Land of a Thousand Hills
18 March 2013- northern Lake Kivu, Rwanda
We are sitting by the lake and can see right out across the few smattering of islands and to the DRC. Its early evening and its a bit cool. One of the staff here brought us Maasai blankets for our knees and a little fire in a pot that he has set next to our feet! Lovely!
Quick catch up- When we left Mwanza (in Tanzania) we caught a ferry across a bit of Lake Vic as it saves a long drive around and started toward the border to Rwanda, not sure how far we would make it. The road got worse and worse and was soon a series of massive potholes, it was taking ages to get anywhere. We found a guest house an hour or so before the border and were made very welcome, and ended up camping in the car park. We could hear people mumbling and whispering ‘Mzungu’ (the typical east African word for white person), excited that Wazungu (plural Mzungu) were staying here, it took a while for them to understand that we wanted to sleep in our car! We turned up tired, both ratty and the thumping music from the local pub next door didn’t help matters. After saying hi and having a quick chat with all the people staring at us (where did they come from?!) we settled in for an early night and both of our moods quickly improved. The night was as we expected- very loud music until rather late (although not as late as we thought) and then a very early start. We woke up groggy, used the horrible loo (would have much preferred to go outside but to many people watching all the time) and headed off for the border.
It’s amazing how an imaginary, arbitrary line changes so much. We crossed into Rwanda mid morning and noticed things were different straight away. After crossing to drive on the other side of the road (there is no sign saying they drive on the right here, luckily we had read that before we arrived!) we soon noticed the big crazy buses were not hurling towards us any longer. The roads were also in excellent condition and the few potholes were being repaired- properly! Not the dirt sprayed with tar we normally see.
Rwanda is a tiny county and 11 million people are squeezed into it so it probably goes without saying every little bit seems to be in use- the many many hills (land of a thousand hills is an excellent name!) are terraced with things growing and houses covering all of the space.
We arrived in Kigali around lunch time and found our camp- another car park, this time a youth hostel. Driving into Kigali was amazing. It’s a hilly city spread out with houses and buildings all over the hills and filling every valley. But most amazingly we were met with wide streets in excellent condition, meticulously manicured space everywhere! Seemingly every median strip, roundabout, street etc is perfectly manicured and spotless with no rubbish anywhere! Kigali is certainly Africa but also feels very cosmopolitan and very… well organised, clean and so functional! Nearly all of the traffic lights work (some even with the seconds counting down how much longer you have to wait!) and people actually stop at them when they are red! All of the things that normally hit us when we drive into a town or city were so different! The shops are all in buildings rather than everything being sold on the side of the street (or in the street). There were no goats, donkeys or cows on the road, no one cooking or washing clothing on the side of the road, none of the chaos we usually encounter upon entering a town or city.
We had a few days in Kigali but not very peaceful nights. The first night really bad karaoke from somewhere nearby kept us awake for ages. While there we spent time at the Genocide memorial (more on that in another post). We treated ourselves to an amazing Indian meal, we heard of a good place and hopped on the back of two moto taxis (motor bike taxis) and zoomed through the streets of Kigali. I have a small head and the helmet he gave me was prob average size but despite tightening it as much as I could it was so loose it was blowing off my head and resting on the back of my neck most of the trip! It was fun to see Olly on his moto taxi in front of us.
And the very very bad news is- my kindle is broken! I am still in denial. Fortunately some of the books are on the ipad so I can read on that. Months of not reading is not an option! So Olly and I can fight over reading on the ipad from now on- I plan to win the fight! We very seldom see books and even more rarely in English. Olly has just told me we need to download the books from the kindle online, good grief, I thought there were automatically there, that is first priority when the power (and internet) comes back on.
Anyway we left Kigali yesterday afternoon and drove the twisting roads up and over hill after hill- all of them completely covered in the patchwork of cultivated land- no space unused and soon no trees if the rate they were cutting them down today is any indication. We spent last night at Kibuye in a room! We preferred landy but we could not find any camping (there isn’t much in Rwanda) so we ended up in a pleasant room overlooking the lake and watched the sunset and tint the sky and lake pink. The bed was awful though, look forward to our landy bed tonight!
The drive north along the lake today was stunning- 100km that took four hours to bump and rattle along. We were passing small houses and people the whole time, every few hundred metres the kids going berserk when they spotted the two Wazungu. Many waved and shouted and some even rang alongside us as long as they could. We felt very on display through the small villages- its hard to imagine a situation where you would be more on display than rattling through rural Africa- today everyone just stopped to stare, point, whistle, shout, smile or wave.