Although Kigali is built on hills, the complete envelopment by the landscape doesn’t occur until emerging from the city limits. Winding up and around a continuous sea of terraced green hills, one finally gets a view of Rwanda that expands upon the immaculately clean and seemingly perfect capital. In my experience, long drives through Rwanda tend to be silent, allowing each of our senses full potential to spot glimpses of magic in the beautiful rhythm of rural Rwandan life. Baby goats line the roads, often guarded by a young boy nearby. Men work together to push bicycles carrying massive bundles of goods on their way to and from the markets. Women deftly navigate the paths with large, seemingly off centered, baskets on their heads with such ease that the baskets appear to be mere extensions of themselves. Sweet sounds of Rwandan music fill the air as you drive by with the windows down, letting the crisp country air rush across your face.

After spending our first few days in Kigali, we were headed southwest to Nyungwe Forest National Park, which we quickly learned is the one completely distinct area from the rest of Rwanda. In a country where every inch of land has a purpose, the entirely protected and untouched rainforest of Nyungwe is a rarity. At altitudes ranging from 5600-9700 feet, Nyungwe is a beautiful rainforest and home to one of the largest population of endemic species on the continent, features that attract tourists from across the globe.

We were disappointed that the Gisakura Guest House was full during our visit, but we tried to make up for our lack of lodging by spending every meal there. Gisakura is a wonderful guest house with a cozy communal eating area where guests can meet their fellow counterparts. Its homey feel attracts the most fascinating and friendly visitors, in our experience, often leading to stories shared over cups of tea. We will definitely be staying there when we return!

Stay tuned for the next two posts about our hikes and visit to the tea plantation in Nyungwe!