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  • Day26

    Day 26: Hotel Ruanda

    February 27, 2019 in Rwanda ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

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    Today I went on a day trip to one of the neighboring countries, Ruanda. Ruanda has a very sad history as in the 1990s as well as before that it had to experience genocide. The saddest thing is that most of us don’t even know about this genocide ever taking place ... at least I can’t remember anyone teaching me this in school. If you are interested I suggest you watch the movie “Hotel Ruanda” ... it’s a good movie which provides some insight into what has happened back then.
    Out of respect, I haven’t taken many pictures at the memorials ... it was a very emotional day with lots of tears.

    Apart from its history, Ruanda is a beautiful country. Very clean (plastic bags are illegal) and also quite developed in terms of infrastructure. I will come back one day for sure ...

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  • Day7

    It's all about the cache!

    July 6, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    We had a later start today for the trip to Nyungwe Forest, with breakfast scheduled for 7.30am... but I've had my eye on a nearby cache, so this morning was our opportunity to attempt it. It is only 500m from our hotel, as the crow flies, but considerably longer following roads, so I discussed the best route with our tour leader, Aloys. He thought it was too far to walk and suggested taking a moto taxi, but Oliver wasn't keen on sitting on the back of a motorbike in Kigali's traffic!

    He offered to go as a detour on the way out of town, but I didn't want to delay the whole group, so he offered to meet us at 7am and take us alone, then come back for the group after breakfast. So we met him at 7am and drove to the cache site, at the entrance of a hotel. Amazingly, the road off the main road was rougher than any we encountered in Akagera! The streets were teeming with children on the way to school (7.30am start) and the hotel staff were interested to see what we were doing. They knew there was an "item" in the area, and that previous finders had looked on the gates, but didn't know exactly where it was. After a few minutes searching, we had it in hand, much to the delight of the hotel chef, gardener and security guards!

    We got back to the hotel in time to squeeze in some breakfast, and still made the 8.30am departure time with ease.
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  • Day17

    A Sunday at the pool in Kigali

    July 16, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Our last day in Rwanda, before our flight to Amman tonight. Qatar Airlines have cancelled all their flights to Kigali, and at the same time cancelled our onward flight to Amman - fortunately our travel agent was onto it quickly and rebooked us a Kenyan Airways flight to Nairobi, then Qatar Airways to Doha, and a new flight to Amman. The net result is that we don't have a 12 hour stopover in Doha and we get to Amman 4 hours earlier, so it's turned out ok.

    Late breakfast - massive smorgasbord of cereal, fruit, hot and cold meats, freshly squeezed juices (bush tomato was the favourite), pastries, cheeses and our favourite new term, active cooking!

    Aloys was available today to take people to the airport, shopping, to museums, church services and caching! A few went to the tail end a local church service (the full service was from 7am - 11am), while Kerry and Ruth visited the Natural History Museum and we went along to attempt the cache nearby.

    The museum staff first told us the cache was inside the museum grounds and we would have to pay $10 USD each to access it. The cache notes indicate it was outside the museum, so we declined her offer and undertook our own search. We found the spot indicated in the spoiler photo, but the cache was gone. The security guard told Aloys she knew the location, but she took us to the previous coordinates, so we went back to the correct spot and found an empty screw top container in the grass that looked like it could have been the cache container. We were carrying a spare log, so we put it in the container and found a more secure hiding spot very nearby.

    We returned to the hotel briefly before heading out again with Kerry and Ruth to the Genocide Memorial - Ruth to check out the souvenir shop, while we took Kerry in search of the cache we missed 2 weeks ago. We had it in hand very quickly this time, while 2 armed guards looked on quizzically - funny how on second look you wonder how you missed it the first time! We can now claim to have competed every cache in one country - I'm sure that won't happen again!

    Back to the hotel for packing, and the atmosphere has hotted up, with a live band playing near the outside bar. Sunday afternoon around this pool was the place to be seen pre-1994 - local families, expats, politicians, military and business people all mingled together and much of the capital's business was done here over a drink.
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  • Day3

    Doha to Heaven,via Entebbe

    July 2, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Wake up time was 4.20am for a 5am departure to the airport. The roads are busy already and the overnight construction is still going on - most construction during summer happens at night because of the heat.

