24 hours in Kigali Rwanda

Kigali Rwanda is not on many people’s bucket lists. The only reason we went was as a convenient end point to our Ugandan/Rwandan safari. When putting together our itinerary, we decided to stay at the infamous Milles des Collines hotel (of Hotel Rwanda fame), now a Kempinski hotel.

At the hotel Milles des Collines, aka the Hotel Rwanda
At the hotel Milles des Collines, aka the Hotel Rwanda. In the background the famous pool.

Where to stay in Kigali, Rwanda 

In a way the choice, or lack there of, of suitable hotels led to us staying here is a great symbol of my apprehension of going to Rwanda. You see outside of the Rwandan genocide, I knew nothing about the capital city of Rwanda. A look in the tourist guides provided little other information about the city away from its genocide.

As we arrived late in the evening, I looked towards our next day in the city with some apprehension.

What you need to know about visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre

Our main stop, as I think is the case with many tourists was the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. The centre has beautiful grounds that serves as a cemetery for over 250,000 people who died in the Capital during the Genocide. The scale of this memorial only serves to emphasis the extent of the atrocity. Inside, the centre is given over to explaining how the genocide came to pass, historical context and how the international community did little to prevent or intervene. A shameful blemish on reputation on the rest of the international community.

It was without a doubt the most upsetting place I have ever been. The sheer scale coupled with the stories of survivors had me in tears. The stories of children caught up in the Genocide were the most harrowing. There were some stories of heros that risked their lives for others that were uplifting and a welcome relief but not enough to counter the effects. Though uncomfortable, I am really happy that we visited the Memorial.

What to see in Kigali Rwanda 

Once we had left the genocide memorial we went to an artisan craft market. It was only once we had left the genocide memorial that you began to notice the ages of the people in capital, the missing generation and notice the literal scars on the residents of Kigali.

Despite this, I came away from Kigali with a feeling of hope. It is remarkable that the city doesn’t have more problems. There is not an ongoing quest for retribution. Instead, I saw a city rising from the ashes and trying to move towards a better future. Initiatives by the Kigali City Council such as once a month mandatory street cleaning for all residents, make it feel like a city of the rise. It was one of the cleanest places I have been, and I don’t just mean in Africa. More recently it has embraced the no car days to encourage exercise and community gathering. It feels like a city looking towards a different and better future.

Our lasting impression of Kigali Rwanda

In the end I was glad that I went to Kigali and the Genocide Memorial. But most of all, I was glad I stayed at the Milles des Collines. It was here, where Paul Rusesabagina let over 1000 people take refuge,  that I had time to reflect on Kigali and my short time there. It reminded me that there are always people, however few that will put there lives at risk for the sake of others.

My hopes for Kigali in the future is that they can diversify and create a country that is defined by more than just its Genocide and its springing off point to see gorillas.

Sunshine after the rain, a rainbow in Kigali
Sunshine after the rain, a rainbow in Kigali
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Untold Morsels

 

Kazinga Channel – a sailing safari!

When you think of safari, you think of open topped jeeps driving through the vast expanse of wilderness. I had never even considering taking a safari by boat until it was suggested for us to do in Uganda.

Where?

The Kazinga Channel. This is the channel that links Lake George and Lake Edward and runs through the Queen Elizabeth National Park

Why You Should Do it?

I had never really considered the benefits to this type of safari until we actually did it. Being on a boat offers a unique perspective to other types of safari.

Firstly it allows you to get up close and personal to many animals that for safety reasons you couldn’t do in other mdoes of transport. One of our favourites was getting to see Hippos really close. Hippos are really dangerous on both land and in water so having a sturdy boat was the only way in which to get close. We saw entire herds of them and even saw a baby out of the water!

A herd of hippos
Kazinga channel

 

A baby hippo
A baby hippo

Other than hippos, we also saw crocodiles, elephants, water buffalo and wart hogs.

An elephant at the Kazinga Channel
An elephant at the Kazinga Channel

But perhaps one of the best bits was the ability to bird watch from the boat. As you can see from this picture, the variety of birds you see here is pretty unbeatable.

