustrating reason there is no road map for Rwanda. I had tried to buy one at the Kigali Library but one doesn't exist. There were maps of Congo, Uganda, Kenya etc, but no Rwanda).
If I had brought my tourist map with me (taken from the coffee table book "Rwanda Nziza" or "Beautiful Rwanda") I'd have seen that the Nyungwe Forest ends before Cyangugu, in which case I'd have realized that the Forest Lodge I was planning to stay in was not in Cyangugu. Or perhaps I could have mentioned to the driver that those were my plans but I hadn't, otherwise he probably would have known that the Lodge is in Nyungwe and NOT Cyangugu.
Is everyone confused yet?
In any event, the reason I wanted to stay in Nyungwe National Park is because it's a kind of primeval forest - one of the rarest on earth - full of exotic animals in a jungle-like density of trees. I'd heard there were walking trails where humans were guaranteed to come in close contact with monkeys, chimpanzees, birds, waterfalls and flowers of every kind.
Another reason I was intriqued about being in Nyungwe Forest is that it had just recently been discovered as the source of the Nile. Click twice on article below to enlarge for reading:
The news broke all over the world - causing some jealousy in other countries claiming the source - when British explorers made the discovery:
Rwanda is the source of the Nile ("This is the most incredible country of all. We'll help put Rwanda on the map"). Telegraph, Apr 1, 2006
Team reaches Nile's true source (many rivers feed Lake Victoria). BBC, Apr 1, 2006
It was with these features in mind that I extolled the Park's virtues as we approached Nyungwe Forest.
We left the terraced hills behind and entered dense forest (although perhaps there were still hills under all the trees). The road winds for dozens and dozens of miles cutting a smooth swathe through the forest. Kevin wondered if dynamite had been needed to blast the road through - and it did seem to be an engineering feat.
I proposed a bet to see who would spot the first monkey (5,000 francs) and then we all spotted one at seemingly the same time and while we were arguing about who had won, the driver saw another and all bets were off. Soon we were seeing monkeys around every curve - in groups and alone. They were colobus monkeys as we could tell by the black and white colour of their coats. We stopped one time to take a photo but they ran off - not fooled by our tiptoeing close, hoping not to be seen.
But I wasn't too worried about getting a highway photo because my plan was to stay the night in the Forest Lodge (which I thought was in Cyangugu) and then walk the trail tomorrow, taking photos of monkeys to my heart's content.
It was late afternoon and soon it would be dark. I wondered how long the drive actually was (figured out later it's about 140km from Gikongoro to Cyangugu and 75km of that is forest). At one point we passed a sign on our right that implied there was a campsite but I didn't connect it with the Lodge (although that was probably where it was).
Then a little further down the road there was a sign saying:
Streams leading west of these hills lead into the River Congo
while those toward the east flow into the River Nile.
--------RIVER NILE RIVER CONGO--------
I excitedly asked the driver to stop so we could take a photo. I wondered if this was actually the spot from where a person would climb down to the very spot where the water gurgles forth that is the source of the longest stream feeding into Lake Victoria (the universally acknowledged source of the Nile). I would actually have liked to have climbed down and investigated but today was not the day for that.
Not long after that we started leaving the boundaries of the Nyungwe National Park and the forest came to an end, changing instead into miles and miles of tea plantations. Long before we reached Cyangugu it turned pitch dark, and I realized we must have passed the Forest Lodge and - it being too far to return - we wouldn't be staying the night there afterall. Our destination for tomorrow was Kibuye which is straight north from Cyangugu, not east back to Nyungwe.
Oh well, c'est la vie. It's just another reason to come back to Rwanda - along with a few others I was accumulating along the way. I sang the chorus of my favourite childhood song, "que sera sera (whatever will be, will be)" which Oliver got a kick out of, not realizing that's what "que sera sera" meant (even though he speaks french and I don't).
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