    Our flight to Kigali was via Entebbe, Uganda, where we stayed on the plane for an hour while they cleaned around us. The jump from Entebbe to Kigali was the shortest international flight we've been on, 30 minutes. Fortunately for the hosties there were only about 50 people on the flight so they had time to rush some food around before we landed.

    On arrival in Kigali we were met at the plane door by a very welcoming airport staff member who checked our boarding passes (yes, on the way off the plane!), then escorted us across the tarmac to the terminal. First queue was to pay the the entry visa, which we were told had to be paid in cash, US dollars only, but they now also accept credit cards, which slowed things down a bit. Passport control was also high tech, with electronic finger printing done, in addition to taking our photo.

    We were met outside by our drivers for the next 2 weeks, and had a 20 minute drive to our hotel (some road line-marking slowed the traffic to a crawl at one stage while they were hand painting one lane of the zebra crossings)

    Rwanda is known as "the land of 1000 hills", and is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, with a population of 12 million people in a country one tenth the size of Victoria. The capital Kigali is built around several ridges and valleys, so the distance as the crow flies is not large, but navigating the hills takes some time - and plenty of hill starts! Armed Police or army personnel man most of the major intersections throughout the city 24 hours a day, as a general deterrent, and Kigali is widely regarded as the safest capital city in Africa.

    Dinner tonight was at a rooftop restaurant with a spectacular view over Kigali. Goat cutlets and a Mutzig (local) beer for me, poached line fish and a Tusker (Kenyan) beer for Oliver.

    Stayed: Heaven Boutique Hotel
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  • Day4

    From Heaven to Hell

    July 3, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    7am breakfast on the outdoor deck of the Heaven restaurant, under the shade of an Umuvumu tree. This is significant because it's the tree which is found in many villages where they hold town meetings, and is a symbol of repair and reconciliation. For this particular tree, the workers cut through the large roots on one side of the tree when constructing the deck - even though the owners gave instructions to leave the trees untouched - but to their amazement, the tree sent down stilts to support and repair itself on the damaged side, and is still going strong today.

    After a fab breakfast buffet including fresh juice (pineapple, Japanese plum/bush tomato and mango), and an omlette toasted in a chipati, we headed out on a city tour.
    It's a public holiday today for Independence Day (it was actually on July 1, but is observed on the next working day), but the streets were still busy with moto-taxis, bicycles and pedestrians galore.

    Our first stop was the Genocide Memorial and Museum, which was a very sombre experience. On the site, there are 250,000 victims of the 1994 genocide buried in mass graves, where tourists visit to pay respects, and locals visit to have a sense of family, where often they are the only surviving member of their family.

    The museum follows the history of Rwanda from pre colonial days to today, mainly concentrating on the 100 days from April to July 1994 where 1 million people were killed, mostly by machete.

    After the killing stopped on 4 July 1994, a government of national unity was formed, which urged people to rebuild their lives together, without seeking revenge - quite an undertaking! It's hard to imagine how they do it, but Rwandans try to meet face to face with the people who killed their loved ones, or with the survivors of people they themselves killed. They have a determination to move on with life, to get past the seemingly impossible, no matter who or what they must forgive, in others or in themselves.

    They achieved this feat through Gacaca (grass) courts, literally held in the village square, often under an Umuvumu tree. Over the space of 10 years, 12,000 community based courts were convened across the country, and 1.9 million cases heard - those who admitted their part in the genocide, confesed fully and asked for forgiveness face to face with surviving family members, were offered half their sentence as community service building roads, making bricks or building houses for survivors. Many survivors were able to learn the fate of loved ones, locate their bodies and bury them with dignity, often at the Genocide Memorial site.
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  • Day16

    Hotel Rwanda

    July 15, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Our last morning in the volcanoes region, breakfast was 8.30 and we chose the "active cooking" option (omlette cooked while you wait).

    The drive back to Kigali is only 80km, but the winding roads and number of hills makes it a multi hour trip, especially when you throw in souvenir stops!

    We departed Kinigi at 9.40am, had a lengthy stop at the local souvenir market, then a stop in Musanze for water. The town was festooned with red, white and blue, the colours of the president's party, RPF - the general election is on August 4 and the current president, Paul Kagame, was due to visit the region this weekend. As part of his election campaign, he offered free petrol to all moto taxis, so there was quite a queue at the local servo.

