Thursday, August 15, 2019

Namibia, Rwanda, Qatar June - July 2019

All Pictures are at the bottom of this post!

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Smart Phone Project - As you know, when we travel, we like to give back. Our next project is to deliver smart phones to folks in a developing country. A smart phone can be a life-changing device for these folks. Please look in your draws, if you have a working (or you feel I can get it working) iPhone 5 or above that is sitting around, or the next time you go to upgrade your phone, and they offer you $100.00 for your old phone, think, which would be better $100.00 in your pocket or a smart phone for someone in need. For those in the U.S. if you are on Verizon the phone is already unlocked just turn “find my phone” off and reset the phone. For AT&T and T-mobile users, you need to have your carrier unlock the phone which is easy to do. Non-U.S. folks your phones are normally unlocked. If you have any questions let me know, and I will help. We will deliver the phone to folks that can really use them. As far as android phones, they would be good too, but I would need you to make sure they are unlocked and reset of all data as I do not know the particulars on them. Thanks in advance. Any questions I can be reached at

It has been a few months since our return from Colombia, and it is time to hit the road again. Of course, Margarite will be joining me. I cannot seem to shake her. This is probably, I mean definitely, a good thing. We also have a special guest on this trip, "The Biz" simply known as Biz.

So where are we going? We are heading to Africa. This will be my eighth trip to Africa:
Trip 1 - Uganda
Trip 2 - Egypt, yes part of Egypt is in Africa. Egypt sits on the Africa / Asia border
Trip 3 - South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe
Trip 4 - Senegal, Botswana (Botswana being a repeat, which is rare for me)
Trip 5 - Tanzania, Zanzibar (some people consider Zanzibar part of Tanzania, some people think it stands alone), Ethiopia
Trip 6 - Madagascar
Trip 7 - Morocco

On this trip we will be visiting three countries, bringing my total countries/territories count to 66, only 193 to go. The countries will be Namibia, Rwanda, and Qatar. Qatar is not in Africa. Qatar is located in Asia, but Qatar has a great airline, and we want to see what 115-degree heat feels like.

Why so many trips to Africa? Africa is a large continent with over 54 countries. You can fit, the United States, Spain, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Eastern Europe, India, China, Japan, and the United Kingdom all within Africa.

Click here to see a 45-second video that will help you understand the size of Africa.

Here are pictures for those of you that are geographically challenged to understand exactly where we are traveling. Yes, we spent over 20 hours on airplanes, just to get to Namibia.

A few Thank-Yous are in order.

Chris, Emily, and Mark of Piper & Heath Travel, for all the help with planning this trip and putting up with all my questions. I normally do not do commercials, but this is the third trip to Africa that Piper & Heath helped me plan. If you are traveling to Africa, I highly recommend contacting Piper & Heath.
  • All our running friends who donated over 50 pairs of running shoes. 
  • The Adams Family, for all the shoes they donated. Lot's of shoes, I guess when you have 12 feet you have lots of shoes. 
  • Mrs. Benzio's Goodnoe Elementary School Class, who donated lots of kids running shoes and flip flops.
  •  A Love for Life for the shirts they donated. We will be giving all these shoes and shirts away in Namibia.
Time for a long nap as we travel over 11,000 miles, just under halfway around the world. We are leaving Washington, D.C. at 8:00 PM on Thursday, June 20th and Arriving in Windhoek, Namibia Saturday, June 22nd at 10:48 AM. This includes a ten-hour layover in Doha, Qatar.

Day 1 - Doha and Windhoek

Big news about Biz, but you will have to keep reading to find out what the news is.

Has it been two, three, four, or five days since we left for this adventure? I’m really not sure. Time flies (no pun intended) when you are having fun, or when your body clock is so messed up from two red-eye flights and a ten-hour layover.

The ten-hour layover in Doha was the best part of our travel to get to Windhoek. Our friend Ironman Tom introduced us to his sister and brother-in-law who live in Doha. Gail and Zafir invited us to their home during our layover. We arrived at their home a bit after 5:00 PM. We enjoy Gail and Zafir’s fantastic company and conversation. What a great way to make new friends. After refreshing showers, Zafir prepared a traditional Lebanese dinner. Zafir is originally from Lebanon. What a great meal.

After dinner, we continued the great conversation until just past 11:00 PM when Zafir hired a driver to take us back to the airport for our 2:00 AM departure.

