The month of April has many names in Rwanda. Often referred to as the ‘Bamboo Shoot’ season, this is a great time to visit as the bamboo makes the gorillas playful and gregarious, which in turn makes the trekking just that little bit more exhilarating!
Gorillas love the bamboo shoot season – photo credit Dave Richards
April is also known as the ‘Green Season’ in Rwanda due to the amount of agricultural turn over that takes place – the farmers sow their seeds in March and suddenly the countryside comes to life in April! I promise that if you sit right now, for the time it takes to drink a large coffee, you can literally watch the grass grow! Around our lodge, the lawn mowers at Sabyinyo are getting a work out and the sheep are getting fat! We have a new novel coming out soon, written specifically about Northern Rwanda, called ’50 shades of green’ !
Morning sun and ’50 shades of green’ fields in April – photo credit Marius van Grann
We also know April as the ‘Monsoons’ and the ‘Rainy Season’. The Monsoons is a bit of a boring name, but it is true: the trade winds off the East African Coast switch from Northerly to Southerly sometime in April. So gone are the warm dry winds originating in the Sahara Desert. Welcome the stormy clouds that form over the Southern Indian Ocean and drop directly on us here at Sabyinyo!! And as for the ‘rainy season’ well this is true too, and nearly everyone, if they are being honest, calls it this because it rains a lot in the Virunga Mountains in April!!!
In contrast: afternoon rain and cloud over Sabyinyo – photo credit Michael Hughes
All this talk of rains is not meant to discourage any ‘would-be’ visitors to Rwanda though. If I am honest the mornings tend to be dry, with no rain, a bit overcast mind you, with clouds building. This means that the treks have been pleasant. I think that the Gorillas make the most of the mornings because they tend to be exuberant at this time. So the Gorilla viewing in April has been super-pleasant.
We usually expect the rain in the afternoon, and what better way to spend your afternoon than in a hot bubble bath, snug in comfortable clothing, by a roaring log fire. And a refreshment that warms you from the inside outwards. Its good for the soul.
What better way to spend the afternoon after a gorilla trek? Photo credit Marius van Grann
Also good for the soul is our trio traditional music that we often play with pre-dinner drinks. Felician from the village just below the lodge plays the Inanga. The Inanga was considered the first musical instrument of Rwanda and Burundi. The Inanga is rarely taught but owners of the instrument leave it casually about so that their children pick it up and self-teach themselves to play. Rwandans say that cows love the sound of Inanga, it somewhat soothes them!
Peter, from rooms service, plays the Umuduri. It is difficult to describe the Umuduri instrument but it is basically a single stringed bow with a gourd attached to it. The player has to strum the string at the same time as keeping a different rhythm striking the gourd with a rattle. Peter uses the room keys as a rattle! Clement, also from rooms, plays the Gitari (Kinyarwanda for Guitar) and holds the trio together. Thomas from bar and dining likes to join the trio whenever he can – he plays the cocktail shaker and tongs!
Pre-dinner music, courtesy of our very own Sabyinyo staff! Photo credit Michael Hughes
The traditional performance is special. It is very gentle, rhythmic, charming and goes down very well with an aperitif.
All this said April has been a quiet month in Sabyinyo, well a quiet month in terms of the number of guests. Fewer guests though does not mean it is quiet at the lodge though. Back of house we have had a very busy schedule of maintenance, repairs, paint touch-ups, tweaks and polishing. We have serviced all the equipment and machinery – and also the cars. So right now everything is in good order, looking particularly ship shape, and totally ready for when we are very busy again in May!
By Michael Hughes, manager at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge