into the mist
No sooner did D return from Thailand than we were off on another adventure. Spending a week alone with Munchkin, S found herself looking at travel options around Rwanda and found a last minute deal at Virunga Lodge near Volcanoes National Park.
Even at resident rates, Virunga is a bit outside our price range, its proximity to the endangered mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National Park driving the price sky-high. Set atop a steep hill with bird’s-eye views of two lakes, it is stunningly beautiful too. Some of our friends have made the two-hour drive from Kigali just to have lunch at Virunga and enjoy the scenery before returning to the capital at nightfall. At half price, this deal was simply too good to pass up.
We took advantage of the Embassy’s early dismissal on Friday, picked up Munchkin from school, and headed north, arriving at the lodge a bit before 5pm – just in time to catch the golden hour of light from the setting sun, do a little bit of birding, and enjoy the lake views before sunset.
We have gone gorilla trekking before, but Volcanoes National Park is also home to golden monkeys – another endangered primate that only lives in the highland forests of Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo. The only issue with seeing them is that one has to be over 12 years of age to go primate trekking, which meant we could not bring Munchkin along.
It took some convincing, but ultimately S came around to D’s suggestion of taking turns. So Saturday, S left the lodge at dawn to go see the monkeys while D spent the morning chasing after Munchkin, doing puzzles and reading books with him, and trying to coax him into wandering around the woods a bit. On Sunday, we switched, and D raced to the national park and back, returning in time for lunch. Munchkin slept most of the drive back to Kigali and we arrived home well before nightfall.
D got a little bit of birding in too. There were dozens of different birds flitting around the lodge itself, including the gorgeous scarlet-chested, double-collared, and bronze sunbirds. We had seen all of them before, but D also spotted a handful of new birds too.
Despite S’s avowal that she saw no birds at all on her hike into the forest, D brought his telephoto lens along and was not disappointed. He hiked a bit ahead of the rest of his trekking group and spotted about half a dozen different birds he had never seen before, including – notably – the gorgeous regal sunbird and the white-starred robin.
We feared the trip might feel a bit rushed since we did not have a long weekend at our disposal, but with only a 2-2.5 hour drive separating Virunga and Kigali, it proved eminently manageable – which in turn begs the question: why do we wait for holiday weekends to go somewhere when we can do quite a bit of exploring over a regular weekend as well?