Rwanda Take 2
Last year you may remember that Rob took at very long trip to Rwanda… well I decided to take the same trip, hoping it wouldn’t take so long…. I think there may be something about Bousie’s and Rwanda… not such a good mix!!
This time I went with a group of 16 year 9 students plus James (another teacher). We left at stupid-o’clock in the morning, well we planned to, but 2 students were an hour late, plus one forgot her passport so that took another 15 minutes! Anyway once we had set off we had a fairly good journey towards the border. The journey wasn’t bad actually, it got split up by a quick ferry ride across one stretch of the lake, costing an extortionate price of 100TSH (3p) for children and 400TSH (16p) for adults. Shortly after reaching Geita (gold mine) we left the tarmac road and has the joy of dirt roads for quite a few kms… our driver didn’t seem to notice the change in road surface however and so there were quite a few bumps around!
We reached the border at Rusumo after about 7 hours. It is a beautiful border post, and we got through fairly quickly –the coach took a bit longer though so we were there for a couple of hours. Crossing into Rwanda amazed me because even though the climate etc is the same the country looked so different from Tanzania, green and cultivated and they had REAL roads! We arrived in Kigali 4 hours later (after picking up a guy mid-way who came all the way to the border to show us the way to our hotel!)
After a good night’s sleep (for some of us!) we headed to the Genocide Memorial Museum, which was not an enjoyable experience, but a very necessary one. It has been presented really well and I would definitely recommend a visit if you are ever in Rwanda. After a delicious lunch at the Museum we headed off for Lake Kivu- a 3 hour drive from Kigali (or so we thought!!)
We had a guy from the hotel take us around the museum and then guide us onto the road for Kivu, once we dropped him off we carried along the road until we reached a petrol station, for some reason our drivers decided to stop and ask directions again, so we were then directed to turn off to the right. So we followed this road up a very steep and windy hill, we got stuck behind a few very slow tankers etc and managed to pass them (worryingly so sometimes!) but it gave us a chance to see the beautiful hills of Rwanda.
After about an hour or so I started seeing signs saying Northern Rwanda which made me question our route a little bit, but nether-the-less I trusted the drivers who had done this route before so we carried on, I did however get my guidebook out just to check for any signs that might suggest our location. Now in countries where there are about 7 main roads you do not find many signs, so I wasn’t successful! I shared my worries with James, but he was staying positive so we carried on trusting our drivers!
Another hour or so passed and both of us felt a little unsure as it felt like we were going more north rather than west with no sign of a lake anywhere. We began to see some very high mountains in the distance which again disturbed me slightly; some might say that they looked almost volcanic in nature. James (who I think was prompted by seeing a few gorilla pictures around) asked where the gorillas are found in Rwanda, I explained that they are in the North near the Ugandan border in the Parc National des Volcans, I was just looking up the name of the town that is closest the gorillas: Ruhengeri, and within seconds of finding it on my map I looked up to see the name of the town that we were arriving in… Yes Ruhengeri! -We were looking at the volcanic mountains and Uganda (minutes later we saw a border sign for Uganda 27km away). At which point I think our drivers figured out that we had gone the wrong way and so they stopped and looked at my tiny map in my guidebook. A quick call to Rob and some discussions lead us to turn left and head towards the lake and the town of Gisenyi (apparently the Costa del Kivu!)
If you know anything about Rwanda and Lake Kivu you may know that it separates Rwanda from the DRC and Gisenyi is at the top of the lake and is half of the city of Goma but on the Rwandan side. (This is the same city that was taken over by the M23 rebels not long ago). We were driving towards it with a coach of students in our care. I was slightly freaking out at this point, not helped by the police checks, UN vehicles and personnel seemingly everywhere and armed soldiers walking around. We reached Gisenyi and all of the kids cheered seeing the lake thinking we had arrived (to which we had to explain that we were not quite there yet!) and we found a 187km road to our destination. Asking a few people along the way they suggested it would take 1-2hours, so we turned onto the road, to discover that it wasn’t tarmaced and was very bendy and hilly.
Shockingly this road didn’t take us 1-2 hours, after about 2.5hours we asked a local and he said another hour to go! We were on the Congo Nile Trail, which in daylight I think looks stunning with tea and coffee plantations to the left and the lake to the right. We saw none of that as it was dark and the road was very rough. Another panic moment occurred when James spoke to the hotel that we were booked into and they said that the bridge was broken… great! So we weren’t really sure if we would make it or not. We came upon the said bridge and at which point our driver decided to slow down and almost stop on the bridge… I think my heart actually stopped at that moment, but thankfully the bridge could hold us! (It appeared to have been fixed!)
After what seemed like forever we made back onto a proper road and into the Kibuye (it wasn’t quite as straight forward as that but I think this blog may go on forever if I detail every mishap!) we arrived at the hotel at 10pm, they had food for us and then we headed to bed!
Waking up the next morning to the view was awesome! It was beautiful, I was just gutted we couldn’t spend more time there. But we had a wander into the town (another story in itself!) and then swam in the lake. The setting is stunning, again making me wish that Lake Victoria was clean like Kivu!
In the afternoon we headed back (on the right road) to Kigali, headed to Nakumatt (an actual ‘supermarket’ which was a highlight for the kids!). The next day we headed back to Mwanza, a fairly easy drive!
So an awful lot of driving (just like Rob’s trip) but an incredibly beautiful country, with amazingly helpful and welcoming people but with such a devastating past. My trip there has left me longing to visit it again, and hopefully it may be a case of third time lucky for us!