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2 travelers at this place

  • 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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  • Day38


    February 8, 2016 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    We're in Rwanda! Kigali to be exact! We treated ourselves - I'm writing this blog while laying in bed, eating my first chocolate bar since I've arrived, and drinking from our mini wine bottle. Simple pleasures.

    To save on the details, we took a boda-boda for 10 minutes, a minibus for 2.5 hours, another minibus for 3 hours, a shared taxi for 30 minutes to the border, and this same shared taxi for another 2.5 hours. And done!

    As you'll notice in the photos, the first bus stop we were dropped at this morning was very official. Obviously they pack the minibuses very well - 12 official seats, with up to 23 people in them at any given time.

    Timing was flawless though, we'd get off and there was another bus leaving... And we scored big time with the last shared taxi! For the same price as what our book was telling us it would cost for a ride to Kigali after crossing the border, this taxi picked us up in Kabale, brought us to the border, where we all crossed by foot, then picked us up and we drove into Kigali. And this time, unlike the one on the island, Jack and I shared the back row of the car with one person, one seat per person! Luxury!

    The border was hilarious. A wooden gate lifted by a person to let the car in, which pulled over to the side to let us out. We all go in line at the exiting Uganda office, where we filled out an exit card, got a stamp, and were told to go on. We had our east Africa visa so no charge for us. We then walk about 6 minutes on a dirt road surrounded by construction trucks over to the Gatuna Immigration office. We hand over our passports, simple questions, thumb print and photo and that's it. We walk back to the car, they looked through our bags really quickly, and off we go to Kigali!

    We've been told by many travellers that Kigali was something special! It was organized, and clean, and welcoming. I was expecting to be wow'd. Meh. It was hot, we decided to walk up to town from the bus station, which even the book says you need "gorilla legs" if you decide to walk it instead of taking public transportation. I do not have gorilla legs. But we made it! One soaked freshly washed t-shirt later we were at the top of the hill! We asked about 5 different people where this central roundabout was called Place de l'unité Nationale. We were pointed in all kinds of directions. Turns out, if Rwandans don't know where something is, they point somewhere anyway.

    A 3km walk took 2 hours. And at this point, with all the transportation, my last meal was an egg and chapati at 10am. It's now 5pm and we've just dropped our bags off at our room. I'm hungry! FYI our lonely planet map blows for this town, nothing makes sense on it. Restaurants aren't where they should be. Roads entirely are missing or just wrong... It was so frustrating.

    The town appears at times just as disorganized and chaotic as any other city we've seen, and at other times there's street names displayed, actual roundabouts, street lighting, well manicured landscaping along the streets all making it appear organized.

    Our home for the night - a nuns convent! We're room A1, that means the very first room after passing the group of nuns sitting at a table reviewing the Bible together. How perfect! It's the cheapest place in town, and quite the ambiance! Once we got back to our room in the evening after diner, we could hear their choir practising, seranating us!

    I got to call my mom from a coffee shop today, best Wi-Fi we've had yet! Felt nice to hear her voice. Jack was asking me the other day if I missed anything from home, I told her I didn't miss anything at all, just people. My friends, my family, being surrounded by people I love and I know love me... A month into this trip, and I don't miss any foods, or my bed, or my shower or clothes, just my people.
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  • Day40

    Kigali. Confusing Kigali.

    February 10, 2016 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    Apparently our really long and confusing walk from our first day arriving in Kigali was not enough to teach us a lesson. We started off our first morning here thinking we could walk to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. We set out, following our lonely planet book we were 2km away... We asked about 5-6 different people along the way all pointing to different directions. Even the motorcycle taxi men had difficulty telling us where it was... After an hour of walking, we gave up and took a moto-taxi. Turns out we were in the right district, maybe 4 blocks away. But with all the hills and wavy turns, we wouldn't have found it alone.

    The memorial was an incredibly emotional and eye opening experience. We spent over 3 hours here reading their displays, seeing their photos, hearing their video testimonies. 1,000,000 people dead in 100 days. Their neighbours, the same people with whom their kids played the day before, were now the ones murdering their family before their eyes. I learnt a great deal. Now, everyone I cross on the street who's 27 years old and up, I wonder what have they seen? 1994 was not that long ago, I was 6. I would remember too if my family was killed all around me. What these people have seen, I can't imagine. Before leaving I was asked to write a message of my experience. I responded "I find it incredibly overwhelming to think of a message to write on a piece of paper right now...", and the man responded "that's perfect, write that". So I did.

