Posts Tagged ‘local’

Gasura Village Tour in Musanze District, Rwanda


The village children were out of school and very friendly

Last month I went to Rwanda for the first time. The trip was planned around mountain gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park. The gorilla treks took place in the mornings, leaving the days free after returning to the hotel, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, between 11:30 and 2 pm.


I love how women in Rwanda boldly mix prints

The lodge’s managers, Kenya natives Thor Karstad & Alisa Bowen, thought we might enjoy going on a village tour with Theodore Nzabonimpa, a local guide from the Volcanoes Opportunity Association. It sounded very interesting so we asked them to set the two hour walking tour for the next afternoon.


Two of the local village women I met during my walking tour

Gasura village is a short walk from the Sabyinyo Silverback lodge, where Theodore met us. I liked that the hotel has a connection with the local community. The Volcanoes Opportunity Association is a charity organization that was created to support local people through community tourism activities, like these village tours.

Theodore lead us along the roads and through fields to nearby Gasura village. He told us a bit about Rwanda en route. One of the first things you notice about Rwanda is how clean it is. Theodore explained that the country has monthly clean up day, Umuganda, where 80% of the population takes part of community service.

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One of the village’s elder women

We walked about 15 minutes from the lodge to village streets where Theodore started being followed by the local village children, who were not in school due to the December holidays. Theodore is a real Pied Piper and knew all the kids. The smiles of the village children were infectious.

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Left: Crafty women making baskets Right: baskets made by the village women

Some of the tour highlights included stopping at the homes of village women who make these incredible baskets by hand. These baskets came in a variety of colors and patterns, and take the women 1-2 weeks to make. We wanted to purchase a few and the women who made them charged us US $5 to $10 per basket.

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The kitchen of a village house in Gasura, Rwanda

We made stops along the walk to families that Theodore works with through the Volcanoes Opportunity Association, who welcomed us into their homes and showed us what real village life is. It was eye opening experience.

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The Volcanoes Opportunities Association provides a mattress to each family it works with

We got to peek inside the houses of local villagers. The simple structures were usually divided into a bedroom and living area, with a separate kitchen. The homes were sparsely furnished, and hangers in the bedroom served as a makeshift closet. There was usually a second set of clothes, but not much more than that.


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One of well dressed village children

The village children were as curious about us as we were about them. They were absolutely fascinated when I would show them photos I shot with my iPhone, especially the moving live photos on my iPhone 6s.

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Local women peeling potatoes in Gasura Village, Rwanda

My husband and I quickly realized none of these kids has ever seen a printed photo. We decided to take as many photographs as possible so we could have them printed and send them back to Theodore so he could to give them to the children.

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This little lady was all kinds of fierce

The children very much enjoyed having their photos taken, and my camera became a way to connect and interact with them that transcended language barriers. We all had fun interacting, and I got to understand the everyday lives of the villagers I met.

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Theodore gave a few items of clothing to local village children

Theodore knows what he is doing. He distributed a few items of clothing to the local children and I was struck by how polite the kids were. They seemed excited for each other, even if they were not the recipient of the item. This is a stark contrast to some of the more hands out, baksheesh-driven places I’ve visited.

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This girl carried the baskets we purchased on her head very gracefully


Theodore balancing baskets and talking with the local villagers

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Waves are universal

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Kids playing ball on one of the village roads

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Portrait of a Rwandan boy

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Some kids were wearing their school uniforms, despite being on holiday


Two gorgeous smiles on girls in Gasura village

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The local children were out of school for the holidays

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Kids were often giving piggy back rides to children not much smaller than they were

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My husband, Jeff, showing the kids live photos on his iPhone

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Left: Photographing the village women Right: the picture I shot

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Theodore took this photo of us with the group of village children

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The villagers enjoyed seeing the images I just shot

I loved geeking out over new technology with the local villagers.


Theodore with a group of children in Gasura village

Going on a gorilla trekking safari was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So was meeting the local villagers in Rwanda and getting a feel for their lives. I think it made my trip more meaningful. I’d highly recommend taking a tour with Theodore if you’re planning a trip to Rwanda. It’s an unforgettable experience and a great example of how a small, focused charity really can help people.

