Dora Bitsi

Dora Bitsi

Sep 13 2014

The Northwest of Rwanda: The Virunga Mountains Area and Red Rocks Backpackers

Having already the best impressions from its capital we departed for the Northwest of Rwanda and the district of Musanze.

Musanze is the point of call for a lot of tourists that come to the area to see the famous Mountain Gorillas. Not very far from the city centre is the entrance to the Parc National des Volcans.

This was our closest encounter with the gorillas
With the pointy Virunga mountains (meaning Volcano in Kiniyarwanda language) as a background to a dense rainforest, we recognize the setting of the film Gorillas in the mist. This park is actually the home of at least half of the 380 mountain gorilla population that are resident in the Virunga mountains, which are shared also between Congo and Uganda.
Unfortunately, the cost to visit the gorillas ($750 for the permit!!!) did not allow us to see them from close, and even if we had the funds, we are not so sure that we would spend so much money for our own pleasure while with this money you can make hundreds of children happy.

Our reason for visiting the area though was to stay in Red Rocks Rwanda. This is a campsite and guesthouse founded by locals with the aim of spreading all aspects of Rwandese culture and supporting the local community.

The place is a very nice open green space and has several interesting activities. There is the arts corner, the restaurant, a huge garden, and even the bar at the other side of the campsite ready to host endless parties. We were lucky to monopolize the attention of one of its owners, Harriet, who made us feel like home.

Harriet with local women

During the 4 days we spent there we had nice food and walks in the surrounding rural area! The pictures were amazing as we walked through flooded hills surrounded with volcanic rocks made from the lava.

Full of Volcanic rocks and daisies!

 Locals were working hard. Women were digging with the babies on their back and men were fishing. Everybody was finding it strange to see the muzungus (white people) in their area but still waiving politely and the kids posing for a picture full of curiosity as always!

In Red Rocks, one can experience to learn how to weave the Agaseke Baskets which have been the traditional baskets in Rwanda for ages and are also a symbol for unity after the genocide. The Agaseke is a tightly woven papyrus basket made by women and originally has only two colours — white and black.

The Agaseke Basket

The baskets are symbolic gifts in Rwandan marriages. For many years, a bride’s family would present Agaseke baskets to the groom as a symbol of virginity of her daughter giving herself to her husband for the first time.

The groom’s family would also present the bride with an Agaseke basket to symbolize that she would now keep her husband’s family’s secrets. The basket would be kept in her room.

The baskets are also used to store grains and fruits, and as decorative pieces for the home.

Other types of baskets made out of grass!
A local drink that Rwandans enjoy a lot is Banana beer. Banana beer is made from ripe (but not over-ripe) East African Highland bananas. Through a complicated procedure and a fermentation of 48 hours (the more days the strongest the beer!) beer is ready for consumption!

This is where they mash the bananas.
Traditional way of drinking the beer 
The locals drink it from a clay pot and high straws. We also had the chance to watch the procedure and make our own, while in Red Rocks. As for the taste? We liked it a lot!

Elpis on the job!
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2 Responses

  1. jack james says:

    I am also a tourist and never get a chance to visit this lovely place but after reading your interesting experience now I decide to go there after completing the west coast tours to enjoy the natural beauty. I must take some traditional baskets of Rwanda. Now I can’t wait for that moment when I will be there to see the natural sights and the mountain Gorillas.

  2. Thanks Jack James for your comment! You should go it is indeed worth it!

Let us know what you think!