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Questions re Gorillas in Rwanda and money in both Rwanda and Tanzania

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Mar 29th, 2013, 04:15 AM
  #1
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Questions re Gorillas in Rwanda and money in both Rwanda and Tanzania

Hi everyone

Easy question first - will American dollars be the only currency I need for a short gameviewing safari in Tanzania and a gorilla stay in Rwanda? My sister and I do spend a night in Arusha and a night in Kigali before we start the gorilla portion of our trip and at the end of the gorilla portion of our trip.

Next re the gorillas - we will have 3 walks in 3 days with the gorillas. Have read your 2009 report again Lynn and had not even considered that we may have a choice of which gorilla group we see, thought it was all based on your fitness level as to who went to which group. If we can choose, which groups should we be wanting to visit with? Is it still 7 gorilla groups and 8 visitors go to each group?

I did note Lynn, that all your walks seemed relatively easy and not overly long, so hoping that is the case for us although my sister Di, will be happy with hard mountain walks as she loves that type of walking while I prefer flat terrain for walking. Read a few reports on what was really useful but if anyone has a good tip I would love them to share it!

Kind regards

Kaye
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Mar 29th, 2013, 05:34 AM
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Hi Kaye,
We went to see the gorillas in August 2012. Absolutely loved Rwanda and the gorillas. We wanted an easy group and was assigned one. You can ask. However, it was pouring rain and it is difficult to know exactly where the families were. We had a very difficult hike-slippery and I felt very dangerous because of the conditions. It took us about 4 hours to find the gorillas and were able to see only about 12 members of a 25 member family. Definitely hire a porter. We could not have made it without one. Also, I hadn't packed any rain pants or raincoat and was concerned. There were clothes to be rented for $5.00 so it wasn't a problem but be prepared for all kinds of weather, cause you never know. It hadn't rained in 3 weeks prior to us arriving. The 2nd hike was totally easy 20 minutes and although I was happy about that as my body needed it, the trek was definitely not as exciting. The first I felt like Indiana Jones and the 2nd was just a walk in the park! All you need by the way, is American dollars.
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Mar 29th, 2013, 10:19 AM
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I spent 4 days in Rwanda last month. Staff told me they preferred tips in USD rather than the local currency.

As for successive days of gorilla treks, my guide told me that those who had trekked the day before were given priority for easier routes. Seems like they were more flexible about assigning groups in Rwanda than in Uganda. There were still 7 gorilla groups that were open to tourists and a max of 8 tourists per group.
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Mar 29th, 2013, 10:25 AM
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We had a great time - requested the easiest hike due to my husband's bad back....we walked about an hour - the last 15 minutes were pretty steep and strenuous but we made it and it was wonderful! BTW I don't know if this is common but we left a different way than we arrived and it was much easier.

We were glad to have gardening gloves with us - made it easier to scramble up the hill and for prickly plants.
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Mar 30th, 2013, 01:19 PM
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So interesting. I used Rwandan currency for small tips, snacks, trinkets. USD for big tips.

I haven't been to Tanzania in years, but on my last trip there I used a combo of shillingi and USD.

I'm sure you've already read this if you've read atravelynn's 12 Treks Rwanda/Uganda report, but gorilla trekking in Rwanda is a tip-heavy experience. Just mentioning it so that people will not be taken by surprise and put off.

In my experience, there were more people requesting the difficult-to-reach groups than the easy ones. I was traveling solo and was put with a group of people that included two seniors: very easy trekking. My next trek I was put with a rag-tag group of young Europeans and Aussies. Harder trek. Both experiences were phenomenal and I was glad for the variety. Definitely hire porters and agree to a fee before leaving.

Enjoy your trip!
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Mar 31st, 2013, 01:14 AM
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Hi Patrissimo
Thanks for your reply. I thought I would wait and see the walking capabilities of everyone before choosing a group as that may well determine which one we see. I am walking hills madly at the moment as they are not my forte at all, while my sister will cope no sweat! Yes I did know already to hire a porter regardless of whether or not I think I need one as a source of income to them and I have visited African countries many times and fully understand that. Do have a rainjacket, wasn't taking the pants necessarily as I thought they would get ripped to shreds.

Hi Femi,
Thanks for your reply and from the sound of that, maybe we should do the difficult walk first off, supposedly when I am the best, then as you mention, do the easier walks for day 2 and 3, that makes sense I think.

Hi Elizabeth,
Thanks for your reply and I do have work gloves as I bleed non-stop over nothing and while it looks dramatic, it is actually very annoying so cannot afford to start a bleed if I can avoid it! One knee is most likely to give me trouble but that is why I am testing it now and then see what strapping I may need for it and because I have rheumatoid arthritis, I always have some medication with me, and I will have something in case of sudden flare ups! But am working in an animal rehab for 3 weeks prior, and all my injuries there came from me being clumsy, not the animals. Broke my big toe falling downstairs, and hope i don't do that again, as doubt I could walk in boots for more than a couple of minutes, if that! Will need to be very careful.