    We made a stop at the halfway point for some supplies of banana wines and to sample some bbq'd maize.

    We arrived in Kigali at 2.30pm and headed straight to the Hotel des Mille Collines - the "Hotel Rwanda", as depicted in the movie. Lunch was under the verandah near the pool (NY Club sandwich for me, chicken burger for Oliver).

    After we settled into our room, we went for a quick shopping expedition. While we waited for the drivers, we looked for the cache in the hotel car park. It didn't take long with 6 sets if eyes looking! (for the record, muggle Vaal found it)

    Shopping was at a craft market for last minute souvenirs , then the supermarket for food supplies. Tea was in the hotel's outdoor restaurant (pork chops, Nile perch).

    Stayed: Hotel des Mille Collines
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  • Day6

    Mongoose and markets

    July 5, 2017 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    This morning we had a game drive before breakfast, to try and see some of the nocturnal animals as they return home. Coffee was served at 5.15am and we were off in the dark at 5.30am.

    We spotted hyena in the distance and were pleasantly surprised when they headed towards us to check us out. The plains were teeming this morning with all sorts of antelope, buffalo, zebra and bird life (for the twitchers, the highlight this morning was a lilac breasted roller). The unexpected find was a family of mongoose we watched darting around the grass.

    We arrived back at camp at 9.00am for breakfast, then left the park by the northern gate for the trip back to Kigali. There is no road diect to Kigali from the northern end of the park, so we drove back to Kayonza, dropped off our National Park guide Herman, and continued on to Kigali for lunch (buffet at an Italian restaurant)

    We checked in at the hotel, had an hour to have a shower, and was ready to go to the markets for our first shopping opportunity (Oliver first had to meet Justifiee, a friend of the hotel receptionist, who is sewing up a dress and skirt for her from a local fabric).

    The market area of town was very busy, mostly with locals as there are are relatively few tourists around. All the shops sell the same range of products aimed at tourists, and bartering isn't done with much vigour - they will generally only take 1000 francs (approx $1.60) off the starting price - so the negotiations are over quickly. Our tour leader Aloys took us to a number of different shops and each shopping centre had metal detectors and bag searches at the entrance, which took a little longer the more everyone bought!

    Tea tonight was a banquet at Republic, including chilli coconut fish, goat stew, fried plantain, garlic potatoes and ginger rice.

    Some of the ladies wanted to return to the market to buy some more fabric, so one vehicle went back into the centre of town. The streets were still busy, but unfortunately most if the shops were closed, so no purchases were made.

    Back to the hotel at 10.30pm.

    Stayed: Heaven Boutique Hotel Chalet
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  • Day12

    Kigali, Capital of Rwanda

    December 6, 2019 in Rwanda ⋅ 🌧 23 °C

    Arrived in Kigali following our trip to the Genocide Memorial.

    These road trips now have a pattern. They really consist of a series of stops. Sometimes we stop for a call of nature but surprisingly these are few. There are shops for photo opportunities when we pass by an interesting or beautiful place. Then there are stops to view interesting birds of animals. Often, our driver, has very keen eyesight and spots things when driving. He beeps the horn a few times and we all peer out with peeled eyes to see if we can see what he sees. Usually we can. We often stop at local markets and supermarkets to buy supplies for cooking that day or the next. This could be viewed as a chore or as an opportunity to see Africa up and close. Guess which perspective I choose?

    We didn't get much of a chance to see the city as it was dark when we arrived and we leave tomorrow at 2pm for a pit stop camp before we hit border for Tanzania 🇹🇿, our next country.

    But, to tell the truth, I'm not mad keen about cities in Africa. It was different in Central Asia where all the interesting places were cities. Here, all interesting places are in the wild, in nature, outside the cities. Just like, after a thousand golden Buddhas, they all look the same. So is it with cities here in Africa, for me anyway . I approached them as a western tourist, not as a traveller.

    We went out for a meal tonight as 4 of our fellow travellers are leaving today. We went to a restaurant patronised by westerners and affluent Africans. So, not your typical slice of Africa then.

