MamaNelly runs a tiny restaurant in the small fishing village of Nkora on the edge of Lake Kivu, Rwanda. If you join us on a mountain biking tour on the Congo Nile Trail, there’s a good chance you’ll have lunch with her.
Mother of four girls at secondary school, MamaNelly (literally “Nelly’s mother”) has already given her children a better start in life than she was able to enjoy. Born in 1975, she left primary school after four years, when there was no money available in the family to pay for her to continue. But MamaNelly is not the kind of person to sit around doing nothing. Like most girls in Rwanda, she had learnt to cook her family’s meals and she decided to use that knowledge to cater at the weddings of neighbours and friends.
The last few years have introduced her to very different clients: Muzungus! “Muzungu” is the respectful name used to describe Caucasian visitors to Rwanda, but it’s generally used to describe any foreigner. MamaNelly has seen her home town subtly changed as more and more Muzungus travel through, whether hiking or cycling on the Congo Nile Trail.
“I still only have simple cooking facilities (a single charcoal stove and a few pans), but I laugh so much when our guests enjoy local food like Dodo (a green leaf prepared like spinach) or Isambaza (sardines, freshly caught from the lake). It’s also really funny, how much foreigners enjoy Rwandan avocados, which grow everywhere”.
With the extra money that MamaNelly earns from tourists, she has been able to pay for government health insurance for all of her family and she’s working on improving her kitchen so that she can cook more than one thing at a time.
“I am so grateful to Rwandan Adventures because they showed me a better way to earn money and helped me to change in terms of interacting with people of different nationalities”
Rwandan Adventures is a social enterprise: we work to provide employment in rural Rwanda and to support other small businesses in areas which are so far off the beaten track that tourists are a rare sight. Planning your tour with Rwandan Adventures, means that you’ll be supporting these micro businesses. If you would like to experience ManaNelly’s great Rwandan cooking and hospitality, contact us today to organise your visit to Rwanda: We organise tailored tours including mountain gorilla trekking, Akagera Park safaris, kayaking, hiking and biking in any part of the country.
Iragena Leandre doesn’t know his exact birthday, but his mother knows she was harvesting sorghum, so we guess it was August 1993, a few months before the genocide began. Leandre’s family (he has seven brothers and sisters) are subsistence farmers: they live only from the food they grow on their land.
Things didn’t start well: born at a time of incredible devastation and upheaval in Rwanda, he suffered malnutrition as a child, recovering fully only when he was 16. None of this got in the way of Leandre’s determination and intelligence. His teachers recognised his potential and he was selected for support by a small charity which paid his school fees. That’s the only push he needed to succeed. He went on to win a scholarship to study Zoology and Conservation at the National University of Rwanda.
He now puts his knowledge to good use by training our guides to share the secrets of Rwanda’s astonishing flora and fauna. His fascination with the mountain gorillas and Rwanda's other primates endures, but he also designs mountain biking and hiking tours that take in the most beautiful of the 1000 hills while staying off the beaten track.
“I’m really proud to be working for a social enterprise in tourism. I’m learning what it takes to run a small business and I’m glad that the taxes we pay are contributing to the growth of my country, schools and roads. Rwanda cannot be dependent on charity money forever. Mostly, I’m proud that I can support my parents: my salary pays for the school fees of my young brothers and sisters and I am sure they have enough to eat”
Email us now to plan your visit to Rwanda. Leandre responds to guest emails and he’ll be happy to tell you more.
We recently ran a two-day Twin Lakes Tour, taking in the magnificent – and challenging – ride around the stunning lakes near to Musanze.
We chatted to three of the participants, shortly after they had completed the tour, Laura, from Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, Clare, who comes from Gloucester, Massachusetts and Nicola, from Wexford in Ireland. Laura, Clare and Nicola all live in Rwanda now, but this was their first experience of the Twin Lakes tour.
We first asked them what was the best thing about the tour. Clare said it was the “gorgeous landscapes and scenery”. Laura agreed: “the views were stunning, some of the best landscapes that I've seen anywhere”, but also commented about the chaperone for the tour, Marcel. “Marcel was extremely helpful and knowledgeable”. Nicola agreed that the views – especially on day one – were “spectacular” and was also pleased at “how smoothly everything was arranged and organised”, grateful for there being “no waiting around”. But she also pointed out how good the chaperone was: “Marcel is very good with slower people, looking out for them, making sure people take it easy; also superb at making sure everyone has water”.