Hi Leely
Thanks for your reply. We will be flying in and out and not doing a lot besides the gorillas, although we spend the first and last night in Kigali. I am OK with it being tip heavy in Rwanda but thanks for the warning. I find a lot of places over there tip heavy these days and coming from a non-tipping nation, it is a bit of a struggle! And that is a good tip, as we are doing it three days in a row, so agreeing to the tip before hand is a good way of doing it I think. I will enjoy the trip and both of us are very excited, although I have been over there over 20 times, this is my sister, Di's first time, maybe her last time, and she is beside herself with excitement as well she should be as I am as well!

Thanks all for your assistance,

Kind regards

Kaye
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Mar 31st, 2013, 04:26 AM
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Hi Kaye -
I don't think anyone touched on hiking boots. It seems you would already be planning to bring boots but in case you were leaning towards a lower trail running type shoe (which I was considering) you definitely should have higher hiking boots with ankle support. I'd say waterproof is important too but after our so-called waterproof boots soaked through in heavy rain on our Uganda trek I don't know if that term really means much.

Have a great time!!
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Mar 31st, 2013, 04:34 AM
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Hi Leslie

Thanks and yes, I always wear boots when over there as working for 3 weeks beforehand at an animal rehab. But wear them on safari as well as a lot safer I feel when out of the vehicle mainly for snakes. Mine would be water resistant, but if the boots are always in water then no, I think water would eventually get through to my socks.

Did you wear the knee lenth gaitors? Or just tuck your pants into long socks?

Thank-you I will or we will be having a fabulous time, just need to make sure I don't have any accidents when at the rehab centre.

Kind regards

Kaye
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Mar 31st, 2013, 02:59 PM
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I bought the rubber wellies that rangers wear and they were much better than running shoes. Easy to understand why that is their footwear of choice. It meant I wasn't as fearful of snakes, and could slog through mud and puddles rather than trying to avoid them.

We encountered stinging nettles in Rwanda which was a first for me. One of our party got it on her hand, and I got it on the back of both legs (through my trousers). The guides got us some sort of plant sap that was supposed to help with the burning, hard for me to tell if it really worked or was just a placebo.
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Apr 1st, 2013, 04:36 AM
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Hi Femi

I will have boots on and won't be worrying about puddles or snakes either.

Did you have two pairs of trousers on? That is what has been suggested and then knee socks over the trouser legs or knee length gaiters is another option. Would that help protect my legs do you think?

Kind regards

Kaye
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Apr 1st, 2013, 05:18 AM
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I did wear knee-length gaiters and thought they helped. The knee high gum boots would be great too - altho' too heavy for my luggage.

I think 2 pairs of pants would be very hot! We were very warm from the exertion even though one of our days was chilly & wet. I wore khaki pants that were a little on the thick side, but not canvas. We didn't run into nettles luckily - I'm not sure how thick your pants would need to be to really protect from that as Femi points out.

I agree with what you said earlier about waterproof pants being torn to shreds. I would just worry about a good waterproof jacket and not care if my legs were getting wet if it does rain. My husband tried on a rain slicker before we left home that looked ridiculous, almost down to his knees and I poo-poohed taking that as crazy to hike in the forest in. Well, most of the porters and a few of the other visitors in our group had those and I was so jealous of them (and not making eye contact with my husband when they pulled them out as the deluge started!).

BTW, doing three treks -- you are so lucky!!
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Apr 1st, 2013, 07:04 PM
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Knee socks would help, but the trouble is, one never knows what body part (if any) will make contact with the nettles. People wore gaiters for protection from the mud, but they might help with the nettles as well. Two pairs of pants might be a bit much, although I'm considering that option myself for a future trip elsewhere -against tsetse bites.

Try not to worry too much. You'll have a great time regardless of how much or little you take with you.
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Apr 2nd, 2013, 04:53 AM
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Hi Leslie

Yes very lucky, decided that I may not do this again, so might as well make the most of it while we are there. Yes I also though the gum boots would be heavy and just required for this portion of the trip.

OK I did wonder about the hot part with two pair of pants on, this came from a Fodorite with a blog, Porcupine Lane. I may have to rethink that. Not really familiar with what damage nettles can do, but I have to try not to damage skin so that I bleed, as various health issues and drugs I am on, make it very tricky to get the bleeding to stop, which looks dramatic but gets just annoying and messy!
Ok will stick with the jacket and leave the pants behind and yes a big raincoat would look ridiculous and I can imagine being caught in it all over the place. Someone stated that when it rains really heavily, very little can keep you dry so wonder how good the raincoat needs to be, and I am sure a little water never hurt anybody! Maybe might pack a poncho type raincoat, but not too flimsy!