We landed in Windhoek the capital of Namibia just before noon. This was an hour past our planned arrival time. We were greeted by Grace from Wilderness Safaris, the tour company for much of our trip in Namibia. Grace helped us collect our bags (we had three huge duffle bags filled with running shoes and some clothes), get a rental car, buy a SIM card, and take care of our Luci Lights. What are Luci Lights? Stay tuned to find out. To tease you a bit we brought 45 Luci Lights with us to Namibia. Nothing better than landing at a foreign airport exhausted and having a concierge greet you and make sure everything is in order.

We had a two-hour walking tour of Windhoek scheduled for 2:30 PM. The first challenge, getting from the Airport to our apartment in Windhoek. Luckily, there were three of us, my job was to drive, Margarite was in command of navigating, and Biz’s job was to yell, “Stay left! Stay left!” Yes, they drive on the wrong (left) side of the road in Namibia.

We have been in Namibia for two hours, and so far I am very disappointed. The meeting spot for our walking tour was Cramer’s Ice Cream. Of course, I had to have a scoop. Not sure everybody knows this, ice cream was designed to be served in a cone, not a cup, not a bowl, but a cone. At Cramer’s, they have no cones, and the ice cream was just ok. Everything I read before the trip is Cramer's Ice Cream is the best ice cream in Namibia. This might end up being a long few weeks.

The walking tour was very informative. Normally, Chameleon Safaris has this walking tour at 10:00 AM everyday and is free of charge. With us arriving after 10:00 AM I have scheduled a private tour with Chameleon Safaris for 2:30 PM. The tour gave us a good understanding of Namibia’s history. I had not realized that in the past, Namibia was part of South Africa and fell under the rules of apartheid.

This last picture is a monument to memorialize the genocide which took place, I think in 1904. The local tribes were outgunned by the modern military equipped Germans, even though outgunned the indigenous peoples stayed and fought to their death. Thus the saying “Their Blood Waters Our Freedom.”

While Namibia is now an independent country, they are still reliant on South Africa for a lot of their commerce. From Namibians’ perspective, it seems this is less of a choice and more of South Africa keeping some control over Namibia.

The city of Windhoek is still very segregated. Many of the blacks live outside the city in Katutura Township. More on that tomorrow, it has been a long day or should I say a long few days. It is now Saturday evening, and we all just realized the last time we slept in a bed rather than an airplane seat was Wednesday night.

Day 2 - Windhoek

Today we have arranged a bike tour of Katutura Township. Katutura Township was created in 1961 when the black population was forced to move out of the old or main location of Windhoek.

The bike tour was arranged through Katu Tours. Our guide Patience was very knowledgeable. He lived in the Township and described what life was like from his first-hand knowledge.

We passed through Havana, appropriately named since Cuba helped finance the area. All the buildings/homes were made from corrugated metal. Hot as an oven in the summer and cold as a refrigerator in the winter. Not the best living conditions.

Just as I was starting to feel good about Namibia, we were disappointed again. We knew the bike tour passed by an ice cream shop both Biz, and I was looking forward to trying. Guess what it was closed.

We did stop at two different markets and saw how some local foods are prepared. We even got the chance to eat some caterpillars. If you can’t get ice cream why not have worms.

Namibia did have a little redemption. We found fried doughnuts that were a perfect replacement for ice cream even better than the caterpillars.

One highlight of the tour was stopping at a local school, The African Hospitality and Tourism, where they teach local students tourism and hospitality. Eude Heita Kambuta, the executive director gave us a tour and explained how they teach through practical learning. Within the school, there is a restaurant that local residents can eat at. The customers enjoyed meals prepared and served by the students.

Once the tour was over, we headed back to Windhoek and had a great lunch at the Craft Cafe. After lunch, we went back to the apartment for some R&R. After a short rest, we went to the rooftop bar at the hotel next door. We enjoyed drinks and some food while watching the sunset. And if you are still reading, the big news about Biz, she had an affair. The mocktail called "The Affair"

Day 3 - Windhoek

Today is our last day in Windhoek. Our goal for the day is to distribute all the shoes and clothes we brought with us. The owner of the bike tour company (Anna) offered to take us to a non-profit preschool that could benefit from the children’s shoes and clothes.

We visited Boomerang Kindergarten in Katutura Township. The woman who started the pre-school name is Memory Kharuxas. Memory started the school out of her house nine years ago with six children. She planned to help parents who needed to work and had no daycare.

