Robert Schrader in Rwanda

30 Pictures That Will Make You Want to Visit Rwanda

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I hope I’m making the right decision, I thought as I hovered my finger over the “Send” button. As soon as I tapped the screen, my credit card information would be transmitted to United Airlines, the change to my itinerary finalized: I would be coming home from Rwanda early, by nearly a week.

And why on Earth might I want to do a thing like that?

 
 
 

It wasn’t because Rwanda initially disappointed me, although it very much did. With the exception of the Genocide Memorial, which was expectedly devastating, Rwanda’s capital Kigali felt hollow, even soulless. Although I spent my first two days there feeling profoundly underwhelmed – and in total denial of it – I ultimately used my dissatisfaction as motivation to begin exploring the trees, terraced farms and tea plantations that carpet the country’s iconic hills.

 

My first stop was the northern region of Musanze, which sits in the shadows of the volcanoes that separate Rwanda from Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I felt at ease the moment I set my bag down at Red Rocks, a guest house just outside Musanze town, not only because of the incredible scenery around me – think Jurassic Park without the dinosaurs – but because of the incredible hospitality that welcomed me.

And the incredible sense of belonging: An operation focused on sustainable, community-based tourism, Red Rocks gave me the opportunity to interact with local people, from basket-weaving artisans, to smiling sugar cane sellers, to corn huskers, to fishermen, to students, to geriatric chain smokers, to villagers drunk on home-brewed banana beer.

 
 
 

I grew so enamored with Rwanda’s northern province, in fact, that I literally tore up my planned itinerary.

Of course, my adoration of Musanze and its people wasn’t the only reason I veered off course. For one, Rwanda is an extremely expensive country – I’m talking $300-400 per day, and that’s staying in modest hotels, driving your own car (public buses don’t travel to or through most national parks) and eating simply. Rwanda’s tourism department had kindly waived my national park fees (which would’ve added at least a couple grand to the cost of my trip), but even still, I would’ve spent no less than $3,000 over the course of two weeks.

And the problem with that was not so much the dollar amount – to be frank, I’ve had a killer year financially – or any belief on my part that it wouldn’t have been worth it, but knowing that almost none of the money I spent would ever reach the average Rwandan.

 
 
 
 

To say nothing of myself. During my first two days up north, which I used primarily to interact with the mountain gorillas and golden monkeys of Volcanoes National Park, my only interactions with local people were waves and smiles through the cloudy window of the Land Cruiser I was being carted around in – I felt like the fucking Queen of England, or Belgium as it were. I knew that if I continued on as planned, I would be able to claim only that I had seen Rwanda, not that I had gotten to know the country.

It seemed obvious, then, that I should spend the rest of my trip in Musanze. I’ve explored the world enough times to know when I’ve struck gold, and I knew pretty immediately that nowhere else I visited in Rwanda would be able to so deeply touch my mind, heart and soul than Red Rocks.

 

But there were a couple problems with this idea, at least within the existing duration of my trip. Having gotten “stuck” a few times before, I knew I would eventually wear out my welcome with Harriet, Red Rocks’ gracious owner, even if I never ran out of locals to amuse with my pasty complexion and amateur attempt at speaking Kinyarwanda.

 
 

Likewise, I became enamored with a sweet local artist – he reciprocated – and I feared that if I gave our romance more than a few days to develop, it would stop me in my tracks. I don’t want to stop in my tracks right now, though, so as you have probably already guessed, I did indeed leave Rwanda early.

 
 

But I did not leave Rwanda empty – and that, I have decided as I’ve made peace with my difficult decision to depart nearly a week ahead of schedule, was the lesson I was meant to learn from this mysterious kingdom of a thousand hills.

 

The number of days, hours and seconds I spent in Rwanda was irrelevant, because I was so fully present in all of them. I didn’t attempt to characterize my unexpected romance, even if I did postpone it temporarily. I just felt it, and felt it fully, all the way up to the goodbye at the airport.

But then, I didn’t say goodbye – to him, or to Rwanda – when I left: I said murakoze cyane – “thank you very much.”

 

Read More About East Africa

About The Author

is the author of 758 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!

 

informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!

 
 
 

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Marta Kulesza December 8, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Very inspiring. I loved the photo essay and the text that goes with it. The country looks very green and rural. I would love to meet the gorillas in the wild. Did you feel safe during your trip?

Robert Schrader December 9, 2014 at 7:23 am

I felt totally safe! Rwanda is one of the safest countries in Africa.

Rebekah Voss December 9, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Super Inspiring stuff, Robert! The pictures are amazing. Looks like a trip of a lifetime!

Robert Schrader December 10, 2014 at 7:38 am

It was absolutely incredible indeed!

Dan Vineberg December 12, 2014 at 5:02 am

Just wanted to say that the design of this post is really cool. I write some image-centred travel posts too, and your use of the one large image mixed with two or three smaller ones looks fresh.

Robert Schrader December 12, 2014 at 7:32 am

Thanks a lot, Dan! It was a format I came to after a lot of experimentation.

Caroline Eubanks December 12, 2014 at 8:51 pm

The photos have me sold! I can see that it’s not an easy country to visit logistically but seems worth it. Agree with the previous comments about layout too.

Victoria Lau December 13, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Amazing! It’s never been on my list of places to go, but now these photos have convinced me otherwise.

Robert Schrader December 15, 2014 at 7:06 am

Success 😀

Robert Schrader December 15, 2014 at 7:06 am

Thanks Ms. Caroline! Where is your next trip?

