Category Archives: Rwanda life

Wordless Wednesday: baskets

Wordless Weds./enclos*ure: Rwandan baskets

Wordless Weds./enclos*ure: Rwandan baskets . . . of Gashora, Rwanda.

Wordless Weds./enclos*ure: Rwandan baskets

Wordless Weds./enclos*ure: Rwandan baskets

(Click on any thumbnail below to scroll through larger images.)

 

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Our garden: bird droppings (sort of)

On Friday morning, I looked down from our upstairs porch and cursed the hawks.

For about a year now, they have had a huge nest in the tree right next to the house – and they have “feathered” it with all sorts of garbage, particularly dirty pieces of cloth and scraps of paper.  They regularly redecorate by pushing some of their treasures out over the side.

Whenever I look up, I take in the sight of what looks like someone’s old underwear lapped over a branch.

This appeared to be the worst yet — chips of styrofoam (?) all over the ground.  They really were flying pigs.

Tiny mushrooms in the grass/enclos*ure

A closer inspection, however, revealed that I had to take it all back.

Tiny mushrooms in our garden/enclos*ure

Thousands of tiny, tiny white mushrooms were in the grass and the planting bed.

Tiny mushrooms in our garden/enclos*ure

Below, the white grains under the mushrooms are yet more mushrooms.Tiny mushrooms in our garden/enclos*ure

Sorry, hawks. . . until next time.

Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid

In more news from the same tree, the weaver birds and their amazing basket nests are back.

The yellow-colored males have been building and re-building for several weeks now, chattering loudly as they work.  According to a guidebook, the males weave and the females inspect (and destroy any subpar work).

Our garden and the birds/enclos*ure(There are much nicer photos of last year’s nests here.)

I guess the girls — who are plain brown — were finally satisfied, because it recently got much quieter up there. Then, a few days ago, I started finding halves of eggshells on the grass under the tree.

Our garden and the birds/enclos*ure

Here’s my collection so far.Our garden and the birds/enclos*ure

 

There are birds here,
so many birds here
is what I was trying to say
when they said those birds were metaphors
for what is trapped
between buildings
and buildings. . .

Jamaal May, from “There Are Birds Here

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Wordless Wednesday: paper beads

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Paper beads drying outside, Gifted Hands Center, Kigali, Rwanda.

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In the ferns

“the elegant script of ferns. . .”*

Last February, we took our visiting oldest daughter to Nyungwe National Park and hiked the first half of the trail that includes a tree canopy walkway.  Last week, with second daughter and friend in tow, we completed the entire circuit.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

The hike started with us tucking our pants legs into our socks (against ants) and receiving walking sticks.

Although the paths are well-maintained, the sticks are necessary for the steeper, sometimes slippery sections.

The steps shown above are the first of many, many, many on a long descent to the canopy walkway. (The welcome center is at one of the highest points in the park.)

It was a hazy day, so I can’t show you the great mountain views that are otherwise visible along the way, but you can click here to see my photos from last February.

Photo by L. Koran

Photo by Laura Koran

Above: Our guide led the way.  He spotted a number of blue monkeys and turaco birds for us.**

(The earth walls that were cut when the trail was created — to the right of the guide above — bring the smaller plants of the forest floor to almost eye level. I’ve put pictures and names of some of them in a photo gallery, which you can scroll through by clicking on ‘Continue reading’ at the end of this post.)

Photo by L. Koran

Photo by L. Koran

Above: We arrive at the beginning of the canopy walkway.

Photo by L. Koran

Photo by L. Koran

Above: The middle and highest section is 187′ (57 m.) above the ground.

During last year’s visit, with only the three of us and the guide, the walkway swung less, and I stopped a few times to look down and take pictures. (You can see them here.)

This time, in a group of about fifteen — with eight people crossing the walkway at a time — the shaking made me keep my eyes on the back of the person in front of me.