Today Memory has 45 children under her care and found a private school that has donated some space for her to use.

The kids were precious and truly enjoyed the gifts.

For the larger size women’s shoes, Memory was going to see if the moms could use them.

The larger size men’s shoes Anna is going to give them to a group called Men on the Side of the Road. The name describes exactly what the organization does, they help men that live on the side of the road.

Day 4 - Kulala Desert Lodge

Today we depart for safari. We boarded a small Cessna airplane for Kulala Desert Lodge near the iconic Sossusvlei. The flight was 55 minutes in length, there is also a five-hour driving option. We are glad we chose the flight. Kulala Desert Lodge is Southwest of Windhoek.

This area is a desert, in fact, this part of the Safari is not what most people think of when they think of a safari. Yes, we will see birds and animal, but very few both in the types and amounts. The main reason we are visiting this area is to view the unique landscape.

We landed just before lunch and are driven the 20 minutes from the airstrip to the lodge where we enjoy a great lunch and then relax by the pool. Our first activity will be a short Jeep ride through the area followed by a sundowner. A sundowner is where our guide finds a beautiful place to watch the sunset and serves us drinks and snacks.

Our guide Faniel explains some of the unique features of the area specifically the dry river beds and the sand dunes, more on that tomorrow. Faniel stops to show us this huge birds nest. He explains this particular type of bird lives as a family and the birds build the nest together. It was the biggest birds nest I have ever seen.

After the birds' nest, Faniel found a great spot to watch the sunset.

After dinner, we did some stargazing. We are hundreds of kilometers from any civilization, that means no light pollution. The stars were fantastic, the Milky Way was clear as could be, as well as many constellations.

Day 5 - Kulala

Today we headed out to the sand dunes. Our challenge was to hike to the top of Big Daddy one of the tallest sand dunes in this area. Think of an endless stair master. Each step you take your foot slides back half a step. We eventually reach the top!

Coming back down was easy we just stepped off the side of the dune and walk right down each step going several feet at a time.

At the bottom of the dune is a dry lake bed. Growing out of the lake bed where trees all long dead, but they made for a beautiful landscape.

Once back at the lodge we had a great lunch and then went for a fat tire mountain bike ride. Not sure why the climb/hike to the top of Big Daddy was not enough for us, but we wanted to make the most of our time. The mountain bike was tough going through sand and then climbing one of the peaks to get a great view of the desert. The ride back to the lodge was not tough, mostly flat and down hill.

No the day is not done yet. We returned to the lodge at 3:45 PM and were back off on our next adventure at 4:00 PM. We were off to tour Sesreim Canyon, a canyon 30 meters deep about 10 meters wide and 4 kilometers long. Formed out of the sand stone by a local river. Being the winter time and dry season, the river was not running and the canyon was bone dry.

After viewing the canyon from above we headed down into the canyon and saw how the river carved the canyon in the soft rocky sandstone.

After the canyon we had another sundowner before heading back to the lodge for dinner and a good night sleep.

Day 6 - Kulala
Today a hot air balloon ride in the desert. We got picked up at 7:30 AM by Namib Sky Balloon Safaris. It was a 20-minute drive to the balloon launch site. I had only been in a hot air balloon once. In that balloon ride, there was a single basket that about five people could fit. The balloon we were about to board has five compartments. The center compartment was where the captain went. There were four additional compartments one in each corner. Four people were loaded into each compartment for a total of 16 people.

The ride gave us a bird's eye view of the dessert. It was interesting to see the vastness of the sand dunes. We learned they start at the ocean some 90 kilometers away. At the ocean the dunes are white. As the sand blows inland it oxidizes and the iron in the sand turns more of a reddish color. From the balloon, we could see this color changed.

The captain whose family at one time owned much of the land that is now part of the private nature reserve explained how the valley was cut from a glacier during the ice age. The valley that is now a dry river bed.

After drifting with the wind and enjoying the views it was time to land, about an hour after we had departed. The captain along with guidance from the ground crew used the winds to guide us to a very soft landing.

Unexpectedly after the balloon ride, we enjoyed breakfast at the largest outdoor restaurant in the world.

Besides great food we had a family of Oryx visit us, of should I say watch us eat.

We spent the rest of the day enjoying the scenery and pool. Nothing wrong with a little rest and relaxation.

