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Rwindi park (1)
First visit: accompanied
It is in October 1990 that
Renato invited me to accompany him with his children for my first trip in the
wilderness, in the Park of Rwindi (of the name of the important river which crosses
The Rwindi river
is part of the immense National park of Virunga ("volcano" in Swahili)
that covers more than 8000 km ² (a third of Belgium!)
in 1925 and called "Albert National Park" (the first Park in Africa),
it had for objective the protection of the déjà-rare mountain gorillas
(see my "gorillas" page).
was then widened to protect the current zone, in the North of Goma, lining Rwanda
and Uganda, including the very big Lake Edouard (ex Lake Albert then Lake Idi
Amin), the Mountain Ruwenzori and three of the volcanoes of the region (Nyaragongo,
Nyamulagira and Karisimbi). The height of the Park varies of 800m to more of 5000m!
It was declared World Heritage.
In 1989 one listed there
more than 200 sorts of mammals (among which about twenty threatened with extinction),
more than 700 sorts of birds... It is to say the wealth of the Park!
I should say that I attended a part of its decline during my stay in Kivu. This
one had begun much earlier and continued, especially in 1994 with the influx of
more than a million refugees of Rwanda, who were nourishing on animals of the
Park and decimated forests (10 000 m³ of wood used every day!)
During my stay also, the Park knew a dark period... The riots,
the civil war and the general insecurity prevented the tourists from arriving
there and so to supply the money necessary for its conservation. Infrastructures
were not maintained any more, the guards were not paid any more and the regulations
were contournables for plain money. Natural causes also: an epidemic of anthrax
decimated more than 8000 hippopotamuses (a third of the population of the Park):
at the end of 1990, we strolled with a handkerchief on the figure because of the
smell of corpses!
Even the volunteers of the EEC who made
there an excellent job in difficult conditions (even if they were settled well)
had to leave the place a little later.
As for the road, I
shall speak about it farther ;)
But it is necessary to say
as well that all these elements well served me, egoistically: this desertion of
the tourists and the carelessness which prevailed allowed me "to take advantage"
of the Park as nowhere else, offering me an experience much more close to the
wild nature, to the wilderness, to the jungle with the excitement and the danger
which they contain.
It is not surprising then that I was
so disappointed by Kenya, with its organized, almost disinfected Parks, filled
The volunteers of the EEC are settled well!
At Rolf's, EEC volunteer
let us "return to our sheep", as my Vietnamese teachers say ;)
I arrived for this first visit of Rwindi in my friend Renato's air-conditioned
4x4, and we were welcomed in Rolf's and Shwartz's chalets, two volunteers of the
Can one dream better? We spent a very good evening with
them, listening to Chris Rea in the middle of the valley of Rwindi!
is necessary to get up early? No problem, I'm the first up because of the noise.
I think that it was a hippo at my door, the others told me that it was a lion.
"That's better, anyway" they said. Why? "It's
And they tell me the story of a tourist staying at Rwindi's
hotel, whom in the morning opened the door of her small bungalow after hearing
loud noises. She would then have been in front of the big behind of a hippo, which
would have found nothing funnier than to do its big needs right then. As hippos
makes their small tail turn in this making to scatter the material (this point
is true, I saw it), the lady and her room would have been covered with hippo's
One of these fables for the new? Personally I tend to believe in it,
having lived over there...
It doesn't matter much, what counts is to know
that the four paws guests are numerous in the hotel and in the chalets, and I
even had a baboon in my room. He left with my box of new films!
I should go back to the point...
First observation: the landscape is magnificent!
The sight from my chalet at about 6 o'clock in the morning
took time for a little breakfast and left. Before going to go fishing, Renato
offers me a tour on some neighbouring tracks so that I do not limit my first visit
to the fishes of the Rwindi.
It starts quickly!
quickly we get to a group of lions which ends their breakfast.
knew only the lions of the Antwerp's Zoo.
Today it is I who
am in the cage (in the car) less than two metres of a family of lions who look
at me peacefully, quietly nibbling.
The digestive siesta... At 7 o'clock in the morning.
windows are opened. I could almost touch them. The guard who accompanies us took
out his rifle (just in case) and I my camera (my good old manual Pentax A-1).
I machine-gun with the 50 mm (no zoom), the guard machine-guns nothing (fortunately).
prey is almost completely devoured, it is now lionesses and lion cubs that feast.
There is blood everywhere, intestines are gaping.
It is so
It has been two months that I am in Zaire,
and I have the impression to finally arrive, to find what I came here for :
Another feeling impossible to describe in these pages...
could (would like) to stay there all day, but children are impatient and Renato
also: he knows all this for years, and he came to go fishing, after all!
get back on the track.
The m'toto ("youngsters") whom
we engaged to use during the fishing get impatient also moreover, wedged in the
back of the Pajero with all the material.
Along the way,
we cross bulls, free to run in the vast plains of the valley, or obliged to flee
I have already begun to laugh at the Zoo of
Antwerp, in spite of its qualities...
About the bulls, let us note that all
do not run:
This buffalo has other tastes that his congeners.
you believed that the man had invented the thalassotherapy and the mud baths?
treatment and the help of a little bird who preys on insects on him are worth
all the gold of the world for a bovine prey of the Rwindi!
is also a beautiful dress to photograph ;)
We made uncountable meetings along the
two or three tracks which we took as bends to arrive to Renato's favorite fishing
The Park still had numerous of these tracks, more or
less identified, leaving in buckle from the main track.
a rule, the guests are accompanied with a guard in their vehicle and should not
leave the tracks.
As a rule...
Nice big cows?
No way. Avoid
them as the plague at dawn and in the twilight, when they enter or get out of
the water. They then follow the tracks which they "dug" in the course
of the years in the savanna and behave as peevish bulldozers.
lose their life every year this way...
As kids in the paddling pool...
oui, j'me suis battu,
j'ai une oreille en moins,
ça n'empêche pas d'apprécier
vie, non ?"
But when they are
in the water, and seen that they do not like moving too much, they are almost
One understands them: moving three tons of meat
in the heat of the African daytime...
They cavort (and sometimes
fight) all day in lakes and streams and represent one of the trump cards of the
Park, because it is here in the Rwindi that one finds (found) the densest hippo
population of Africa.
But from 23 000 in 1989, there would
only be about 1500 today, killed mainly -as it is said- by the May May and Interhamwe...
Of course, at 10 dollars the head in the local market (3 dollars the antelope)...
let us continue our journey,
Renato is impatient to throw his lines.
One of the two solitary elephants of Vitshumbi.
solitary males are very vindictive.
A virtual duel undertakes
between the car and the biggest ground mammal: when this one charges, the car
moves back, and inversément. The game is dangerous: if the engine stalls,
if we get in a hole, the elephant would destroy the metal intruder.
were about 3000 elephants in Rwindi in 1960. There wasn't more than 500 in 1990.
How much after 1994?
Please excuse us, Sir, we're just going through!
Well, it's time to go fishing!
It's going on here...
Page créée le 3 juin 2001 - Mise à jour le 6 juillet
Pierre Gieling - tous droits réservés