Photo by L. Koran

Photo by L. Koran

Above: Our guide starts across.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ureAbove: I did look down after I reached the top of the second tower.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ureAbove: Back on the ground below the second tower.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

When you cross the middle section of the walkway and (dare to) look down, you see a narrow valley of tree ferns and hear the moving water of a stream.  The second half of the hike continues on to that valley.  There, we saw hundreds of the tall ferns.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

In fact, this trail is named — in Kinyarwanda — for the tree ferns: the Igishigishigi Trail.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

Cyathea manniana is one of two tree ferns in the park.  The other is C. dregei.  Manniana only grows in undisturbed forest, while dregei can be found along the sides of the road through the park (it also has persistent old leaves).

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ureAbove: Looking up into the ferns. C. manniana can grow to almost 20′ (6 m.) tall.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

C. manniana is traditionally used as a medical plant to treat snake bites,” according to my field guide.*** There are nine kinds of snakes in the park, but only one is poisonous.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

Photo by L. Koran

Photo by L. Koran

Above: A small bridge crosses the stream that we heard from the canopy walkway.  The guide meant to take us down to the water, but there were too many biting ants on the path.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

Tree ferns are one of my favorite plants, but unfortunately, they would not grow well in the cold or the heat of our Washington, D.C., garden.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ureAbove: Leaving the ferns behind, we started back to the welcome center.

The Igishigishigi Trail is 1.3 miles (2.1 km.) long and takes 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  It is rated ‘easy,’ but a large part of it involves descending and ascending steps.  It’s a solid workout.

The trail begins at an elevation of 8,038′ (2450 m.) and descends to 7,530′ (2295 m.).

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ureAbove (on the right): Nearing the final set of steps, we found a large group of Lobelia gibberoa or giant lobelias.

With their long candles of greenish white flowers, the plants can grow to 29′ (9 m.) in height.  Latex from the stems is traditionally used to treat irritation from stinging nettles.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ureAbove: After the hike, we went back to the Nyungwe Forest Lodge on the Huye-Rusizi Road.  The yellow flowers along the edge are a Senecio species.

*from “Ex Libris” by Eleanor Wilner.

** It’s also quite possible to see turacos flying from tree to tree from the pool at the Nyungwe Forest Lodge.

***An excellent book about the park is the Illustrated Field Guide to the Plants of Nyungwe National Park [of] Rwanda by Eberhard Fischer and Dorothee Killman.  It’s 770 pages long, with color photographs of 650 plants.  You can buy a copy here.  Unfortunately, it’s $71.  Some copies were printed for the Rwandan tourism office, and  I bought mine in a Kigali bookstore for about $25, but I haven’t seen any on sale here for about a year.

Continue reading

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In the tea

My daughter and her friend visited us last week — after hiking to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. (It took them seven days, and my daughter reached the summit during a blizzard with lightning!)

While they were here in Rwanda, we went down to the southwest to see Nyungwe National Park, the largest protected mountainous rain forest in Africa.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureWe spent two nights at the Nyungwe Forest Lodge, which I know I’ve written about twice before.  But I still wanted to post these photos, because I find its landscape so serene. . . and so romantic — a tea garden at the edge of a rain forest.

The design is simple, yet extravagant — a few curving paths through thousands of Camellia sinensis bushes.

Above: the pool house in early morning.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureWe arrived on Wednesday in early afternoon.  There was a lot of mist, and it was so chilly that we turned on our room’s heater for about an hour. But it only rained once, briefly, during our stay.

Above: the Lodge gatehouse.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove: the Lodge in the distance.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove: yellow native Crassocephalum montuosum poking up through the tea bushes.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove and below: views from the main building’s porch.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ure

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove and below: narrow paths through the field. A local cooperative picks the tea and keeps the income from its sale.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove: The cabins, with two to four rooms each, are sited at the edge of the tea field.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove: the bushes around the Lodge looked like they had been picked recently.  Only the terminal bud and the top two leaves of each stem are plucked off.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove and below: the front of each cabin is planted with native perennials and small trees from the forest.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ure

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove: these giant lobelias (Lobelia gibberoa) are planted right into the grass and other low weeds wild plants.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove: each cabin’s back balcony looks out into the rain forest.  The land drops down very steeply about six or seven feet behind the cabins, so their windows really look into the tops of trees. It’s not uncommon to see monkeys there.

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