Guide name: Theodore Nzabonimpa
Contact phone : +250 788 495 604
Name of the tour :Village walk
Village : Gasura village

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Photo Essay: Visiting The Skeleton Coast Museum, Namibia

Skeletons on Display

Nambia’s Skeleton Coast National Park may be geographically remote, but it’s well worth the effort to get there.

Giant whale pelvis and a boat near the Skeleton Coast Museum

There is a seal colony near by, and a small but very interesting and unique museum.

Wreakage along the rugged coastline

An old boat outside the Skeleton Coast Museum

I loved the rough hewn museum signage

The museum is not fancy, but that is part of it’s charm. There are, appropriately, a lot of skeletons of local wildlife on display.

Left: Bones lined up against a wall R: the skull of Cape Fur Seal

Articles about plane and boat crashes are on display

The Skeleton Coast has quite a history of plane and boat crashes. There are articles and pieces of wreckage from some of these accidents on display at the museum.

Left: petrified lobster right: turtle shells

Most of the bones found along the Skeleton Coast are from seals and and other local animals. But human bones can also be found.

Small creatures preserved in formaldehyde

The museum’s simple layout and lack of formal displays make it both intimate and really effing cool.

A ship wreck on the Skeleton Coast

Within walking distance of the seal colony is the rusting shell of a shipwreck.

Left: the rusty hull of a boat right: wreckage and rocks

Perhaps the most famous shipwreck story is that of the Dunedin Star, with a crew of 85 and 21 passengers.

Rusting hull of a boat

It’s amazing to see the skeletons of boats along Namibia’s Coast

Cape Fur Seal pups

A fur seal colony along the Skeleton Coast

A whale pelvis outside the Skeleton Coast Museum

Skeleton Coast Panorama

Up close with a shipwreck on Nambia’s Skeleton Coast

My trip to the Skeleton Coast Museum was arranged by Wilderness Safaris during my stay at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp.

Wilderness Safaris


+27 ­11 ­807 ­1800
Mon-Fri 08:00 – 17:00 GMT+2

Cape Town

+27 ­21 ­702 ­7500
Mon-Fri 08:00 – 17:00 GMT+2

My trip to the Skeleton Coast Museum was arranged by Wilderness Safaris at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp.

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Fijian Dancers at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Fiji: A Photo Essay with GIFs

A group of school aged children performing at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort

One of the things I liked most about my recent glamping trip to the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji was that it felt authentically Fijian. There was no chain hotel vibe and Fijian culture was front and center.

A group of dancers from Nukubalavu Village

Two nights a week the property has groups of Fijian dancers perform. One dance troupe is from Nukubalavu village, which is the village where most of the hotel’s staff reside. Many of the dancers are related to the hotel workers which made the performance extra special.

Fijian dancers twirling GIF

Busting a move, Fijian style

The dancers perform a meke– a traditional Fijian dance performance– that is usually done at celebrations and festivals.

Fiji’s answer to Twerking GIF

I liked that the dancers were various age groups and performed in a variety of styles.

I adored this dancer’s traditional outfit and sweet smile

Hips Don’t Lie: Fiji Edition

There are no televisions at the Jean-Michel Resort, but with entertainment like this you definitely do not miss them.

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort

Lesiaceva Point, Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji

+679 885 0188

You can read more about my stay at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji on the blog.


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Where to Eat in Florence, Italy: Trattoria 13 Gobbi

Spaghetti pomodoro at Trattoria 13 Gobbi

It’s not hard to eat well when visiting Italy, but sometimes it’s not easy finding a trattoria that appeals to both locals and tourists alike. After taking a private tour of the Accademia Gallery in Florence, my husband I wanted to have lunch someplace less overrun with tourists. Elisabetta, our incredible tour guide, suggested checking out Trattoria 13 Gobbi, which she said had a good mix of locals and tourists and excellent food.

