Rwanda

Rwanda, a small high country, and a quick changeover to driving on the right.  We thought we may start with a couple of days in Kigali, the capital, and as we entered the city it looked modern and buzzing.  We had an address for a hotel, we stopped at a petrol station showed them the map and asked for directions to the road we needed, “where do you want to go?” “there” pointing to the map, after the third round of this we left.  Police station, there is the answer, Helen being the navigator tried first, after chatting with six or seven men she became exasperated and came back nearly in tears moaning that she could not get anywhere.

 

“Let me have a go,” I say, I have a group of four, all pointing to different places on the map, and in different directions in the street, I ask “how do you find your way around?” I get silly grins as response.  I try another one “how do we get to this road?” he is joined by three others, they engage in conversation, again arms pointing in all directions, an officer joins in (very briefly) they all stood to attention as they spoke, in the end I am led away, so to speak.

 

Round the back is the traffic division, the first one to be asked, looked at the map engaged in conversation with my escort and left.  The next man knew, and needed to get some paper to draw a map.  There we were three policemen drawing a map with one pen between them, arguing about where turnings are, where landmarks are, screwing up the paper starting again, I asked my escort “if someone who lives on Boulevard de I’oua, (the street we are looking for) phoned the police for emergency assistance how would you find it?” no answer.

 

Eventually after three attempts I get my map, all the directions are explained to me, it was full of phrases like “at the loundabout take the light load” and at the end of this load is the UN building.  There were some thoughts going through my mind like, ‘I do not want the f**king UN building I am looking for a hotel.  “Thank you, thank you very much.”

 

It is times like this that I long for a satnav, I did look before leaving but had trouble finding maps for Africa.  Anyway why would I want a satnav when I have Helen to navigate.

Plan B we will stay anywhere for tonight and leave town tomorrow.

 

The one thing I wanted to do on this trip was see the silver back gorillas, In Uganda it was difficult for us to do, or plan, in the DRC the security situation is not good, my last hope is in Rwanda, when we popped into the ORTPN office to check out the situation and found out that the permits were $750 each, we lost interest.

 

So we finished up at Ginsenyi the Riviera of Rwanda.  Not the description we would use, it is on the Northern end of Lake Kivu and the gateway to the DRC, our plan is to amble South alongside the lake over the next couple of days.  And here we are in Cyangugu, and another gateway to the DRC.

 

The area is really beautiful it makes the so called Riviera at the other end of the lake look like a dump.  Due to the bumpy road between the two places and a bit of iffy measuring on my part, I have had to make a minor welding adjustment to my new, home made spare wheel carrier.  Before it gets its real test, in Tanzania.

 

Going East, we drop out of the mountains and through the Nyungwe forest, somewhere just over to our left is the source of the Nile, At least the Rwandan source.  In Rwanda there are a lot of ‘genocide’ memorials, and one in particular is along the road we are taking, it was the site of a college and many people were sheltering there, when the killers came, hundreds of men, women, children and babies were slaughtered.

After the conflict the bodies in the building were preserved with powdered lime, and they are still there to this day.  Should one have the desire it is possible to wander round the class rooms and corridors to view these mutilated remains.  Not for us.

On one of our drives round the countryside we came by a load of kids on their way home from school, like kids the world over they are all released the same time, but then they somehow spread themselves over a great distance, these kids unlike most kids the world over, on their way home they all had three house bricks on their head,………….don’t ask, we tried and did not get anywhere.

 

We had the need to go down a very rough dirt road, there was quite a long way to go and on numerous occasions we had to ask people who did not speak English, who were not sure where they were, and did not know where the next place was, the way for us to go. Eventually we got within sight of our destination, some wetland area, so I could do some bird spotting.  We were up a hill the wetlands were at the bottom, and I could not find a way down, again I need the assistance of the locals, I point, I want to go down there, with a lots of arm waving this and that they indicate I should take that footpath width track, I indicate I am in a car, ‘no problem’

 

Off we go, the satnag bursts into “we can’t go down there” mode.  But we crisscross the hillside one footpath after another, following one set of directions after another.  I am listening to the constant “we can’t go down there” and thinking ‘there is no point in having a go anywhere vehicle if you can’t go anywhere”, all the time hoping we can get out the other end, as there is no way we can turn round.

 

After an age of driving through sweetcorn, sugar, coffee, sunflowers and god knows what, and getting no closer to the water, I decide I have done enough bird watching for one day, so we try and find our way out.      

 

The Chinese have been busy building roads in Africa, the finished job looks good, but time will tell, one road we went on was only seven or eight years old and already it is in a poor condition.  The other thing they have not appeared to have mastered is the banking, several places we have seen where they have cut through some higher ground, in a lot of places the embankment is not stable enough and has slipped.  In one place it has come down en mass, complete with trees grass and bushes.  In Uganda on one road where they were still working, a landslide of hundreds of tons of embankment had slid down and blocked a newly completed section of road.

 

We have just seen some Angolan Colobus monkeys, we are not big monkey fans, Baboons, the thieving whatsits parading about showing their bare bottoms to the world are probably on the bottom of our list.  The Angolan, the Red Faced and the Black and White Colobus monkeys look quite nice (as long as they stay in their place)  The Velvet monkey, another chancer when it comes to nicking foodstuffs, they also have the habit of posing their privates as they strut around showing off their bright blue testicles.  They go low on our list.

 

Having failed everywhere else we decided, against our better judgement to try the Akagera national park, in the hopes that it would add some brightness to our stay but it was dreadful.  We are off.

 

Rwandan immigration was easy, customs for the car took a bit more effort, once Helen had handed in the ‘carnet de passage’ three men stood round having a conference, with the look of never seeing one before, there is a line of traffic outside surely this is not the first one they have had! After a while they got their act together, and started filling the bits, but then one of them wanted to tear out the page needed to go in the next country, he stopped when Helen tried to squeeze between the bars shouting No,No,No, that is for the next country.  He rectified that by try to tear out the page that is our proof that the car has left Rwanda, and again he stopped when Helen was halfway through the bars screaming at him.  Eventually it was all done when he signed the car out on one page and stamped the next blank page

Rwanda is a beautiful country, but even though we tried out best we found it boring.   10-06-2013

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