Continued from Part 1.
…So, Claire – the serial murderer.
Wait, no. Claire turned out to be really nice, and invited me over to her house for a meal. Her parents cooked me some meat plated atop some of the best pilau rice I’ve ever eaten, and we talked and listened to the news in French for a few hours. Pictures of Claire, family, and house:
Great experience, and something that would generally only happen to the solo traveler: maximally flexible, maximally approachable, and maximally able to treat the world as the personal playground.
After lunch, I hopped onto a motorbike taxi, backpack on my back and daypack on my front, and headed off to the hostel. The motorbikes in Rwanda are a bit newer than those in Kenya/Tanzania, and the drivers even have a helmet for the passenger to wear. The helmets are a nice touch, and with their flip-down visors, they make you feel like you’re on the SWAT team. Kigali itself feels a bit “newer” as well: the roads are all paved, the place is very organized, and it has a very crisp vibe to it. Truly a breath of fresh air in East Africa, and a beautiful city to boot.
I arrive at the hostel, and quickly befriend a girl from Melbourne named Cara. A few hours later, we head back into town (motorbikes of course), to find some food and a hotel with a desk phone, so I can call my bank and tell them not to curb-stomp my card when I try to ATM withdraw. We walk for a bit, and eventually stumble upon, you guessed it, Hotel Des Milles Collines, or the hotel from the movie Hotel Rwanda.
After using the phone, we hear some music coming from downstairs, so we decide to check it out. There is a bar, a pool, and a live reggae jam band. All guests were dressed very well, and the scene was very classy and posh. To me, this seemed odd, as it was certainly a very stark, sinister contrast to that which occurred there less than two decades prior. Capitalism would be one explanation, and a genuine let’s-forget-about-all-that effort would be another. I drank a beer and listened to the music.
The next day, Cara and I head back into Kigali, and check out the Genocide Memorial Museum – predictably powerful. The Rwandan Genocide occurred just 18 short years ago, and was essentially just a result of ignorance and fear propaganda initiated by Belgian colonialists. The conflict truly seemed fabricated from relative peace, and quickly spiraled out of bloody control. Some incredibly moving exhibits in the Memorial, and tons of pictures as well. The point with any tragedy is to not to forget, but to remember, such that, hopefully, it never happens again.
Moving for sure.
That afternoon, Cara and myself head to the bus terminal, so we can catch the shuttle to Musanze. Musanze is the gate to Volcanoes National Park, and we would like to do some hiking. In fact, the main draw to Volcanoes is the gorilla tracking, in which travelers get to find and spend time with wild gorillas. It is supposed to be amazing, but at $500 (yes) for under 90 minutes (yes) of tracking, I decided to pass. Sorry Heath, but it just wasn’t something I was dying to do, and there is so much other sweetness that could be accomplished for that price. That’s roughly a month’s living expense in East Africa.
The bus terminal itself is thoroughly packed, but is far more organized and civil than that in Dar Es Salaam. Breath of fresh air once more. Cara and I get on the bus, sit on opposite sides, and as we wait, we are simultaneously approached by beggars from outside. Each proceeds to pound furiously on the window, and instead of verbally requesting money, they hold up their respective, mutilated/missing appendages, and extend their opposite hands. The scene was very grotesque, and Cara and I do our best to remain calm, and find a bit of humor in it all. For the record, giving money to beggars is rarely if ever advisable, as you generally create an even bigger problem than you solve. The money is not spent in a healthy way, more beggars come, and trouble develops. Although Cara and myself kept the money in our pockets, the unfortunate reality of these particular beggars is that the loss of their limbs likely occurred during the genocide. This was very surreal.
After a beautiful, two-hour drive through rolling green, we finally arrive in Musanze. I purchase some whiskey and she a cappuccino cola, we take a short walk, and then head off to bed. The following morning, we take bikes to the national park, arriving shortly after 9am, and are told that all activities begin sharply at 7, and we can’t do anything until the next day. Stupid. There’s two lakes nearby, Rohondo and Burera, and we hop on some more motorbikes in search of the nature. $2.50 and 30 minutes later, we arrive at this –
– pay a Rwandese dude $1 to paddle us out and get some more pics like this –
– and this –
Bit more paddling, and we arrive at a small island and meet some villagers. Two of said villagers – one hanging dong:
Next day, Cara leaves, and I go to climb a volcano, Bisoke Volcano, in the park. Far cheaper than the gorillas. Four hours to the crater lake at the top:
Clouds make these pictures stink, but whatever. In addition, they mask a far taller peak behind the lake, which is officially and intriguingly situated in the adjacent country, the Democratic (lol) Republic (lol) of Congo (The fabled “DRC”), which is a country run almost entirely by armed jungle militias. Crazy shit.
Later that night, I catch a ride back into Kigali with the Germans pictured above, and proceed to find a bus ticket towards Kampala, Uganda for the following morning. I was set to go to a concert that night. Unfortunately, the bus ends up being full, but the guy at the counter tells me that his buddy is driving to Kabale in the next 20 minutes, near my desired destination of Lake Bunyonyi, just across the Rwanda/Uganda border. Hitching rides with randos worked out well before, so I gave it another shot. This in the next post. Rwanda was a beautiful, beautiful country packed with rolling hills and varying shades of brilliant green.
Looking out over the Nile River, which almost drowned me yesterday,