Day 7 - Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp 

Today after breakfast we took a three-hour flight from Kulala Desert Lodge to Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp. The flight was actually two flights. We actually switched planes somewhere in the desert.

The first flight the pilot let Biz co-pilot and she did very well. The highlight was when another plane tried to dive bomb us, but Biz outmaneuvers it.

Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is located Northwest of Kulala Desert Lodge, on the Hoanib River, adjacent to Skeleton Coast National Park. I would guess 50-75 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean and The Skeleton Coast.

Once we got settled in we went for an evening sundowner/game drive. We saw giraffe, ostrich, and elephants. Being a desert the animals' skin/fur is much lighter than what you might find in greener parts of Africa. The lighter skin/fur allows them to blend in with the landscape. The animals are also smaller than their brothers and sister that live in more lush areas of Africa. The reason for the smaller size is there is less food and water in the desert.

As usually in Africa, we enjoyed our cocktails watching a beautiful sunset. Our guide Ben is the best. He seems to know what we need with us asking.

Day 8 - Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp - Mowe Bay

Today we are driving to Mowe Bay along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. We will be tracking the dry Hoanib River to the sand dunes before arriving at the coast.

Along the way, we saw springbok, lots of elephants, a jackal hunting for mice. We tracked a pride of lions for about two hours but never found them. A side note, our guide Ben on his drive back did see the lions.

Before reaching the sand dunes we came upon an area of the dry river bed that was crusted clay. When it rains in the northeast of Namibia, the rainwater eventually reaches this area bringing clay that settles on the river bed. When the dry season comes the clay dries and cracks forming a crust on the river floor.

Once we reached the sand dunes, Ben drives the land cruiser to the top of a large dune. The dune was not quite as large as Big Daddy, but a close second. Once at the top we slid down on our bums, while Ben drove to the bottom to meet us. The sound the friction of the sand makes is hard to describe, almost like a wild animal in distress.


Just before reaching the ocean is a beautiful freshwater oasis much of the wildlife in this area use the oasis for drinking water.

At the coast were hundreds if not thousands of sea lions and boy did they stink. As many sea lions that were on the land there were at least that many in the ocean.

This coastline is known as Skeleton Coast. The reason, the number of ships that have wrecked in this area leaving the crew to die with only their skeletons remaining.

We stop to view a ship, or should I say what was left of the ship that wrecked in the 1970s.

We flew back to camp while Ben drove the jeep back. Once Ben got back he found us and took us back out to find the lions he saw on his drive back, but luck was not on our side and the sun was going down so back to camp we went.

Day 9 - Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

Today we went for an early morning game drive seeing springbok, elephant, zebra (though the lion saw the zebra first), and yes a lion. In the afternoon we saw giraffe, several Oryx with their calves, and more elephants.

The highlight of this section of the trip was Biz crossing three things off her bucket list. Co-piloting a plane, doing a game drive with a guide name Ben, and holding something very special in her hand, giraffe dung.

Day 10, 11, 12 and 13 - Ongava Lodge

This morning we fly to Ongava Lodge. In the Ongava wildlife reserve next to Etosha National Park.

We have spent the last three days at Ongava Lodge, which resides on the Ongava Wildlife Reserve next to Etosha National Park. This area is more of what one might think of when they think Africa Safari. We get up each morning before sunrise and have a nice breakfast and then drive through either the reserve or park from about 7:00 AM to 1:00 PM. During the drive, you observe and learn about the animals, birds, plant life, and sometimes you even see cool insects.

We then return for a great lunch and some relaxation. At 3:30 PM, we have high-tea, which includes awesome sweets. At 4:00 PM, we do our evening game drive/sundowner.

The times will vary by country and time of the year. There might be a nighttime game drive for areas that have lots of nocturnal wildlife.

We finally got to a Zebra before the Lion.

Some of the Rhinos horns are very pointed/sharp. other Rhinos have a flat horn. To protect the Rhinos from poachers, the rangers tranquilize the Rhinos and dull their horns. The reason people poach/kill Rhinos is that in some Asian countries they believe the horn has medicinal use and is even an aphrodisiac. When the rangers dull the horn it makes the Rhino unappealing to the poacher but does not hurt the Rhino.

If you are wondering why the male lions have such a big smile, watch this video. ADULT CONTENT provided by Stacey aka Ellen.

