Great travel annoyances of our times: The hotel toaster

At the hotel breakfast, that metal appliance that toasts your bread on a little conveyor … I mean… how hard can it be to use? In theory it’s dead simple right? Pick up a bread slice with tongs; place it on the conveyor … et voila … your little white carb is whisked upwards on…

Farewell to the land of a thousand hills – epilogue

Well, it’s taken 42 blog posts and over 60,000 words, but I’ve managed to get there – this is the final post in the series ‘Letters from the Heart of Africa’. Thank you for following and if in some small measure it’s brought you some extra insight of Rwanda, a place of so many complex…

Short story: Deano’s Return

Based on a true story of how a long lost dog came home. In the summer of 1972 Nita Rai got her very own puppy. It was an exam passing gift from her parents and a close run thing; if it hadn’t been for the old lady who appeared on their lawn one morning, she…

The bar that sold bananas

Wise words I once heard while buying bananas in a bar in Kigali, Rwanda in 2008: ‘Nothing can heal without truth; education seeks truth; so, nothing can heal without education.’ *** Occasionally on the way home from work at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda, I would go down to a little grocery shop down…

7 tips for volunteers in Africa

It’s almost time to fly home. These seven months in Rwanda have felt so much longer – the richness of new experiences, meeting new people, hearing their stories and living in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, have given my time here some apparent stretch. Rwanda is enigmatic and bittersweet, both joyous…

The Ragged Children of Kinigi

When the ragged children of Kinigi danced, it was a scene of both joy and sadness, those imposters both, two vagabonds who travel this land of a thousand hills, hand in hand and appear when they are least expected. Continuing the series, Letters from the Heart of Africa *** We got to the lower slopes…

Unexpected hosts: gorillas after the mist

After noon, we started the descent in to the mists of Mount Karisimbi, the highest peak in the Virungas, a mountain chain in the centre of Africa. The crisp blue sky gave way to a veil of grey chiffon as we headed down a long black slope of crumbling volcanic earth. My head was already…

The snowman in the heart of Africa – Climbing Mount Karisimbi (part 2)

Continued from part 1 I walked towards the fire where there were two crouching silhouettes outlined in bright orange. I sat with them panting. One poked the embers with a stick, another lay on his coat  and stared sideways at the white-hot burning log. The warmth was comforting, and staring in to those dancing flames…

Climbing Mount Karisimbi

CLIMBING MOUNT KARISIMBI , a snow-capped volcano between Rwanda and the DR Congo, the tallest peak in the Virungas, was an arduous and fascinating experience. Many mountains, no matter how high, give you ice-field after ice field, lenghthy scrambles over loose scree and unending deja vu of switch-backs. But Mount Karisimbi is a consummate entertainer, performing…