Ingagi Park View Lodge
At the time of our stay, the first week of Sept 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic, we were the only guests at the Ingagi Park View Lodge. The staff were very friendly and made a great effort to make our stay as comfortable as possible. They do an excellent job of cleaning your boots after the muddy treks to see the golden monkeys or gorillas. More impressive, they hunted us down after our departure, taking a taxi to the next town to return a watch and important papers we had left in the room.
The main lodge has several large, comfortable rooms for hanging out as well as a bar area with views of the mountains. The rooms, individual cabins, are tucked in the greenery along a winding path through the compound. There is also an open garden area with a couple of bench swings.
The spacious high-ceilinged rooms are comfortable and decorated in a tasteful African motif. Beds are firm and a hot water bottle is waiting for you when you climb into bed on chilly evenings. They also build a wood fire for you, but this did not turn out well as the fire was not built far enough into the fireplace resulting in the room being filled with smoke when we returned from dinner. They fixed the problem immediately but the room remained somewhat smoky.
The bathroom is also sizable and adequately equipped with shampoo, soap and a hair dryer. The shower has good water pressure and plenty of hot water.
There is no Wifi in the rooms and power is intermittent, going on and off at odd hours.
The food is not great. They make a big effort to please but meats and vegetables are generally overcooked by American standards and the quality of the meat is poor and often gristly. The quality of the fruits and vegetables, however, is good.
Dinner is ordered in advance and served individually at the table. We had a choice of salad or soup. The creamed vegetable soup had good flavor with a hint of heat. The salad was a tasty combination of sweet onion and tomatoes.
For the main we tried the lamb stew with vegetables. The lamb was disappointing as it was not a good cut of meat and was overcooked. The grilled banana was served whole and was bland in flavor, something like a potato. For desert the chocolate cake was a not very chocolatey crepe served with local honey.
For our second dinner we tried the pork chops. Small and gristly they were overcooked as were the accompanying vegetables. The starter tomato and sweet onion salad was quite good as was the cream of vegetable soup. For dessert a sweet cake, ok but nothing special.
Breakfast was also ordered the night before and individually served, starting with a choice of juice and cut fruit. Mains included various egg options and sides of beans, potatoes and bread options. Food quality was good but not excellent.
For lunch I had the vegetable soup and a bean and yam stew. The yams were really more like taro root and not sweet at all. An OK and filling dish but not flavorful.
Red Rocks Cultural Center
The center promotes the employment of women and for that I would support them with a visit. On the negative side, during the Covid-19 pandemic there was way too much close contact. Although the activities are outdoors there was much singing, shouting, poor mask usage and people too close together.
The first activity was banana beer making for which they dress you in a local skirt and tunic. They then take you to a place where you help peel the bananas and put them in a trough where two local women mash them with some dried grass which produces banana juice. This hard work is done to an “encouraging”’ serenade of drums and singing. Near the end of the process they encourage one of the guests to participate in the process. The resulting juice, a clear liquid, is poured out for the guests to taste.
We are then shown the fermentation process to make hard banana beer. They grind sorghum to use as the fermenting agent and then let it sit 2 days to a week in clay jugs. Again they let us participate in the grinding and give us a taste of the fermented product.
After beer making is dancing to more drums and singing.
We were short on time so they hurried us off to basket weaving. Again they have the visitors participate. On the way out they take you to the shop where you can buy a souvenir basket to help support their efforts.
All and all this would be an amusing activity in normal circumstances but with the current Covid-19 situation I wish I hadn’t done it. Just too many people too close together who weren’t properly wearing masks and who were probably not vaccinated. Edmond, our guide, did tell me that they are tested every other week.
We had to get our departure Covid-19 test which also worked for the test needed for entry into Tanzania at the local hospital, a relatively easy affair with a stop at the bank to pay for the test then a stop at the hospital where the sample was taken. There was no one else waiting to take the test when we arrived and we went through the process fairly quickly. The results were supposed to be available in about 24 hours. We received the results about 26 hours after taking the sample.
Drive to Volcanoes National Park
The 2-hour drive from Kigali to Volcanoes National Park in the northwest corner of the country is a picturesque introduction to Rwandan agricultural life. The drive winds through the hills and towns passing numerous crop fields. The road was busy with children heading to school, local coming from a biweekly market and others gathering twigs and dried branches to burn. Bicycles were loaded with whatever needed to be transported – milk, water, large bags of potatoes. Hills are steep so the bikes, that generally only have one gear, are pushed up hill.
September 2-4, 2021
For links to all the posts in this series see the East Africa Safari page.
For a review of the tour company we used see Review of Amahoro Tours.