The Kazinga Channel, A Birdwatchers Paradise
The Kazinga Channel, A Birdwatchers Paradise

Some birds have their nests in the muddy embankments of the channel, a view that would have been impossible to see if not by boat!

Birds nesting in the Kazinga Channel Embankment
Birds nesting in the Kazinga Channel Embankment

Another great aspect of the boat trip was getting to understand more about the local life and social history. As the sunset over the Kazinga Channel we sailed alongside boats full of men going out to fish. It was humbling to see how people live.

The locals fishing on the Kazinga Channel
The locals fishing on the Kazinga Channel

It also gave an interesting perspective on how animals and humans coexist. The guide here told us about the villages that remain inside of the national park and how the Ugandan Wildlife Authority are trying to make it so these villages thrive off tourism more than poaching.

This is my favourite picture showing how the villagers and wildlife coexist.

Man and beast coexisting at the Kazinga channel
Man and beast coexisting at the Kazinga channel

Have you ever been on a water safari? I would love to hear your experiences.

This post was part of the #MondayEscapes linkup

Uganda Safaris – Plane, train or automobile?

Ok so just plane or car but that title is no where near as catchy. Uganda safaris are something that we always wanted to do. When we knew we were headed towards becoming a family, we decided to have one last blow out holiday to somewhere you can’t take kids. I am all for travelling anywhere with children but my line in the sand is a malarial zones. Therefore chose Uganda safaris and gorilla trekking as our last couple holiday.

How to travel around Uganda – plane or drive safari?

When we were initially looking at doing a safari one of the things we found is that if you want to be remote you need to take a small plane. I am not a fan of small planes. One of the big appeals of Uganda was the ability to drive across it. When we announced this most people thought we were mad. That our time would be wasted driving between locations. That the roads would be arduous and really hard going. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

What is it like to drive across Uganda?

The hardest part of our journey was leaving Entebbe, the busiest part of Uganda we experienced. The roads here were congested and I imagine rush hour would have been a nightmare. Fortunately we left after the main morning rush hour so our experience wasn’t too horrific.

What is life like in Uganda?

Actually seeing the city was itself quite interesting. Watching the markets was a fascinating insight into life in Uganda. Seeing the markets of Entebbe was such an interesting contrast to the markets we saw in the more rural areas. My favourite part of was looking at the local merchants who were making their products on the street. We saw a local merchant making coffins, pork shops and fabric dyeing stalls.

The most interesting however was a demonstration a local merchant treated us to showing us how he made clothes with paper bark. Paper bark clothing is Uganda’s only representation of the UNESCO world intangible heritage list and was truly a delight to see first hand. All this in our first hour in the car!

Bringing Bananas to Market, Uganda
Bringing Bananas to Market, Uganda

Why I loved driving across Uganda

By driving across Uganda I think we got to see more of Uganda in terms of both people and wildlife. Driving through the villages, it was fascinating to see how each village had grown up around one type of ‘industry’. Whether it was coffee bean drying, tea picking, banana or cinnamon production. We even saw how these products were brought to market where traders came from all directions congregating on one small town to exchange their goods on market day. In some ways it was quite medieval to be driving along the road and seeing merchant after merchant carrying the goods to the nearest market day to sell or trade but gave a real insight into what everyday Ugandan village life is like.

Ugandan scooter going to market
Ugandan scooter going to market

One of the most surprising things I found about the drive was how built up the Ugandan countryside was. I had expected wide expanses where we saw no people but in fact Uganda is heavily populated throughout the countryside and the roads not as bad as I had expected.

A church at Bwindi
A church at Bwindi

Friends of ours who had flown across Uganda said that they found a lot of begging when they left the local airports to drive to their lodges. Whether this was because perhaps areas around the airports saw more tourists and had the expectation or whether we had just been lucky but his not something we experienced in Uganda. The most begging we saw was one girl on the road shouting “Give me Sweeties!”

The other highlight for me of driving rather than flying across Uganda was the wildlife we saw this way. From the road we spotted a variety of birds, to many to name in this post, baboons, several varieties of monkeys, elephants and even lions.