    Our afternoon was lighter, spent looking at 3 different art galleries. We've now learnt no walking, so we motor taxi'd to the first and walk to the others (google map helped with that). Jack was in heaven! Unlike me, she grew up going to art galleries and art shows, learning about all these great artists and techniques. She's in her world when she's surrounded by art, and she loved every bit of our afternoon.

    Another moto-taxi and we're at Hotel Des Milles Collines, or as some of you know it, Hotel Rwanda (the movie?). This is where the Belgian owner decided to stay with his family instead of fleeing, taking in Tutsi and moderate Hutu people. We read this was the place to have a drink, but it was empty. We used their maps and reception staff for directions before heading out. Beautiful hotel, we'll kept, metal detector to get in and everything, fancy!

    Interesting that the book mentions this hotel as a memorable place post genocide. This entire city is a walking memorial. The church in which we're staying, St Famille Church, housed and protected over 2000 people! Not mentioned in the book. The way we see it, Hotel des Milles Collines was recognized as a memorial because it was a white man who stayed to help, when he could have fled. Though this is honorable and note worthy, there are an incredible amount of places and people that deserve all the same recognition. Interestingly, as most would assume churches are always safe havens, there were many churches who's clergy actually betrayed the people they were told to protect. There are 2 more notable churches south of the city who, through information given by the clergy, became mass graves and mass killing sites, including grenades being thrown and people burning alive! Some of these are mentioned at the memorial centre, with pictures of nuns and priests being prosecuted for war crimes.

    We had originally thought that we would leave Kigali the next morning. But both Jack and I felt we hadn't done Kigali justice. I can't say I like this city yet, it's not walkable, I can't find anything, and no one seems to be able to help me with directions... All the buildings are well kept. Lawns are well manicured. There's traffic lights. Helmets for the moto-taxis. It is a very different city then what we've seen so far, and yet I can't say I'm attached or have any opinion formed yet... So we decided an extra day might give us a better opinion; be it a "turns out I love it" or "nope, I don't get it".

    Day 2
    Turns out, good decision! We managed to walk first to the Kamp Kigali Memorial, this time having researched the Google map ahead of time and following with my gps. It was here that 10 Belgian UN workers assigned to protect the prime minister were brought and killed, encouraging foreign troops to exit Rwanda. This was what started it all. Bullet wholes in the building, 32 years old was the oldest killed of the 10, again an emotional experience. There was these two posters, side by side, showing a very VERY simple way of looking at conditions that make for a genocide to be possible, and how to avoid genocide. I attached a photo as it resonated with me.

    We then made our way to another district called Nyamirambo, which was lively, and colourful, and full of little stores and restaurants and tons of bars. It's considered the Muslim area, but we rarely saw a veiled woman. I guess even in their area of town they're a minority. We got stared at all day, long prolonged mouth wide open stairs, but all out of what seemed like curiosity. I didn't feel judged, they were all really curious. Not too many yelled comments at all, very few "mzungu"s.

    We did a version of a day time pub crawl, walked for a bit, sat and shared a beer, and repeat. We wanted to be in this part of town of the night life so we knew we had all day here. 8 hours we spent in about 5km of town. Thanks to my gps on my phone, we didn't get lost. Didn't need a moto-taxi. It was a great and satisfying day, capped off with a shisha bar before bed... At 830pm. Yes, we set out to spend a night on the town in one of the liveliest places in Rwanda, and we were laying in bed by 830pm. In our defence, we went back an hour when we walked across the border from Uganda, so for us it felt like 930pm! Kigali, you've been alright.

    As for the people, we are pretty much left to our own devices. I can't figure out if it's just that they've seen plenty of white people considering they have a lot of NGOs and expects, or maybe they just don't care... It is rare that we get "hello" from anyone, even kids. No one asking for anything. The prices quoted to us are usually always fair. Even the motor taxis haven't tried to screw us over too much... Some speak a little French, some a little English, but still quite limited so we haven't had the chance to really have a conversation with anyone yet. They pretty much just keep to themselves, which leaves us to wonder uninterrupted.
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