12 Hours in Central Africa

If ever there were an essay best expressed by pictures alone, this would be it. I arrived in Kigali after the 28-hour trip at nearly two in the morning and my wife greeted me with a surprise: an overnight stay and daylong trip through Akagera. The park is nestled between Uganda and Tanzania in eastern Rwanda, about 3 hours from Kigali. We were the only guests in the lodge and the only people in the park. Literally! Here is what went down.

 Sunrise over Lake Ihema.

Sunrise over Lake Ihema.

 Our guide Yasin keeps unwanted company from joining us for our journey.

Our guide Yasin keeps unwanted company from joining us for our journey.

 All eyes on us as we depart!

All eyes on us as we depart!

While I have been to Africa several times, I have never been on a "safari." I always felt the word implied glorified tourist site. I also had some vague notion that you drive around in traffic with dozens of foreigners (like myself!) in jeeps, hoping to see a lion. I stand corrected. On all counts. 

Never thought of myself as a birder. A boat ride on Lake Ihema changed that!

 We love Godfrey, our Park guide.

We love Godfrey, our Park guide.

The park is about 50 miles long and 20 miles wide, so about 1,000 square miles. Rwanda is known as 'The Land of a Thousand Hills.' The single track roads are rutted clay, broken rock or shifting sand. In other words, precisely what the Land Rover was invented for. Ours broke down midway through the afternoon.

Haven't seen another vehicle in 4 hours. Hmmm, wonder if these guys can help?

 My extraordinary wife, as usual, is completely nonplussed.

My extraordinary wife, as usual, is completely nonplussed.

 And all Yasin and Godfey had to do was rebuild the gas pump, siphon fuel out of the auxiliary tank and into the spare tire cover, and fill 'er up. We were on our way again!

And all Yasin and Godfey had to do was rebuild the gas pump, siphon fuel out of the auxiliary tank and into the spare tire cover, and fill 'er up. We were on our way again!

I'm writing this at midnight on the eve of our departure from Africa. The photos were all taken with a $99 single lens point-and-shoot. We didn't see another soul all day except for the guys with the guns and the only glitch in the program was when our Land Rover broke down again (!!) on the ride home. The road was pitch black and within minutes a car pulled up. Yasin told us it was his colleague and loaded our bags in for the final 50 kilometers. Moments from home we asked our new ride if Yasin had given him our address. The driver replied, "Who's' Yasin?"