Because of the drought in Namibia, many of the watering holes have dried up. This is bad for animals but good for us. With less watering holes it is easier to see the animals come and go from the remaining holes. There seems to be an order to the madness. First, the Wildebeest show up, then the Oryx, and finally the Zebra. They each wait their turn.

One watering hole had 29 elephants. This is the most elephants I have ever seen at one time, and I have been to Botswana which is known for its elephant population. It was amazing to watch these elephants take turns in the watering hole.

This elephant video was shot by Biz in Hoanib, just ten seconds long but an exciting ten seconds. Turn the sound up.

Tomorrow we are off to Cheetah Conservation Fund.

Day 14 and 15 - Okaukuejo Combined School and Cheetah Conservation Fund

Before heading to the Cheetah Conservation Fund we stopped at the Okaukuejo Combined School. This is a school just inside the gates of Etosha National Park. The school serves grades zero (preschool) through grade nine. They currently serve 387 learners (students) about 48% of the learner's board at the school.

Remember I mentioned two weeks back, we brought Luci Lights with us to Namibia. Now you get to find out what a Luci Light is. A Luci Light is a small solar-powered candle. Many of the children in this area do not have electricity in their homes or the electricity they have is not reliable. For the children to do their homework at night, they use wax candles. The candles have caused fires and in a few cases death. The Luci Light provides the needed light at night without the need for electricity or the use of wax candles.

Piper and Heath along with Wilderness Safaris set up this visit for us to distribute the Luci Lights along with some lead pencils we brought.

As you can see from the video, we were welcomed by the choir before we gave a little class on how to use the lights.

After visiting the school we drove two hours to the Cheetah Conservation Fund. We spent two nights at the Cheetah View Lodge which is on the grounds of the Cheetah Conservation Fund. One hundred percent of the profits from the lodge go to the Conservation Fund. In short, the mission of The Cheetah Conservation Fund is to ensure the survival of the Cheetah.

We participated in three cheetah activities, Feeding of the Cheetahs, Running of the Cheetahs (train the Cheetahs to hunt so they can be released into the wild), Cheetah game drive (view the Cheetahs in the wild)

we also learned how they are training dogs to help farmers protect their livestock without endangering the predators primarily the Cheetahs. Many of the Cheetahs are too old when they arrived at The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) to be released into the wild. There is no way to teach them to hunt (The just can't teach an old cheetah new tricks). These Cheetahs are fed horse and donkey meat with vitamins added for nutrition. Some of the younger Cheetahs depending on the circumstances can be released back into the wild with the proper training. We got to race these Cheetahs. There is a saying, “You do not need to be faster than a Cheetah just be quicker than the people you are with.” Unfortunately for me, both Biz and Margarite are faster than me. Fortunately, the Cheetahs rather eat a Springbok than a DUG.

They are fast. It was tough to get good pictures.

One of the big threats to the Cheetahs and other predators is the farmers. With there being less open area, the Cheetahs tend to look at the livestock at farms as a nice meal. This is an issue for farmers since it affects their livelihood. To protect their livestock, the farmers shoot the Cheetahs.

The folks at CCF working with the Turkish Government have been training a specific bred of dog that will protect the livestock by chasing off the Cheetahs without hurting the Cheetahs. This has been very effective in helping stop the reduction of the Cheetah population. The reason the Turkish Government is involved is their climate is similar to Namibia, and they bred this breed of dog for this purpose in Turkey.

We got to tour the dog area the puppies were very cute. The program has been in place for 25 years now with a 70-100% effective rate.

Tomorrow we have a long day. We leave CCF and head to Kigali, Rwanda for the next stage of our adventure.

Day 16 - Rwanda - (Travel Day)

A big thank you to Dr. Bob and Nurse Trish. Our Stomach issues are almost gone, best travel docs ever.

I am not sure if it was Mark or Chris or both from Piper and Heath, who said to me, “Dug, you know Rwanda is nowhere near Namibia, in fact, I think you found the country that is the furthest from Rwanda and still in Africa.” As usual, they were right.

After four flights and ten hours, we made it to Kigali, Rwanda. Kigali is the capital of Rwanda. Unfortunately, most people know Rwanda for the genocide which occurred in 1994. In just 100 days over one million people were brutally murdered, more on the genocide later in the week.

