Day 329-331, Wednesday-Friday 28-30 November 2012 – Fatimas, Ruhengeri, Rwanda
We are finally getting closer to the gorillas !
This post will cover the three days I stayed in Ruhengeri in Rwanda with the exception of the gorilla trip, I will do that one next.
We had a latish start on Wednesday due to the rain on Tuesday night. It was the intent to leave Lake Bunyoni today but as we experienced the other day the road is no fun in the wet. The truck is fine going up hill in the wet but is almost uncontrollable going down, and there was a lot of steep down on the way out. The forecast for the day was rain which wasn’t really helping !
However, the rain had stopped before midnight and the ground dries out fairly quickly, Will was keen to get going before it did get any worse, so it was a quick breakfast, pack up and on the truck. We walked the section to the far side of the village as that did have some potential for unpleasantness, but the road seemed quite dry as we walked and we got onto the truck with a measure of confidence. Though I did put my seatbelt on – for only the second time in nine weeks!
The ride back to the town of Kimbale was rough and slow, but far grippier than on the way in and we made it back to town cautiously, but safely!
We stopped at the Little Ritz for what was possibly the slowest delivered instant coffee in the world, surprisingly there was no power so they had to heat the water over a fire! I am fairly sure the staff had freed themselves.
It was another hour or so to the Uganda / Rwanda border, getting out of Uganda was easy peasy – and I at least got the exit stamp in the right place in my passport, but I knew we were going to have issues getting into Rwanda. The three of us travelling on NZ passports a had not applied for visas before coming, we were expecting to be able to get them at the border – but this was a major hassle. We were very unpopular with immigration and after initially telling us we would be unable to enter the country they spent most of an hour discussing the issue among themselves and then on the phone to someone or someones – before finally allowing us through. It was a wee bit nerve racking for a moment… Whew !
The drive from the border to the capital; Kigali took another hour or so, the country is very beautiful, one of the more beautiful countries we have been to lately. It is very hilly, incredibly green with plenty of forest on the distant hills. The first thirty minutes or so we drove through tea plantations as far as the eye could see. Rwanda is a heavily populated and small country, it is also quite poor after the devastating effects of its civil war and genocide in 1994 – more on that another day. There are vast numbers of people walking on the road side between villages and homes, more so than anywhere else, we got waved at a lot, but I stuck to my policy of not taking photos of people that I have not interacted with first!
Rwanda is also the tidiest place I have been, possibly ever. This is for two reasons, firstly – they have a plastic bag ban, you are not allowed to bring them into Rwanda and everything you buy comes in paper bags. And secondly, and this is sooooo cool ! The last Saturday morning of the month is clean up day, so everyone in the whole country is supposed to go out and clean up their community, picking up rubbish, painting, building and fixing stuff – from the President down. Don’t expect to go to the shops on this day, they will be closed !! I just think this is awesome, the country is so wonderfully tidy and there has to be a sense of civic pride in the people.
We arrived in Kigali for a late lunch at Mama Boy restaurant, Kigale is a nice looking small city based around a small collection of hills, it started raining while we were lunching !
After lunch we were back in the truck and on a fantastic new section of road to the town of Ruhengeri a couple of hours a way. We were soon up into the hills and all visibility disappeared due to dense fog. I plugged my ears into Rise Against and zoned out for the rest of the drive.
We arrived early evening at Fatima’s lodge, a combo guesthouse/hotel/camp area/conference room all under the management of the Catholic church. I elected to get a room and not camp – it looked like rain! I had an early night as it was Gorillas tomorrow – yay !!
We were up at 5:15 on Thursday morning so we could have breakfast and make a packed lunch to take with us on the gorilla trip. We were picked up at 6:15 and taken to the Volcanos National Park reception area. We were the first there and ended up faffing for ages until other gorilla tourists arrived. It was mightily frustrating as I could have had another hour in bed !!! Once there were a few more folk there some of the local villagers put on a traditional song and dance show that was definitely the best I have seen in Africa – nice to see some traditional clothing as well.
At 8:00 we were split into two groups and here I will leave it for the day and do a separate post on the gorillas : ) he he he….
Once back at the camp ground and post shower, lie down and photo editing we pretty much all repaired to the bar and stayed there till dinner and then went back again after, though it was not a a late night.
Friday was the last full day of my three back to back African excursions and yeah well I did bugger all with it really. I walked around and took a few photos in the hotel/church grounds, read my book and finally just before 12:00 took a walk into town to go and find a chemist.
I loved this sign, it was by itself on a wall…
As I was walking down towards the town I was picked up by one of the local kids, Isaac. He was twelve and riding home from school. He offered to show me where the chemist was and walk and talk so he could practice his English. In fact he spoke perfect English and I think he was quietly disappointed I did not speak Spanish or French as he was trying to learn these as well. It is great meeting kids like Isaac who knew his way out of poverty, for him and his family, was getting an education – and speaking languages in tourist rich Rwanda was a way out. I was incredibly impressed; he was a smart kid and a pleasure to talk to, though he did support Manchester United !
I got to the chemist right as he was about to close for lunch, I got my stuff and then discovered that my wallet was empty, damn that bar last night! I asked the chemist if he could put the stuff aside and I would come back when he opened and get them then, he just told me to take them and come back later with the money ! that would not happen in the west ! So I did…
At 3:00 as I went to go back to the chemist is started to rain so I grabbed a motorcycle taxi rather than walk, this time I had to wear a helmet – they have laws in Rwanda….
Once back at the hotel I took my laptop up to the bar and had a glass of wine and watched some of the rugby sevens on TV – England lost to Portugal, hilarious !
It was then time to go out for a final dinner as a group and we went to a local Italian restaurant, the food was good, I had lasagne and a rather interesting chocolate mousse for dessert, not used to desserts ! After dinner Will and I had a couple of final whiskies in the hotel bar and then it was time to sleep. I will miss Will, we had a few good laughs – and he did introduce me to Archer, a rather rude American spy cartoon series, that had me in tears a few times (and still does as I am now watching series 3 )