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    • Day 32

      Second chance for the capital

      June 28 in Rwanda ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

      When did it happen, already month in Rwanda? The last few days I decided to stay in Kigali , first exploring the city more and then going for an intense day trip to Akagera NP.

      To give this city a chance to convince me, after the initial fail, I tried to be more prepared and look for what I was missing in the last few days - art, culture and good non-african food. To my surprise,I found all of them! Stunning and authentic Indian cuisine, very sad and informative Belgian Peacekeepers Memorial, multiple interesting craft shops run by communities. The final part of the day was spent in the modern part of the city, around the Kigali Convention Center. I couldn't imagine the biggest contrast to poor villages in the North of the country... Luckily it's not only about business, there is also a place for true art there - Inema Arts Center, gallery created by the group of excellent local artists.

      Maybe it's still not the city to settle down, bit I'm slowly starting to understand the soul of Kigali :)
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    • Day 28

      Genocide Museum

      November 6 in Rwanda

      Although very depressing, the genocide museum, which occupied most of the day, was one of the most shocking, interesting, depressing, reflective, and horrifying experiences in my life. Their capacity to paint an insane picture of the reality of life in Rwanda during the genocide was insane. The graphic photos, videos, commentaries, interviews, and much more meant that you could barely speak as you left. Of course, as is so common with dark parts of history, this all started with colonialism. In which the Belgians separated the people of Rwanda into Tutsi and Hutu tribes. Although these groups existed before colonial rule, the rigidification that the Belgians implemented meant that distinction between the two groups became increasingly easier, even adopting identification cards. Something that would be a horrible tool for catching and killing Tutsis during the genocide many years later. To summarise a somewhat intricate and long period of time, the Hutus were left in charge by the Belgians when the country gained independence. This led to widespread discrimination of the Tutsi people. A civil war between exiled Tutsi and the national armed force worsened tensions between the groups and an increase in anti-Tutsi propaganda. When the Rwandan presidents plane was shot down while landing in Kigali in 1994, the genocide started. Almost immediately, road blocks were set up to stop and kill Tutsis. Men, women, and children would be bludgeoned or machetesed to death while trying to escape the carnage. Neighbours and friends would turn on their Tutsi counterparts and ransack houses, killing anyone inside. Priests would allowed the demolishen and burning of churches, knowing that Tutsis had sought refuge there from the violence - thinking they would not murder in a religious buildings. Nearly a million Tutsi and moderate Hutus were killed in less than 100 days. Hutus who did not wish to participate in the violence or had married or had sexual relations with a Tutsi, would be viciously tortured and murdered. The violence was sudden and widespread. So suddenly, in fact, that 800,000 people had been killed in the first 6 weeks, equating to about 20,000 people per day. The violence only ended when the national army regained control of the country and pushed the extremists out. Many went to the DRC, and this has resulted in instability to this day. Random and sporadic terrorist attacks on Rwandans and tourists from the DRC are somewhat common and may be the reason for the Queen Elizabeth National Park terrorist attack. Those who remained in the country were prosecuted in the Gacaca courts. Though by the end of the genocides there were only about 5 judges and 20 lawyers remaining in the country. 1 million deaths and 2 million migrants left the stability of the country in tatters. As such, they relied on confessions, allowing perpetrators to confess to crimes, determine the location of bodies to give proper burials, and in return received half sentences. Many came forward to confess to crimes, and those who didn't would have the full brunt of the legal system to face and obtain full sentences. The new regime preached forgiveness and togetherness to move past the atrocities, and many followed suit to allow the country to rediscover their own national identity, culture, and stability. No photos could be taken from inside the museum, so I only have a few photos of the outside of the museum. We spent nearly 4 hours here but you could spend more.

      Eventually, we arrived at our accommodation for the night and began to get ready to head to a restaurant. For the first time on the trip, we had a meal paid for by the tour (or at least partly). Caroline joined us for dinner, and we had a few drinks and introduced her to everyone. It was nice to have a meal cooked for us where we didn't have to pay
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    • Day 13

      Journey from Kigali to Kayonza

      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 Opportunity Center near Kayonza. 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

    • Day 34

      Private taxis and traveling by motorbike

      February 28 in Rwanda ⋅ ☁️ 19 °C

      The previous night we were given the number of a reliable taxi driver to drive us to our accommodation. After all the horror experiences we made in the previous 24h, this worked super smooth. We called him, he said it would take him 10min to come, after 8min he was there, and found our place immediately via the most direct route. It was a breeze!

      But, without luggage, there are other opportunities to be had in Kigali. The most common mode of transportation is by far the motorbike. We grabbed a few motos in the morning and scooted over to IH again to be productive. I picked up lunch from a place nearby, which we ate between a few meetings that we had.

      In the evening, we followed a food recommendation from one of Anne's friends, and ended up walking to a rather fancy (and pricey) place. But the food arrived relatively quickly (an abnormality in Rwanda) and tasted good though out servers were a bit all over the place - not in a good way.

      Speaking of walking. In the places we had visited in previous weeks, the general recommendation was always to not move by foot after sunset. This was different in Rwanda, where we had been assured by many that it was totally safe to move around by foot also after sunset. A major reason for that is also that Rwanda has installed proper lights throughout the entire country, so it's a difficult task to find a "shady" area to get in trouble in.
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