Micato Musings


Posts Tagged ‘travel’

5 Reasons to Travel to Rwanda

  • March 22nd 2012

1) Tracking the Endangered Silverback Gorilla

You trek out at first light, the crisp green-scented air suffused with pale pink light. You’re surrounded by the sounds of the jungle waking up: strange calls of exotic birds, hoots of distant monkeys, the last drops of dew plopping off of huge leaves. Then your Micato guide points, and time stops.

You’ve come across a family of gorillas.

There’s nothing between you and them, and there’s nothing to do but sit and stare. The family is in the throes of their everyday life—feeding, playing, resting; raising their young. As one mother turns to groom her child, she catches your eye, and you experience a powerful shock of recognition. The intimate experience of encountering the Silverback gorilla in its natural environs is sure to be the most emotional wildlife experience of your life. There are only 700 of these magnificent creatures left on the planet, so the time to see them is now.

3) Experiencing Country Clean-up Day

Hot coffee in hand, you step out onto your veranda and are greeted by a stunning sight. The landscape is dotted with people, all bent over and picking up trash. A pleasant hum of conversation rises from the scattered clusters of people. Some are in rags, others in business suits, others in tribal clothing. But today they’re all one.

This is Country Clean-up Day, a mandatory monthly event for which the whole country turns out—even the president. This is just one way in which the Rwandan commitment to preserving the environment manifests itself. Rwanda’s path toward unity was an incredibly rocky, heart-breaking one, and to see the results so clearly and positively displayed is hugely moving.

2) Hiking the “Land of a Thousand Hills”

Rwanda is called the “land of a thousand hills,” and we can assure you, the nickname is apt. The lower hills are the realm of the farmers—90% of Rwandans farm for subsistence—and the emerald slopes seen from above look like a patchwork quilt spread over a lumpy bed: each square planted with sweet potatoes or bananas, beans or cassava, tea or coffee. But the mountains—these belong to the intrepid.

The Virunga Mountains, a chain of volcanoes, is our favourite place to hike. Mt. Muhabura is one of the “Ultras,” the most prominent peaks in Africa. It tops out at 14,560 feet, and from its craggy cap all of Africa fans out around you, lush and rich and wild as far as the eye can see. Hale and hearty, pink-cheeked with the pleasure of having hiked all the way up the winding trail, you marvel at the vivid colours and spicy, earthy scent of this gorgeous country.

When you finally tear yourself away from the view, you find that your Micato guide has laid out a magnificent picnic. It’s a hearty repast you’ve fully earned, and makes this excursion truly a delight for all the senses.

4) Getting to Know the Rwandan People

The faces of Rwandan people say it all: gentle smiles paired with liquid eyes. This country has been through a lot, but its remarkable people have turned their heartaches into patience, love and gratitude for life. It’s incredibly rewarding and inspiring just to spend some time with the warm and welcoming locals.

With a renewed country comes new high spirits, and Rwandans certainly know how to celebrate. Music and dance are features of every occasion, ranging from commemorating excellence and bravery, acting out marriage or other  rituals, or teasing each other with humorous one-act imitations .

Lucky visitors may chance upon spontaneous traditional performances in a village. Even more exclusive, Micato can arrange a performance of the Intore Dance Troupe. Founded several centuries ago, the Intore—literally “The Chosen Ones”—once performed exclusively for the Royal Court.

5) Discovering the Rare Golden Monkey

With your Micato guide, you come across a group sitting in a clearing grooming each other. A mother swings effortlessly down from a tree with a tiny baby clutching her chest. Two young males come running, tumbling into each other, so much like two human children that we have to laugh. One of these males approaches a female flirtatiously but is rebuffed. The other eyes the alpha male, who is being groomed by a bevy of females—possibly he’s plotting a coup? The tableau is like one of Shakespeare’s plays, and it’s so mesmerizing that we’re moved to simply sit and observe.

The Golden monkey (Cercopithecus mitis kandti) is quite rare, and—much like its cousin the Silverback gorilla—it can only be found in the foothills of the Virunga Volcanoes. An opportunity to view these small, engaging creatures in their habitat is not to be missed.

Louis Vuitton Knows Africa Is Not A Trip…It’s An Experience

  • February 2nd 2012

“A journey is not a trip. It’s not a vacation… It’s a process of self-discovery.”

So says Louis Vuitton in the company’s compelling video about the value of journeys, which struck a particularly lovely chord for us here at Micato when combined with their Africa -inspired 2012 spring/summer collection.

A journey is a true, authentic type of travel, bringing the traveller right to the heart of a place. We couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to travelling to our beloved Africa: a safari is not just a trip… it’s an experience.

“Every journey begins in Africa,” reads one of the Vuitton ads—an ad that supports Bono and wife Ali Hewson’s fair-trade clothing company, Edun. And strictly speaking it’s true—Africa is the cradle of mankind, the ground where human life began. This alone, Micato has always maintained, is a beguiling reason to visit the continent.

