RECORD TRAVEL

SALLY McLEAN From for­est canopy walks to treks to see mighty moun­tain go­ril­las, re­mark­able Rwanda turns out to be the Land of a Thou­sands Thrills

Daily Record - - NEWS -

How Rwanda has emerged from the dark­ness of geno­cide to be­come a vi­brant, colour­ful na­tion which shouldn’t be missed

BY KARIN WRIGHT SUS­PENDED 200ft above the for­est floor in Rwanda, I felt on top of the world.

The tow­er­ing trees and dense jun­gle of the Nyungwe For­est Na­tional Park stretched out be­low as I swayed on the walk­way, at eye level with mon­keys and birds.

While the Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park in the north-west of this African coun­try is home to mighty moun­tain go­ril­las, there are chimps, colobus and rare golden mon­keys vy­ing for at­ten­tion in Nyungwe to the south.

Nick­named the Land of a Thou­sand Hills, Rwanda is tiny, but it crams a lot in.

The start of the canopy for­est walk is 125 miles from the cap­i­tal Ki­gali but, thanks to all those hills and con­tin­u­ing road up­grades, it takes four hours to get there.

With 80 miles of trails across its 386 square miles, it’s easy to spend a few days here, ex­plor­ing the ver­dant val­leys and steep moun­tain­sides.

We were fer­ried here in the com­fort of Toy­ota Land Cruis­ers, and there’s never a dull mo­ment as you pass through farms, colour­ful vil­lages, by vast lakes and pris­tine forests.

On the side of the road is an end­less pro­ces­sion of peo­ple walk­ing to and from mar­kets, bal­anc­ing pro­duce piled high on their heads.

Kids are in charge of flocks of goats and sheep, or tend to the prized fam­ily cow, shout­ing “mzungu!” (a friendly term for a for­eigner) with a wave and a smile as you pass.

Ev­ery­where I go, I am in awe of the peo­ple of this coun­try.

In 1994, a mil­lion Rwan­dans were slaugh­tered in one of the worst geno­cides the world has seen. But, in a re­mark­able tri­umph of the hu­man spirit, the peo­ple have re­built their na­tion.

No­body refers to them­selves as Tutsi or Hutu – they are sim­ply Rwan­dan. As my new friend Jul­lesse told me over a Mutzig lager at the Co­cobean club in Ki­gali: “We learned the hard way that unity is our only op­tion.”

A visit to the Ki­gali Geno­cide Memo­rial is a har­row­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, but it’s an es­sen­tial part of un­der­stand­ing what makes this coun­try tick.

More than 250,000 peo­ple are buried in mass graves here, and the chil­dren’s memo­rial is par­tic­u­larly dis­turb­ing. But this is no voyeuris­tic “dark tourism” site – the fo­cus here is on “ed­u­ca­tion and peace-build­ing”.

You will leave hor­ri­fied at what hu­mans are ca­pa­ble of do­ing to each other, but the at­ti­tude of the lovely Rwan­dan peo­ple you will meet on your trav­els around this won­der­ful coun­try will re­store your faith in hu­man­ity.

Ki­gali it­self is a rev­e­la­tion – I have never seen a cleaner city.

Wi-fi is avail­able ev­ery­where, for­eign aid and in­vest­ment is pour­ing in and big ho­tel chains are pop­ping up.

But de­spite the flash new

LUSH LAND­SCAPE Nyungwe For­est Na­tional Park, which of­fers a canopy walk

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