Today we travelled East towards the border with Tanzania to Akagera National Park. The scenery is just stunning: hilly, with terraced agriculture and lots of well-kept little villages. People here are poor, and their houses may be made of mud brick, but they are managing to survive on subsistence agriculture and keep their houses and yards spotless. The roads were not busy, as there are few large towns east of Kigali, and if it wasn't for crazy truck drivers, it would be a fantastic place to cycle. We did see evidence of this in the remains of a horrific traffic accident that looked like it took place the night before. Trucks may not have headlights, or proper brakes; in this case we saw at least one body under a blanket at the side of the road.
The park was not busy either: we saw only one other vehicle the whole time. This is probably because you have to bring your own 4x4 - the dirt roads in the park provide ample experience of the "African massage". Our first encounter was a large buffalo that was standing in the middle of the dirt track, looking very unimpressed by us. He was covered in caked dirt, with several birds perched on his back. Eventually he allowed us to pass. Further down the road was a watering hole with a family of lazy hippopotomi. They didn't even acknowledge our presence beyond some snuffling of water through their nostrils.
A few monkeys swung nimbly through the trees in the distance. Not so for the baboons: every time they bounced down to another branch the tree swayed dangerously in a loud flurry of rustling leaves and crackling twigs. They are not particularly subtle.
(I wish I could post the animal pictures: I took them with Scott's big digital SLR camera, but didn't bring the USB cable. I will try to amend this post in a few weeks when I get home).
By now we had driven out to a large plain, very lush. I think it used to be a lake, years ago. Herds of zebras, impala, topi (a kind of antelope) and another large group of buffalo seemed to coexist in relative harmony. I am baffled by the zebras. They have such impressive stripes, but it's really not very good camouflage. You'd think they would have chosen shades of brown for their hide. Some guy in their R&D department is about to get fired.
The giraffes were possibly my favourite. In one thicket we came upon a family: father, mother and two young, likely twins. We got out of the car and tip-toed towards them for a better look. They didn't seem too concerned about this, although they eventually meandered on their way.
I have no idea of the name of the bird in the photo above. It was wandering around where we were having lunch.
Contest: name the above bird. Creative suggestions encouraged.