But “every journey begins in Africa” is true in another sense as well. From Kenya to Namibia, Rwanda to Botswana, this land has tempted explorers and adventurers for hundreds of years. Crusaders in the 12th century returned home with fantastic tales of beasts with impossibly long noses, larger than any creature they’d ever seen (elephants, of course.) In the 19th century, the immense unknown spaces tempted restless wanderers searching for the Last Frontier.

Dree Hemingway (Ernest Hemingway's great-granddaughter)

The true magic of Africa is in the very land’s steadfast determination to hold on to its glories. The crusaders and their way of life are long gone, but elephants still lumber across the savannah. Colonialism, thank goodness, is a thing of the past, and the infinite, virgin wilderness remains just as massive and unspoiled as ever.

The birthplace of humanity is a land of vast spaces, fierce wildlife, and wizened tribal elders with eyes that gaze into forever. It is undulating hills speckled with acacia trees, lions whose roaring shakes the windows, sunsets that turn the whole country red and gold. It is Maasai warriors dancing in flickering bonfire light, their shadows long on the ground.

Journeys have always begun in Africa, and they always will. So important is a journey of self-discovery to Louis Vuitton that the concept is one of the company’s core values. It’s safe to say that it’s one of ours, too. The mysteries of Africa run so deep that they remain largely unplumbed… and the only way to discover them is to experience this powerful continent for yourself.

Micato’s Top Ten Africa-Inspired Beach Reads

  • June 9th 2011

“Until the lion has his own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story.” – African Proverb

The hot sun on the pavement reminds us that long summer days of lounging on the beach are fast approaching. When it comes time to pack our Micato duffel bags for a weekend of surf, sun, and seafood, we always remember to include sunscreen, a hat, a towel, and of course, our favorite beach books.

A good beach read is evocative of exotic lands, all the better to get you into the vacation spirit. Our favorites, naturally, are Africa-centric – not only is it our beloved home, but Africa is also a land of nearly endless summer weather and boundless adventure, which recalls the excitement of the summer vacations of childhood.

Whether you are bound by luxury train for the ethereal beauty of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, flying in an elegantly appointed private jet to the golden and turquoise glory of Zanzibar, or simply taking the jitney up to the Hamptons, the following books will get you in the proper summer spirit – a time of year when anything can happen!

Out of Africa

Isak Dinesen

This best-selling classic is even better than the movie, although admittedly lacking the draw of Robert Redford. The tale of a naïve young woman who leaves Denmark to start a coffee plantation in East Africa, Out of Africa is a moving love story inspired by affection for Kenya and its people.

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West with the Night

Beryl Markham

Markham describes her childhood in Kenya and her experiences as a bush pilot in the 1930s with rich and vivid detail. West with the Night is a stylish and engrossing story of a unique life well lived.

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The Flame Trees of Thika

Elsbeth Huxley

Her parents were pioneers in Thika, Kenya, and Huxley was along for the ride. This tale of creating a home in the wild is lavishly and lovingly drawn.

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The Tree Where Man Was Born

Peter Matthieseen

Reading Matthieseen’s travels is almost as good as travelling yourself. As he journeys through the Africa of 1972, we join him in Maasailand, Ngorongoro Carter, and the Kenyan Highlands. Crouch in the bush with him and bear witness to the majestic animals living out age-old dramas mere feet away – just remember to look up from the book and check on the kids from time to time.

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The Collector of Treasure

Bessie Head

Head is widely hailed as one of Africa’s great writers, and this collection of stories is further proof of her power with the pen. Her eloquent vignettes of village life in Botswana revolve around themes of family, prejudice, and power.

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Africa, A Biography of the Continent

John Reader

This one is a must-read for the history buffs in the family, but Reader is so talented that anyone could enjoy this book. He masterfully weaves a lively tale of the continent, from the most ancient cultures right up to modern times.

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North of South, An African Journey

Shiva Naipaul

Nobel Prize winner Naipaul paints a sharp portrait of Africa as it was in 1979. As a brilliant and provocative observer, he meditates on the various peoples he encounters in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. This is hands-down the best, most insightful book we’ve read about race relations in Africa.

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The Green Hills of Africa

Ernest Hemingway

A wonderfully readable tale of hunting in the Lake Manyara area of Tanzania. An account of the classic safari experience from one of the original safari aficionados, The Green Hills of Africa also contains some of the best writing about the land itself.

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Heinemann Book of Contemporary African Short Stories

Chinua Achebe & Lynn Innes

Short stories, with their requirement of a limited attention span, are perfect for a family vacation. This single-volume introduction to the vast literature of Africa is our favorite collection, containing stories spanning the last 37 years.

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The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

Alexander McCall Smith

This one meets all the quintessential beach book requirements: funny, well-written, and evocative of both relaxation and adventure. This is the first of twelve books in Smith’s female detective series of the same name, so if his delightful descriptions of the culture of Botswana appeal to you, snap up the next book, Tears of the Giraffe.