Baboons at the roadside
Baboons at the roadside

 

Uganda toilers – the truth for travellers

For me the greatest concern about this option was the toilet facilities. However even this was not as bad as expected. Most toilets were squat toilets which as a European I was not use to. On reflection if I did again I might take a she-wee as an aid and additional loo roll but other than that it was for the majority fine.

Our Volcanoes Safari Jeep
Our Volcanoes Safari Jeep

Some may see the additional time taken to travel between lodges as a downside however the experience for us was well worth it. I think we got a better overview of the social history of the country and the people who live there and truly immersed ourselves in the landscapes and wildlife it has to offer. Overall I have no regrets about driving rather than flying as I feel I have seen more of the country and and would certainly choose to travel overland again.

Details of our travel

We booked our tour through Steppes Travel. Again flying was the primary option for travel between lodges but they were more than happy to tailor a driving safari to our needs. Why not read more in our Uganda safaris series here

 

Copenhagen Castles – A 48 hour Itinerary

I love castles! Before going to Copenhagen I had no idea how many Copenhagen castles there were in the greater Copenhagen area. From the castles in the city such as Rosenborg and Christiansborg to those that you have to take a train to such as Frederiksborg and Kronburg, there are so many things to see for a castle lover in Copenhagen!
Continue reading Copenhagen Castles – A 48 hour Itinerary

Flying and Morning Sickness: A Survival Guide

I never had that lovely pregnancy glow – just the morning sickness sweats! There wasn’t a toilet within a ten mile radius that I hadn’t stuck my head down. You see I was one of those unfortunate people that suffered morning sickness until my third trimester. I had a brief period of restate before it had an encore. On top of that, my morning sickness was more a morning, noon and night sickness having more oral expulsions than Krakatoa! For me, not travelling during pregnancy was a no no. I have to travel regularly for work and if I was doing that I was sure going to travel for pleasure! This meant I was going to have to learn to deal with flying and morning sickness.

I’m not saying you should travel while suffering from morning sickness and a doctor should always be consulted. But if like me you have no choice but to travel while morning sick here are my top tips for surviving  flying and morning sickness. I do mean surviving because when flying with morning sickness, this is the best outcome you can hope for:

Tips for surviving flying and morning sickness

1. Fly Business or First

If at all possible fly business or first. I did both of these while pregnant and these journeys were far more pleasurable than when I was back in economy. But let’s face it – this is an option many of us can’t afford when travelling on our own dime.

2. Check out the seat configuration of the plane and choose your seat wisely. 

There is an art form to picking the perfect seat while suffering from morning sickness. An aisle seat is a must! It’s better anyway to help prevent deep vein thrombosis. It will help for all those joyous trips to the bathroom that pregnancy gives you. If for some reason you can’t get one, it’s always worth asking fellow passengers. In my experience, no one wants to be vomited on!

You definitely want to be close to the toilets in case your body gives you a five second warning about impending vom! But if bad toilet smells – yep we’ve all been on that flight – or toilet chemicals are your trigger then maybe give yourself a couple of rows leeway. Fortunately for me, neither of these were my triggers.

I always opted for an aisle row seat just in front of the bathroom next to the galley. It is always worth checking these seats, as on many planes these are in a two person configuration, which means if you have a midair-seatbelt-sign-on incident, only your partner is going to have to suffer watching you hurl in a little paper bag

3. Hoard the barf bags!

Thankfully present on all flights, these little bags will become your best friend. It is always worth having more than one with you, just in case.

Now the biggest tip I have, which was given to me by an ex-stewardess friend, is always carry a good supply of ziploc bags. These are great for times when you have no sick bags . But they are also great for those midair-seatbelt-sign-on incidents. You can put away your lovely bag of vomit discretely and trap in all those lovely aromas at the same time. Your fellow passengers are definitely going to thank you for that one!

Don’t forget to grab a couple of unused barf bags on your way off. I always kept a healthy supply of these in my handbag!

