Edward, a man with a face of polished teak and a smile of blinding contrasts, extends his hand to me and with great chivalry guides me over the low stone wall that is the barrier between farm and forest.
The stones are black volcanic lava that have been painstakingly shaped to fit into one another. The volcano no longer sighs, coughs or hiccups but has left a legacy of rich loamy soil. On one side of the wall vast fields are planted with potatoes, beans, tomatoes and coffee, all bursting from the fertile earth. On the other side, Mother Nature has been given her freedom.
It is into this tangle that Edward leads me, gently encouraging me to follow by occasionally turning his head over his shoulder and offering me his shy smile. His machete slashes at stray vines that threaten to trip me or at giant stinging nettles that with even the softest encounter can result in a lingering punishment. The only sounds are those of our passage and a distant whine of cicada beetles.
The heat and humidity surround me like a blanket folded twice, comforting but heavy and I feel perspiration tickling my neck and slipping down my spine. Edward leads me over logs, under fallen trees, around bamboo thickets and through clawing brambles until suddenly, we break out into a clearing. From here on, only thick vines and creepers grow and they cover the ground and bushes like armour.
Edward puts his finger to his lips in a gesture of silence and then points...
Directly in front of us sits a small bundle of course, dark fur. It takes my breath away as the baby gorilla turns and locks his round brown eyes on mine. I am spellbound and feel myself smiling at him, trying to be friendly. The infant is utterly unconcerned and unimpressed with my attempts to humanise our interaction and in one graceful movement, flops onto his back with his arms and legs spread wide. He just lies there, quietly chewing on a piece of root.
More family members appear gradually out of the green shroud and they sit, lie, lean, stroke and preen one another, ignoring me while at the same time including me in their daily business.
I am simultaneously enthralled and enriched and when Edward motions that my hour-long visit is up, I feel a tug of sadness deep inside my body.
I back away from the gorillas, retreating down the jungle path towards the wall and as I follow Edwards lead, I am lost in a reverie that consumes me. With the clarity of an epiphany, I tingle and prickle with a sublime awareness of myself, my mere human-ness and my place in this world.
Under the steaming foliage, I understand the incredibly beautiful and complex simplicity of Nature and today, I feel grateful to be alive.
Rwanda is a fascinating country. A fast growing economy and national pride make it an African Gem. Litter is taboo, plastic is poison, and friendliness compulsory. A visit there will leave you feeling surprised, impressed and in a hurry to return...
Capital city of Kigali
Kigali waterways are unpolluted and roads are well maintained.
Hard hike up Bisoke Volcano