Just back from the “land of a thousand hills” on our most recent girls-only getaway where we found ourselves castaway on a remote Zanzibarian island and trekking gorillas on the vertical slopes of the Virunga mountains in Rwanda. Zanzibar … a place of bustling alleyways and market stalls, a totally cool “floating” restaurant called The Rock and a fascinating history of sultans and slave traders and of course its favorite home town hero Freddie Mercury of rock band Queen fame. But far from the turquoise waters surrounding The Rock, we found our own paradise. In Kigali, Rwanda, we literally dined in “Heaven”, the city’s extremely popular eatery, originally opened as a social enterprise by a young New York couple, now considered one of the country’s top restaurants and then ended our adventure in a place we all agreed was the closest place to heaven on earth, The Virunga Mountain Lodge, our spectacular home-away-from-home and hub for our sensational gorilla trek, some serious R&R and a hike up to Dian Fossey’s gravesite and research station. We trekked high up into the mountains in search of what we came for and found ourselves face-to-face with the giant Silverback gorilla and his tight knit family - sight like no other. An amazing hour shared with them in their natural habitat led to accelerated heart rates and gaping, awestruck mouths by all. Their slightest movements were mesmerizing and the striking similarities to us humans a bit haunting.
Rwanda is booming and has transformed itself in the past two post-genocide decades to be the envy of all African countries for plenty of reasons, our favorites being: the only country with more women than men in parliament, it has the fastest growing economy on the continent, that also bans the use of plastic bags and has a country-wide compulsory day of cleaning on the last Saturday of every month, when all businesses come to a stop and everyone, even the President, partakes in cleaning the community! Amazing. We were blessed to spend a memorable day with the women artisans of Azizi Life in their villages, working alongside them during a typical day in their village. Rather foreign chores to us …. filling water jugs and carrying them back to our mud huts, hoeing the fields to plant a new crop of kasava, milking the cows and carrying huge bundles of freshly sheared grasses on our heads to bring back to livestock for feed. We sat together and wove sisal into bracelets and small baskets and shared the stories of our very different lives and a few that mirrored each other exactly … the love for our children, our commitment to caring for them in every way, up-keeping our home and the joy of seeing our family members happy and healthy. We also heard both devastating personal stories of loved ones lost and inspirational stories of recovery and astonishingly of forgiveness. The Rwandans are resilient and think positively about their future. Our day in rural Muhanga, dressed in our head wraps and colorful ibitenges will last a lifetime in our hearts and taught us much about what’s really important – water, the blessing of a simple lunch shared with old friends and new, hope for the future and of course several new dance moves as well.