We then asked them what surprised them about this tour. Clare was obviously enamoured by the beauty of the lakes, and said “I actually wasn’t expecting it to be as beautiful as it was!” While Laura’s immediate answer was somewhat different: “there was a small earthquake while we were riding!” In fact, during the tour there was, indeed, an earthquake in neighbouring Tanzania, which could be felt by the participants. Two things surprised Nicola the most. First, how well her fellow cyclists coped, “it’s pretty hilly! A really excellent mountain biker might find it very easy though - it was quite easy for me but some of the others struggled a bit”. And second, “the beauty of Ruhondo – I would never have gone there. Felt like a wonderful adventure, somewhere I'd have never gone without Rwandan Adventures. Even the section of road 10-20km out of Musanze is absolutely spectacular - couldn't believe how nice it was considering I've driven by that road so many times!
So, would they do this cycle tour again? Both Laura and Clare said they would. So we asked them to suggest who they’d go with. Clare said “friends that come to visit who are active or into cycling”. Laura agreed that she’s do it again with “anyone who came to visit me in Rwanda and likes bikes”, then added “I’d love to do this tour with my brother or my Mom”. Nicola said she would “probably not do the same one again, but would certainly do another”. And who with? “visiting mountain bike friends or the Kigali crew”.
Finally, we asked them to use three words each to describe the tour. Clare said “Fun”, “Stimulating” and “Refreshing”. And Laura chose “Tough”, “Stunning” and “Fun”. And Nicola’s phrase? “Stunning, adventurous cycle!”
So, these participants – who were typical of the whole tour party – were clear. They had a great time in beautiful surroundings; they were well supported by the Rwandan Adventures team, including chaperone Marcel; and they’d love to come back. We can’t wait to have you join another tour soon, Laura, Clare and Nicola. Please feel free to bring your friends when they visit and the Kigali crew. And, one last thing: if Laura’s brother or Mom are reading this, we think you should get in touch with us!
A few weeks ago, I embarked on an expedition to discover a new biking tour around Lake Muhazi in the Eastern Province. I set out on one of our bicycles to find a new tour. I am very pleased to report the search was a failure!
Let me explain...
I was hoping to find a nice, flat biking tour. Something suitable for someone like me, who spends most of her time behind a computer screen, rather than in the saddle. Something without the ups and downs of some other tours. And something that would allow our visitors to combine a couple of days’ cycling with a trip to Akagera Game Park.
So I set off on my bike, and Fidens followed on behind, in the car, with supplies – water, money, etc. I reached the top of a long stretch, with wonderful, panoramic views over Lake Muhazi stretching out in front of me. I sat in the warm sunshine, mesmerised by the beautiful views. I needed to drink in the sight, but I also needed to drink some water. And it was at that point I realised Fidens was nowhere to be seen.
After a while, I heard Fidens driving towards me. But he wasn’t alone – he now had a passenger. He handed over the water, while apologising and then explaining where he had been.
Fidens had noticed a tiny signpost at the side of the road, pointing towards “Maison du Lac” and decided to investigate. He followed the sign down a long drive from the main (mud) road, past some unusually tall trees, eventually emerging at the shore of the lake and a charming, old colonial house.
At the house, Fidens was warmly welcomed by Jacques, the owner. Jacques' Belgian father had worked in Rwanda where he met and married Jacques’ mother, a Rwandan woman.
Jacques was Fidens’ passenger in the car when he came to pick me up. We went back to the house and spent a wonderful afternoon, drinking tea in Jacques’ garden and listening to his stories of the past in both Rwanda and Belgium.
Jacques takes visitors for really authentic trips to Akagera, camping with his guests and making sure everyone has the most wonderful bush experience, helping guests to track down animals.
So we had failed to find a new biking tour at Lake Muhazi – but we couldn’t be more pleased with what we did find. Because now, when you book a trip to Akagera with us – your guide will be Jacques himself.
And, when you book the Lake Muhazi Tour, we will take you down a long drive from the main road, past some unusually tall trees towards the shore of the lake, and have a picnic in the shade, in a the garden of a beautiful colonial house – the House on the Lake.
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