Over the last 25 years, a lot has changed in Rwanda. Rwanda is now billed as the most progressive country in all of Africa. Though landlocked, Rwanda boasts of an eight percent rate of economic growth. As soon as you leave the airport you quickly notice how clean the streets are. All single-use plastics bags are banned, and on the fourth Saturday of each month, every citizen even the president spends the day cleaning (picking up trash) the country or working on some type of infrastructure to make the country better.

Rwanda is very hilly / mountainous. Here this video shows how they bike up hill.

Day 17 - Sabyinyo Silver Back Lodge

On Monday morning, we were picked up at our hotel, still a little tired from our long day of travel. Saddy our driver/guide for the week, drove us about two hours to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. During our tour, we learned quite a bit about the gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Bicycles are a big form of transportation in Rwanda, not just for people but also transporting products. It is amazing how much a person can put on a single bike. This works fine for going downhill, uphill is a different story. Being a mountainous area there seems to be as much uphill as downhill. We think a wheelbarrow might be better on the uphill, but the bike has positive benefits on the downhill.

Another 40 minutes and we were at our lodge The Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. The Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is situated next to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. The lodge is owned by the community. Over the last ten years, the lodge has returned three and a half-million dollars to the community.

This area is surrounded by volcanoes most are dormant. We are very close to the Ugandan and DRC border, in fact, you can hike to the top of one of the volcanoes and stand in all three countries at once.

In the afternoon, we took a tour of the local village/community.

We learned how they make beehives, grind flour, and make mats. We even got to witness a traditional wedding. Yes, Biz finally tied the not with Sam also known as Patrick. Pops a cow is on the way (the dowry). I highly recommend you watch the video.

Day 18 - The Gorilla Trek

Today is the Gorilla Trek. We love what Rwanda has done to help protect the Gorillas, boost the economy, and get community involvement. The cost of the trek is $1,500.00 per person, and the maximum number of people that are allowed to go each day is 96. You can do the math that is forty to fifty million dollars a year in revenue to the national park.

By having the price so high and limiting the number of people they impact on the Gorillas and the environment is limited while still a positive economic impact. If you think you might want to do a Gorilla Trek in Rwanda do not read the next two sentence. The maximum amount of time you can spend with the Gorillas is one hour. That means you pay $1,500.00 per hour to visit with the Gorillas. That is United States Dollars!

Each trekker is encouraged to hire at least one porter. The cost is ten dollars plus a tip. There are also one or two guides and five trackers per group. The guides and trackers are included in the $1.500.00, but it is recommended you tip them. Our group had six trekkers the three of us plus a group of three from Belgium. The six of us had six porters, five trackers and two guides for a total of 13 porters/trackers/guides. Each day 12 Gorilla families are visited if each group has the same amount of people as we did, that means about 156 people have jobs because of the Gorillas. Many of these folks use to be poachers, with the proper education they realized they could make better money by being porters, trackers, or guides instead of poachers.

The trek was about four hours total with one of the hours being spent with the gorillas. The jungle was very dense. Once we found the gorillas, the trackers and guides cleared a view with their machetes. The gorillas moved around quite a bit sometimes coming very close to us.

The gorillas were simply amazing. They are so human-like, one reminded Biz of her brother Bub.

Day 19 - Visit the local Communities

Many people do the Gorilla Trek for two days. Though once you have seen one gorilla, you have not seen them all. We wanted to explore the surrounding area. The community we are in is known as Kinigi as I may have mentioned before it is very close to the Ugandan and Democratic Republic of Congo border.

Our guide, Aly Saddy thought a great way to start the day was to visit the town market.

Before heading to  the market we went for a ten-kilometer run joined by a few hotel staff and many of the local kids. It was not pretty after not running for over three weeks, but we all survived. 

Aly Saddy was correct. The market was bustling with activity. Not only did we get to see all the different items for sale, fruits, vegetables, chickens, meats, etc. We also got to see the clothing people wore and the culture of the morning ritual of visiting the market to get the food you will need for the day. Almost everything comes from within a few miles of the market. A few things are imported such as apples and oranges.

After the market, we headed to the twin lakes passing through the larger town of Ruhengeri. The twin lakes are two lakes formed by the volcanoes. The upper lake, Lake Ruhondo is about one thousand feet higher in elevation than the lower lake Lake Burera. Upon arriving at Lake Ruhondo, we saw people loading fresh-cut wood onto a truck. The locals had just brought the wood, across the lake from one of the islands.