Relaxed yet comfortable atmosphere at Trattoria 13 Gobbi

Located in an alley a little off the beaten path, Trattoria 13 Gobbi had upscale casual atmosphere and fair prices. It’s cozy and charming, and the service was quite good, with Aperol Spritzes showing up just moments after we ordered them. The restaurant wasn’t packed solid, but there were tables of Italians, and a small Japanese couple who ate an entire Florentine steak while barely coming up for air.

Zuppe at Trattoria 13 Gobbi

The pasta fagioli soup was delicious and hearty and one of the the Tuscan regional dishes typical of the restaurant’s menu. The pasta was also excellent, simple and clean. Despite being full, I lusted over my neighbor’s insalata caprese, since both the mozzarella and tomatoes looked perfectly ripe and divine.

Left: Tuscan white beans were a great side dish Right: The spinach side

We shared sides of Tuscan white beans (yum) and spinach while drinking Tuscan wine by the glass. The meal’s sole let down was the veal milanese, which came over salted. When we pointed this out to the server he apologized and explained the “perhaps the chef is in love.” It was charming (and we were already full). Our server removed the item from the bill.

Locals at Trattoria 13 Gobbi

We left lunch completely satisfied and I was disappointed I did not get a chance to return to 13 Gobbi for dinner. I liked the combination of relaxed atmosphere and delicious food, and found the international crowd appealing. I’ll definitely be returning on my next trip to Florence.

Shrine to Tinganello, one of my favorite wineries in the Chianti region

Trattoria 13 Gobbi

Address: Via del Porcellana, 9R, Firenze, Italy

Phone:+39 055 284015


Price range: €21-40

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Street Photography from Pitti Fashion Week in Florence, Italy

Sharp dressed dog in Florence, Italy

Technically, I’m on “vacation” this week– tooling around Italy with my husband. But “vacation” is a tricky concept for someone who has been running a travel blog for 3 years… I’m not sure if it’s possible for me not to publish a post when I see something cool that I’d like to share. Fortunately, my husband is a workaholic and pretty tolerant when I feel the need to whip out my camera.

Even the dogs dress up during Pitti Fashion Week in Florence

I’ve been in Florence for the past few days, which happen to be part of Pitti Fashion Week. Italians are a stylish bunch– I even met a puppy who is better dressed than most and decided a photo essay of street photos wouldn’t be too intrusive on my “vacation.”

Florence’s Bapitstry is wrapped in Pucci in honor of Fashion week

Florence’s famous baptistry is currently wrapped in a Pucci print for Pitti Fashion Week. Pucci grew up in Florence and was at one point a member of the Italian parliament.

Linea Pelle Pop-up Shop for Pitti Fashion Week

Florence is famous for leather work. Italian leather goods manufacturer Linea Pelle has a pop up in the streets of Florence to show how their high end leather goods are made. It’s pretty cool.

Sticker street art in Firenze

The big news here in Florence is that as of two weeks ago, the Accademia Gallery started to allow non-flash photography in the gallery, which means now you get to see Michelangelo’s David– a true masterpiece– while darting a throng of iPad photographers taking selfies.

Old school photo booth on the streets of Florence

I’m sure David will start appearing in #selfies all over Instagram, Snapchat, and Grindr. But while Michaelangelo was a genius with perspective most selfie shooters are not. Expect amusing (and unflattering) #DavidSelfies in your social media streams.

Eurotrashy David-inspired Boxers

If you’re planning a trip to Florence, be aware that waiting times for the Accademia Gallery can be 3 hours or more. Do yourself a favor and book reserved tickets online before you come. It’s well worth it and there are much better ways to spend your time in Firenze other than waiting in line.

The David does not disappoint

Don’t miss seeing the David. I’d put it up there with the Pyramids of Giza and the Taj Mahal in terms of living up to the hype (unlike the tiny Mona Lisa).

Ciao for now.

Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze

Address: Via Bettino Ricasoli, 60, 50122 Firenze, Italy

Phone:+39 055 294883

You can book reserved tickets and schedule your visit to Accademia Gallery in Florence here.

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