Yes Femi, might try and get the gaitors and wear thick knee socks underneath. Really am not worried about mud just the nettles. I think you would need more than 2 layers to protect against those tsetse flies! I had two nieces with me in Tanzania in Jan 2001, and we were being driven mad by the flies and heat but we decided we preferred the heat so shut all the windows and killed all the flies inside and just boiled all day, but no more bites!
OK shall try not to be too worried!

Thanks!

Kind regards

Kaye
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Apr 2nd, 2013, 05:58 AM
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Femi - I can comprehend the advantages of wellies - being able to slog through puddles and mud - but I cannot imagine hiking for 3+ hours up and down hills in them. Were your ankles/feet/legs not sore from hiking in wellies? Perhaps my rubber boots are cheap/poor, and there are more supportive/better versions, but I am sore after working in the garden in them all day. CR
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Apr 2nd, 2013, 10:07 AM
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I went with the theory that my skin is waterproof so I shouldn't worry too much if I got wet. But then when my water-RESISTANT jacket quit resisting I was pretty miserable for the rest of the day. Every time we stopped for a break I'd cool down and start shivering -- truly I was soaked to the skin so standing still was not good.
So, FWIW make sure at least your jacket is a good one that will have a chance at keeping you dry if it does rain. Probably with all of this planning for wet weather, it won't
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Apr 2nd, 2013, 12:16 PM
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Good to know - waterproof jacket it is!
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Apr 2nd, 2013, 07:26 PM
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CR- I've coveted those boots for a long time, and finally grabbed the chance in Kigali because I knew then exactly what lay ahead, having been gorilla and chimp trekking before.

I love my boots! No soreness at all. I don't quite understand how they can be better than my trail runners that cost ten times more, but they are. I think fear plays a big part in my mind when I'm out tramping in the bush, and as I said before, I feel I can relax in boots.

The guides weren't sure what to make of me at first glance, but they later admitted it was a good idea. My chimp trekking guide was especially pleased I got them because it meant we could take a relatively easier (but wetter) river crossing than I would have been able to manage with sneakers.

Kaye- I'd be ok with boiling too (famous last words...) rather than face the miserable tsetses.
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Apr 3rd, 2013, 03:45 AM
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Hi Femi and Canadian Robin
I also wondered how comfortable it would be walking in wellies for hours. I have a pair that I used to use when I cared for a koala in a centre, and they were not comfortable at all for the few hours I was there twice a week. They were a cheapish pair and really not a walking shoe at all I would have thought. The pair you had Femi, must be a more expensive boot and just a great fit. but as mentioned by Leslie, quite a weighty item I would have thought. Femi, I was totally fine with boiling as opposed to being biten constantly as they were everywhere by the 100's! Not sure our guide was, the poor thing, had sweat running in every direction!
Hi Leslie
It is a fairly good jacket and is waterproof supposedly, not water resistant! Though in really torrential rain, very little is water proof I would think. It also will be cool at that time of the year as well. Looked at some gorilla photos on someone's phone at dinner the other night, from January, and they were dressed like it was the middle of winter, so am expecting it to be quite cold especially if standing still. I would be happy to have all this planning and for it not to rain. Now I just have to worry about the camera gear! For a long time have a waterproof hard case, but for the first time will not be taking that as too heavy, so need to find a waterproof backpack to carry the camera gear in. Something else to worry about now!

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Kaye
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Apr 3rd, 2013, 05:54 AM
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Right, protecting your camera is even more important. I didn't even take mine out of my backpack on our rainy-day trek -- luckily had gotten a few pix the previous day. Ziploc inside my backpack did the trick (everything else in the pack was wet). My husband used one of his cameras, the older, less expenseive one and it did seize up as it got wet and he thought it was done for but within a few days it had dried out enough to work again.

I have a waterproof backpack at home but didn't take it as I thought it would certainly get pricked and ruined. Same flawed logic used on my good waterproof jacket that I didn't take so it wouldn't get snagged. Ridiculous!

Make sure to put your passport in a ziploc. Or maybe in Rwanda passports aren't necessary the day of your trek as they were in Uganda.
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Apr 3rd, 2013, 07:14 AM
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After reading all these comments, I will take more seriously the possibility of rain during my upcoming Aug trip to Rwanda. I think up to this point my mind had been saying I was visiting during the "dry season" - haha. Thanks everyone for a reality check. Perhaps bringing the rain poncho will mean it will be dry and sunny and temperate
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