It was now time for our boat cruise on Lake Burera. We drove down to Lake Burera and parked by the power plant. The waterfall from Lake Ruhondo to Lake Burera has been diverted to a large pipe, and the water is used to generate electricity for the surrounding area.

Our captain arrived as we did. He took us for a ride across the lake to a small peninsula that had a lodge where we had an awesome fish lunch. Nothing like eating fish that a short time before was swimming in the Lake you just crossed. After lunch, the captain took us on an hour cruise around the lake before returning us to the shore. We got to see what life was like in this area, everybody using canoes as a way of life.

There were no other tourists, just us and the locals. After visiting the lakes, we went to a fabric market where Margarite bought some beautiful fabrics. I cannot wait to see what she makes me.

When we arrived back at the lodge, the staff had a surprise for us. They had set dinner up outside looking over the beautiful grounds. They even made Biz an early birthday cake.

Day 20 - Back to Kigali

Today we head back to Kigali.

Upon our arrival in Kigali, we found an awesome local cafe called Africa Bite after lunch we made a quick stop at the hotel that was featured in the movie Hotel Rwanda. Tomorrow we will visit the Genocide Museum.

After the quick stop at the hotel (from Hotel Rwanda), we visited the old section of Rwanda where the Arabs settled around 1905 when they started trading with the Rwandan people. This is the same area where the Nyamirambo Women's Centre is located. The Nyamirambo Women’s Center (NWC), a Rwandan NGO, was launched at the end of 2007 by 18 Rwandese women living in Nyamirambo, Kigali. Together they created a project which aimed to address gender-based violence, gender inequality, and discrimination. Today, NWC’s mission is to provide education and vocational training to women who do not have the means to pay for such training on their own. This gives them better opportunities for employment. The store at the center had beautiful items made from local fabrics. Margarite bought a very cool apron.

Some advice, if someone suggests you try the local Rwandan Banana Wine, take a pass! Especially if it comes from your guide who does not drink alcohol.

Day 21 - Kigali - Genocide Museum

This morning our guide took Biz and me to the Kigali Genocide Museum. What an atrocity of mankind. Over one million murders took place in 100 days, neighbors killing neighbors, friends killing friends and even family members killing other family members. I had read about the Rwanda Genocide, but I never knew about the Catholic Church being the catalyst. One might even surmise if the Catholic Church did not exist over one million murders would have been prevented.

“In the colonial era, under German and then Belgian rule, Roman Catholic missionaries, inspired by the overtly racist theories of 19th century Europe, concocted a destructive ideology of ethnic cleavage and racial ranking that attributed superior qualities to the country's Tutsi minority, since the missionaries ran the colonial-era schools, these pernicious values were systematically transmitted to several generations of Rwandans…”

“When the Roman Catholic missionaries came to Rwanda in the late 1880s, they contributed to the "Hamitic" theory of race origins, which taught that the Tutsi were a superior race. The Church has been considered to have played a significant role in fomenting racial divisions between Hutu and Tutsi, in part because they found more willing converts among the majority Hutu.”

Our guide was six years of age in 1994. He gave us a first-hand account of the Genocide. His father was at work and never returned. The family never recovered his remains and never had a proper burial. His mother died a few years later. Our guide did not go into the details of his mother’s death. Each evening during the genocide, his grandmother would take him and his two siblings into the jungle to hide. They would tell no one where they went at night as they had no idea who they could trust. Our guide and his siblings were raised by their paternal grandmother. It is amazing how our guide seems to hold no ill-will, he attributes this to the healing process implemented by the new government.

I have been to many Holocaust Museums, the Hiroshima Memorial, the War Museum in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Apartheid Museum in South Africa. In my opinion, the Rwanda Genocide showed the worst display of human behavior. While all the above involved many deaths, with the Rwanda Genocide, the murders were brutal, usually carried out with a machete and done in a way to inflict the most pain and suffering. Men, women, and children were murdered in this fashion. For the Tutsi women who were not murdered, many were brutally raped, often by men infected with HIV to cause long-term pain and agony. All because of the beliefs of the Catholic Church, but all is good since the current Pope 23 years after the genocide made a public apology.

Enough of the sad stuff, after the Genocide Museum, we picked up Margarite and visited the local fabric market, like the other day when we visited the market except much larger and more crowded. Throughout the market, women were hard at work sewing products some to sell in their shops and some being made to order. Aly Saddy bought me a very cool pair of shorts.

