The last bit of the trip was a little bit of a special surprise. Though Akagera was beautiful, the hotel we were staying in was run down. After our early morning game drive, William asked “would you like to go somewhere to relax?” I didn’t know what he was talking about so I just kept looking out the window and let my dad make the executive decision. We were essentially in the middle of nowhere, my assumption was “relax” meant “get out of the car and sit on the side of road.”
He took us to Ruzizi Tented Camp, which is brand spanking new, and had just opened in October. It is honest to God tents, though they are on cement platforms and have real bathrooms with plumbing and also have real beds. Anyway, it only took about 5 minutes of looking around for my mom to be all “we have to stay here tonight.” So, that worked out. We were also the only people staying there so it was basically like we owned the place. We had lunch and then drinks and dinner on the huge wooden deck overlooking Lake Ihema and generally enjoyed the Swiss Family Robinsonness. At one point in the afternoon a huge floating island of papyrus came and blocked the inlet that Ruzizi is located on. My mom hadn’t noticed its sudden appearance and thought I was losing my mind when I pointed it out to her. We also had a rainbow make an appearance. I haven’t seen a rainbow in years!
The next day we dropped my mom off at the hospital where she was doing her first site visit. From there, my dad and I, with William, drove to Nyungwe, which is the southwestern part of Rwanda. On the way we passed by a camp for DR Congo refugees. It looked huge when we passed it, but a few minutes later we looked back to see the camp spanning an entire hillside. It blew my mind.
During my trip I alternated between feeling like an awful, spoiled American, and a spoiled American supporting Rwandan tourism. Living in New York has maybe desensitized me to chronic materialism but the divide between the average Rwandan and me was so great that I couldn’t help but feel like a privileged asshole most of the time I was there.
Naturally, the next thing I am going to tell you after talking about being a spoiled American brat is that the last lodge we stayed at is believed to be the very best hotel in Rwanda. Nyungwe Forest Lodge overlooks tea fields and the cruciferous looking forests (where the monkeys hide, actually). It’s a beautiful spot.