CherilNClarke December 19, 2014 at 10:12 am

I love visiting your blog. It’s so inspiring. My wife and I are in the beginning stages of traveling the world and are looking forward to these kinds of experiences. The only thing that always makes us think twice is traveling alone (without men). Common sense tells us when to not appear as a same sex couple because after all, if we swore off every corner of the world that was generally anti-gay we would miss out on a great portion of it. We got over it part because experiencing different cultures is more important than trying to be political in our world travels (hopefully that makes sense:).

Traveling as women without a man, however, still stands out as a potential safety issue in areas where women are (probably stereo typically but we have no way of knowing for sure) safe alone. What are your thoughts on this? Sometimes we have guy friends who will go with us but they’re not interested in 10+ hours of flight time to get somewhere so their companionship ends there. lol

CherilNClarke December 19, 2014 at 10:15 am

PS: I’m shocked at how expensive it is.

The Beauty of Everywhere December 19, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Gorgeous post! I love how honest you are about your experience in Rwanda, in every sense. I really enjoyed reading this.

Echo Santos December 20, 2014 at 10:04 pm

Wow. I love stories from places that are not usually on the top of the “must visit” list of most people. This sheds light on how beauty can be found everywhere. Inspiring post!

Robert Schrader December 22, 2014 at 7:30 am

Thank you for reading!

Robert Schrader December 22, 2014 at 7:31 am

Thanks, and I hope you will continue reading my work!

Robert Schrader December 22, 2014 at 7:31 am

I was too!

Robert Schrader December 22, 2014 at 7:34 am

In general, I think you just have to be vigilant. Even “dangerous” countries are usually not dangerous in crowded places during the middle of the day, you know?

As far as Rwanda though, it truly prides itself on being one of Africa’s safest, most corruption-free countries. Also, you should keep in mind that most anti-gay laws throughout the developing world originate from the British system of the 1800s, which actually made no mention of lesbianism. So, I think you should be fine legally speaking, although you should of course learn as much as you can about local social norms where you travel, so that you can adjust your public affection accordingly.

Thanks for your comment and also, for reading! I hope you have a nice holiday.

CherilNClarke December 22, 2014 at 8:18 am

Thanks for responding, Robert. It’s always a pleasure to read your blog and follow your adventures on Instagram. We generally don’t do public affection anywhere (at most a hug or hand hold domestically). Kissing and beyond is something we don’t do in public at all—not giving any free shows! haha. Just kidding. Sort of. Anyway, one other thing comes to mind. I’ve read it on other folks’ blog, and that is getting that disproving look when checking in and “only needing one bed,” which is a giveaway to your relationship. Yesterday we decided if a place is really questionable but we want to see it anyway, it may be easiest to just ask for a room with double beds and leave it at that. Most people assume we’re sisters or best friends anyway. We just want to see the world drama free and are willing to do our part in making that happen. Anyway, thanks again. I’m still pleasantly shocked to learn about Rwanda! 🙂

Robert Schrader December 22, 2014 at 8:28 am

Hi Cheril:

As far as the double bed, I would say rather than specifically requesting one, just tell them that whatever they give you is fine. Also, keep in mind (and you probably already know this), hotels in a lot of developing countries simply push two single beds together to “make” a double bed, so it might not ultimately be that big of a deal anyway.

CherilNClarke December 22, 2014 at 8:37 am

I did not know that. Thank you! 🙂

Jason Mullin December 23, 2014 at 5:39 am

I’ve been wanting to plan a trip to Africa but didn’t know where to start. Rwanda sounds like a good start.
http://www.edibleadventuretravel.blogspot.com

Robert Schrader December 23, 2014 at 8:26 am

It sure is <3

Bella January 5, 2015 at 8:45 am

Inspiring post! Thank you Robert!

Robert Schrader January 6, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Thank you Bella!

TravellingCanuck January 6, 2015 at 8:48 pm

Cheril, I second Robert’s strategy. When in ‘iffy’ countries with my partner, it is the one we use, and have never had a hitch. In fact we joke about the ‘crack monster’ when, or if, pushing beds together.
Recently in Ethiopia, a couple of girls I met in the Danakil made an issue of insisting on a double bed. It upset the innkeeper, and he wouldn’t rent the room. It wasn’t just a same sex thing either, on occasion mixed couples had to have a good story at the ready if their passports didn’t have the same last name.

CherilNClarke January 6, 2015 at 9:23 pm

Very good to know, thanks!

Robert Schrader January 8, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Thanks for your perspective!

Justyna Sniezek February 1, 2015 at 4:31 am

Oh, this is fantastic!! I’m visiting Rwanda in April and I already can’t wait. Looks great. For how many days did you do gorilla trekking?

Brian Rubaduka May 15, 2015 at 12:48 pm

That is ridiculous. I lived in Rwanda for six months and spent a total of 2,500 USD. If you really want to be “among the people”, lower your standards a bit. In any case, why do you need a company to sanctify your “cross-cultural experience”? Just do it, and save the money.

Robert Schrader May 18, 2015 at 7:25 am

Well unfortunately, when time is not on your side – and when a government agency offers you assistance up-front, but then rescinds it – you have to make do with what you have. I’m glad you had the luxury to spend six months in Rwanda, and made out with a lower per-day cost as a result. Did you learn your judgmentalness there?

Brian Rubaduka May 18, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Lol, sorry if you can’t handle a frank comment. It’s not because I spent six months there that I spent less money, but because I put up with cold showers and shared (but usually clean) toilets. I was also invited by the student government of the National University to spend two weeks in a room on campus. The second time I went to Rwanda, I also spent six months there. For photos and posters that I took/made in Rwanda, visit this link: https://www.google.com/search?q=site:lafrique.com+rwanda&espv=2&biw=1185&bih=643&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=Wh1aVerYJPaCsQTauYPADA&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAg

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