After the market, Aly Saddy dropped us at the airport for our seven-hour flight to Doha where we will be enjoying 115 F or 46 C temperatures for the next two days.

Day 22 - Doha

We arrived in Doha at 1:00 AM 95 F degree temperatures very doable. We are staying at the Al Najada Doha Hotel Apartments which is a brand-new hotel in the older section of Doha. This where most of the sites we want to visit reside.

Most people visiting Qatar stay in the Pearl section in Doha, Qatar. Pearl is an artificial island spanning nearly four-square kilometers. We like walking when we visit a city, and if we stayed in Pearl, we would have to get in a cab every time we wanted to go somewhere.

Our first stop of the day was the Museum of Islamic Art. This museum was designed by the late Architect, I. M. Pei. The problem going to an I. M. Pei designed museum, you spend more time admiring the building than the art within the building.

Both the building and art were worth the visit. The walk from the hotel to the Museum about a mile was tolerable. Doha was having a cold spell with temperatures only hitting 110 F with a heat index of 126 F.

Our next museum to visit was the National Museum of Qatar. The walk to the National Museum of Qatar from the Museum of Islamic Art was a mile Biz, and Margarite were starting to complain about the weather. They were not complaining it was too cold.

We stopped at a great place for lunch at the Oriental Pearl Restaurant. I highly recommend it if you are looking for fantastic middle eastern food.

The architecture of the National Museum of Qatar put the design of the Museum of Islamic Art to shame. I do not think there was a 90-degree angle in the place. One of the best exhibits was Qatar 1950 - 2030. The exhibit showed the history of Qatar. I did not realize before oil was discovered in Qatar, Qatar had a larger pearl industry.

The big incoming event for Qatar is hosting the soccer World Cup in 2022. They are almost complete in building several new soccer stadiums. It was hard to tell from the models if they have retractable roofs that can close. If not, it will be fun for the players, playing in the heat.

The ladies had a mutiny, and we took a cab back to the hotel rather than enjoy a walk in this heat.

Once the sun went down it cooled to a very bearable temperature of 95 F. We walked across the street to the Souq Waqif an ancient outdoor market with a labyrinth of alleys featuring souvenirs, fabric, spices, cafes and anything you can imagine.

Our first stop was the Souq Bird, yes any kind of bird you could imagine was for sale. Our assumption was these birds were being purchased for pets, but who knows for sure. Our next stop was the Souq Falcon. Yes, a Falcon is a bird but they have their own section in the Souq. The Falcon season is the month of October when people come from all over the world to compete in Falconry. Being July many of the Falcon shops were closed. We did find one and got to try our Falconry skills.

One huge plus for the Souq was ice cream. It had been what seemed liked months since I had good ice cream.

After walking around the Souq we took a walk down to the waterfront to check out the modern building across the water in the Pearl section of Doha.

Of course, I had to tour Doha in the shorts Aly Saddy gave me as a gift.

Day 23 - Doha

This morning the heat is just as it has been. Here is Biz’s description,

“You know what the hot air feels like when you open up a hot oven, that is what Doha feels like except you cannot close the oven.”

We visited two museums today. The first, MATHAF: Arab Museum of Modern Art. I have concluded that being an artist of modern art must be difficult. Artists have been making art for thousands of years. If you are a modern artist, not only do you need to be artistic you need to make sure someone a thousand years ago did not already create what you are creating, just my two cents.

After the MATHAF, we visited the Fire Station Artist in Residence - the Fire Station Artist Residence offers scholarships to 20 artists a year out of 300 applicants. The 20 artists then spend nine months creating art.

When we arrived, we found the exhibition closed or should I say still being put together. The opening is tomorrow. Biz gave the curator some sad eyes, and quickly he offered a private tour. We did have to promise to stay out of the work crew’s way. This is the way to tour an art museum, with someone who can explain what was going through the artist mind when they created their masterpieces.

After the museums, it was lunch at Assaha Restaurant. I would pick the Oriental Pearl over Assaha Restaurant but still an excellent choice.

I do want to mention I learned that both Biz and Margarite are candy you know what’s when it comes to heat. All these museums are within walking distance but what I heard is, “It’s too hot we want to take a cab!!” Wimps!

Being our last day we plan to spend the afternoon enjoying the heat by the pool before heading to the Souq for some dinner.


All Pictures


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