    The food was delicious though. I had chichen breast coated with cardamom and saffron marinade/coating and then cooked in tandoori oven. It came with a lovely sauce and cumin rice with a tasty local spinach as vegetable. My starter was avacado chips. They were tasty too. The whole meal came to 16€ including a coke. Not bad at all, at all, at all.

    We finished around 11ish and we old 'uns caught a taxi home. The millenniums went to a local pub for a session. They came back, noisily, at 2:30ish. A good night was had by all.

    Kigali is the capital and largest city of Rwanda. It is near the nation's geographic centre. The city has been Rwanda's economic, cultural, and transport hub since it became capital at independence in 1962. The city hosts the main residence and offices of the President of Rwanda and government ministries. The city is within the province of Kigali City, which was enlarged in January 2006, as part of local government reorganisation in the country. Kigali's city limits cover the whole province; it is consolidated. The city's urban area covers about 70% of the municipal boundaries.

    The centre of political and commercial life, Kigali dominates Rwanda and few visit the country without passing through. The city is developing fast, and is very much a showpiece capital designed to impress visitors, from the humble tourist, to foreign investors and visiting dignitaries.

    With a population topping 1 million, the city spreads over several hills and valleys, with many of the better restaurants and hotels away from the traditional downtown area.
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  • Day12

    Kigali Genocide Memorial

    December 6, 2019 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    We viewed the genecide memorial in Kigali this afternoon. It was a very harrowing but moving experience.

    The Kigali Genocide Memorial is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi. It is an important place of remembrance and learning and receives visitors from all around the world.

    We started with a video introduction to the Genocide and then followed a series of displays in the Rwandan language, French and English. It started with displays of Rwanda before the genecide and slowly build up the evidence chin

    Here is a comment from a survivor of the Genocide. I saw a video of his testimony and it was very real and immensely moving and human.

    The Kigali Genocide Memorial is like my home. It is where i go to be with my relatives. You feel happy being close to your loved ones.But then it becomes a place of grief because they are gone. I go home after visiting the memorial and leave them there. By Theoneste Karenzi, Genocide survivor

    The memorial has five primary objectives:

    1. To provide a dignified place of burial for victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi

    2. To inform and educate visitors about the causes, implementation and consequences of the genocide, and other genocides in history.

    3. To teach visitors about what we can do to prevent future genocides.

    4. To provide a documentation centre to record evidence of the genocide, testimonies of genocide survivors and details of genocide victims.

    5. To provide support for survivors, in particular orphans and widows.
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  • Day13

    Journey from Kigale to Kayinza

    December 7, 2019 in Rwanda ⋅ 🌧 21 °C

    We had a later start to our journey today at 2pm, so it was lovely to have a restful and relaxing morning at the hostel catching up with social media and the highlights of the Liverpool football games I'd missed. The times for rest and recuperation have been few and far between on this trip, so it was very welcome to have a morning's break. A big, rumbling thunderstorm rolled around Kigali as we said our sad farewells to four members of our trip, Linda, her daughter Heather, and 'English' Sam. The other Sam from Dubai was also leaving the trip today but said his goodbyes last night as he was off to a pottery course today. On the truck we mused about the very unusual amount of rain we have been getting on this trip so far which makes the camping far more challenging for our morale. It will be nice to be journeying towards the summer season when we head down to the southern hemisphere in Namibia and South Africa - although we may have the excessive heat to complain about then! We drove through more lush green countryside with many banana plants which seemed to be the staple crop of this region. We arrived at our next stop, the Urugo Women's Centre near Kayinza. This women's centre has been set up to give local women the opportunity to develop their talents and to make some income. There was a roadside cafe and two craft shops with lovely handmade produce such as woven baskets, paintings formed out of dried banana leaves, small animal sculptures, bracelets, necklaces, and many other craft pieces all fashioned by local women. They also had camping and accommodation as another source of revenue. None of us fancied putting up our wet tents in the rain so we all upgraded to dorm rooms and safari tents. I booked a large safari tent which was the very definition of the term 'glamping' although the cold en suite shower didn't feel quite so luxurious. A women's choir sang a beautiful and evocative African melody on the site as part of their choir practice, some of which I managed to record on my phone. We had some dinner and got an early night for an early start at 6am tomorrow and a very long drive across the Tanzanian border.Read more

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