4. Bring on your own food. 

For me, food smells were my biggest trigger so I always carried on food for me and my hubby to limit the amount of airplane food odours around me and make sure I had something with me I knew I could stomach. For me, this meant a healthy supply of salt and vinegar crisps in the early days and some mints for breath freshener.

5. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! 

I always informed the stewardess at the beginning of the flight about my pregnancy and asked for them to bring me a bottle of water. They never said no and I was always given a large bottle as it would save them time during a flight.

6. Sleep, sleep and more sleep

Easier said than done I know but if at all all possible try to rest. Travel can be exhausting anyway, let alone travelling while pregnant but I found the better rested I was, the more I was able to deal with the sickness.

7. Extra clothes and tie that hair up  

I doubt this one needs extra explanation

8. Remember your meds or any remedies doctor has prescribed

So these are my top tips for flying while morning sick. During my pregnancy I travelled to 10 countries. I did a few long haul flights all with success. Flying and morning sickness is never going to be a pleasurable experience but I hope, that if you have decided to or need to travel while suffering from morning sick, these tips will help.

Do you have any tips for surviving flying and morning sickness?

Flying and morning sickness: a survival guide
Flying and morning sickness: a survival guide
 
If you want ideas for pre-baby travel why not check out our pre-baby travel bucket list or our baby moon ideas!

 

 

Elephant Safari at Udewalawe National Park

In celebration of #elephantday I thought I would share with you an adventure we had when we were just a Wandermust Couple in Sri Lanka! I had never been on safari, so when I got the opportunity to go to Sri Lanka before our upcoming Africa trip, I couldn’t help but feel like we were getting a warm up. An opportunity to test our safari gear, test photography etc. However this was a gross underestimate of how amazing Sri Lanka is!

Elephants cooling off in the Midday sun, Udewalawe national park
Elephants cooling off in the Midday sun, Udewalawe national park

We were looking at possible trips to Yala or Udewalawe National Park. We eventually decided on Udewalawe for a number of reasons. Firstly we had heard that Yala, was the more popular of the sights and sometimes you could be fighting with a number of other jeeps to get close to wildlife. Also, despite having fewer elephants, the smaller park size meant there were greater chances of getting a great elephant sighting.

So off we went. We had literally been in the park for four minutes when we came across our first elephant. He was more than happy to put on a show, showering himself with water right next to our car. If I had been worried about not seeing elephants, ten minutes inside the park had dispelled any concerns. We must have seen about 50 elephants during our 4 hours in the park. My personal favourite was watching a family of elephants heading into a pool of water to cool off in the midday sun. I couldn’t have asked for a better shot!

Elephant
Elephant at Udewalawe

On our trip around Udewalawe – we never saw another car and felt like we were really alone with nature. A big shout out has to go to our guides whose eagle eyes caught things we never would have. Other than elephant we saw numerous birds, and I am sure if we had got there earlier in the morning we would have seen even more.

Unfortunately we didn’t see any leopards which are notoriously difficult to spot – but I will certainly be returning for another shot!

Overall:

Safaris in Sri Lanka, can rival that of Africa, especially if you are an elephant fan. A recommendation for anyone travelling to Sri Lanka!

One happy Wandermust Mummy, Udewalawe National Park
One happy Wandermust Mummy

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Oregon Girl Around the World

 

5 Tips for visiting Souq Waqif with a Baby during the Summer

Whenever we get visitors to Doha the first place they want to go is the Souq Waqif. Why wouldn’t they – the Souq is awesome and gives people a flavour of something uniquely Middle Eastern. Souq Waqif – meaning Standing Market, is located just off the Doha Cornice. A beautiful spot when you can get a real taste for the local culture. It was therefore  no surprise when family came to visit Baby E that they wanted to go to the Souq. Baby E was born as we were heading into summer so was this going to be possible?

It absolutely was! But there are certainly ways to do it that make it more enjoyable for all so here are my top tips for visiting Souq Waqif with a baby in the Summer!

Souq Waqif at night
Souq Waqif at night
Do as the locals do! 

Embrace the night-time. The souq doesn’t really come alive until the evening anyway so do as the locals do and head down to the Souq after sundown. This will be a more authentic experience, have a better atmosphere and cooler for everyone!

