Thursday, 10 May 2018

Gisenyi Tea Fields

Headed up to Gisenyi for the weekend with Harris, Roberto and Myrsini. We hired a car and stopped of at Nyaringarama - Rwanda's first service station - for brochettes and potatoes (ibirayi). The stuff in the foreground is zingaro, cow intestine, which is a delicacy.

L-R: Me, Myrsini, Roberto
We checked into Kivu Peace View Hotel, which had a fantastic view of Lake Kivu, and extremely comfortable beds. Big plump pillows and sprung mattresses - I slept like a lord.

(panoramic, click to enlarge)

We had a fantastic day relaxing by the pool on Saturday. Headed to Nirvana Heights for G&T and the beautiful view. Swimming was done, sugarcane was nibbled and sunbathing was had.

Rain Cloud
Then it was down to Paradis Malahide to watch a spectacular sunset and listen to the traditional fishing boats as they headed out across the lake, singing.

Delivering fresh soil to the islands?

We spent the evening at a gorgeous bar we found called One Degree South, I think so named because Gisenyi is 1°42 south of the equator. Lashings of hummus, baba ganoush and yummy stuff. The nice thing about Lake Kivu is that it's large enough to have a tidal pull, which creates waves. Along with the sandy beaches, it's just like being by the seaside.

On Sunday, we headed over to see my friend Sameer at the Pfunda Tea Estate. Sameer is a friend from rock night, we've moshed together in the past. He's originally from Assam and is deputy manager at the estate. He welcomed us with plenty of beer, then took us on a tour of the incredible tea gardens of Northern Rwanda.

Me and Sameer
Welcome to Gisenyi

(panoramic, click to enlarge)
Guatemala Grass
We learnt so much about tea, and even got to pick a tiny bit and chew it. Anyone who likes Yorkshire Tea - this is where your tea is grown. The grass is Guatemala Grass, named after its origin. It's planted to rejuvenate the soil as it fixes nitrogen levels or something clever like that. It truly is a stunningly, stunningly beautiful part of the country. Pfunder alone employs somewhere around 4,000 people. Each tea tree can continue to be harvested for up to sixty years.

The estate are part of a rainforest initiative and help to plant native trees to preserve the natural forest. I was surprised to find plenty of clover growing near the tea fields too, which is a plant very common in England.

Red Clover
White Clover

Just as we were about to leave, the monkeys in Gishwati Forest started howling. It was like something out of Jurassic Park, with the big old native trees and the rolling hills. The haunting ancestral call of the human race. Not unlike Saturday night out in Cardiff.

We headed back to Sameer's place where he treated us to a fabulous home-cooked Indian meal, and I took the opportunity to look around his garden, which is absolutely gorgeous.

Passion Fruit

Sadly, we've had some serious rain this year. Rainy seasons used to be quite full-on, but over the past two years it's been very dry. This year saw a return to torrential rain, and an extended Long Wet Season. The combination of excessive rain and dry soil has led to over 200 people losing their lives in landslides and flooding since January. A river runs behind Sameer's garden. The flooding caused the river to alter course, bringing down his garden wall and wiping out several hectares of tea fields, causing significant financial loss to the estate. It also washed up the bodies of two people who had accidentally fallen in up river.

As we were leaving on Monday morning, we passed a group of people standing by the road and decided to get out and see what they were looking at. The waterfall, which had been nothing special on Friday when we arrived, was now tearing down the hillside like it wanted to take the town with it.

After the tea fields, we went out drinking with Sameer at Tam Tam Beach and a local nightclub. It really is like being by the sea, with people going past in pedalos...

... and some very interesting items on the menu.

Unfortunately, we had a bit of trouble with the car. Something electrical - whenever we turned the key, instead of starting the ignition, it locked and unlocked the doors! My friend Emmy drove up from Kigali to drive us back. When he arrived and tried the key, it started perfectly - sod's law. 

Such a nice, relaxing weekend with friends. I didn't like Gisenyi the first time I went there in 2008, because I was working and didn't get to see the beach, but it's definitely become one of my favourite places in Rwanda.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what a trip, now I rally am envious. Mind you looks like Percy had slightly too much ibirayi n Mutzig :)


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