Baby carrier or pram? 

This was a big debate we had. The Baby Carrier would make manoeuvrability a lot easier – The main street of Souq Waqif is cobbled, off which are a series of small narrow alleyways lined with shops and traders which aren’t to be missed for a true Souq experience – but carrying a baby that close to you was likely to make us both hot and sweaty. Given the time of year and the heat we opted for the pram. Yes this was a bit more cumbersome but a decision I am glad we took. When we return in the Winter we would definitely use the carrier but for summer months the pram is a must!

Make sure you dress for summer even at night
Make sure you dress for summer even at night
Dress appropriately

This goes without saying for adults, but follow all the rules and customs about keeping shoulders and knees covered as to not cause offence but remember these rules don’t apply to little ones. Dress your little one in vests only to keep them cool but be sure to have blankets with you as many of the Souq restaurants have fierce air-conditioning.

Ask for Lifts

Some of the restaurants have upstairs with lovely terraces or seating areas. Be sure if you are travelling with a pram to ask if there is a lift. The restaurant we were in had one but it was tucked out of sight!

Avoid Shisha

I personally don’t like taking Baby E to places that are smoky, even with shish smoke (which some people wrongly say isn’t as harmful!), so we tend to visit restaurants where they either don’t serve shisha or where smokers are separated from diners.

These are our top five tips for visiting the Souq Waqif at night with a baby! What advice would you give?

This post was done as part of the #CityTripping Linkup hosted by MummyTravels

 

Seychelles Mama

 

Surviving the Middle East Summer with a baby 

Surviving summer in the Middle East with a Newborn

Surviving Middle East Summer with a Newborn

As Doha traffic will testify, most expats leave for the summer; trying to escape the Middle Eastern Summer  where temperatures can and do exceed 50 degrees. If you are not one of those people able to participate in the mass expat exodus, summer can be a particularly long and difficult time, especially with a newborn! So here are my top tips for surviving a Middle Eastern Summer with a new baby!

What to do with your baby in the summer

Make malls your friend!

I think there are two kinds of people in this world – those that like shopping and those that don’t! I am definitely in the latter of these groups but living in the Middle East, especially in the Summer, you learn to embrace the mall! Not necessarily for shopping but as one of the few places you can go for a walk during the daytime. Many malls in Qatar try to encourage residents to walk 10K steps a day and have routes to achieve this. Ok, I know, it’s not the most riveting walk you will ever go on but it is at least a chance to stretch your legs and have a change of scenery!

Find local groups

While you are stuck at home with your newborn, it can feel like you are the only new mother who hasn’t escaped to cooler climbs but this isn’t the case. You just have to know where to find them. Scope out any local mother and baby groups and go along to one of their events. Let’s face it at this point, outings are more for your sanity than baby’s development so go out there and meet new people.

Become nocturnal (ish)

Ok – this is a piece of advice that I struggle to follow. Baby E is a baby who loves her routine and we have got bedtime down to a tee! I am reticent to change anything that may mess up her sleep schedule but I know other mothers who this has worked a charm for. You will find that many venues in the Middle East only come alive at night – particularly places like the Souq! So do as the locals do and take advantage of the cooler night temperatures! The times we have done it we have had great fun!

Enjoy some culture

Aside from malls, the other thing Qatar is investing is in culture as part of its 2030 vision. There are several great museums in Qatar that you can visit during the summer. The Muesum of Islamic Art and Mathaf  are must sees while in Qatar.

Take advantage of baby’s portability and treat yourself!

It seems hard I know, surviving summer with a newborn but I am pretty sure it only gets more difficult as baby gets older and requires constant entertainment. So why not take advantage of the portability and relative immobility of baby and indulge in some indoor entertainment for yourself. My favourites so far have been indulging in afternoon tea at the Four Seasons (see our review) and an array of business lunches at some of Doha’s finest hotels.

What advice do you have for mothers with newborns for surviving the Middle East summer?

Surviving the Middle East summer with a baby
Surviving the Middle East summer with a baby