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Embedded Photos: 1.Kigali Hills 2.Batwa Pottery 3.Kigali4.Kigali Suburbs5.Ruhengeri Hotel Room6.Muhabura Volcano 4127m
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Sabyinyo and Gahinga Volcanoes, Rwanda
COUNTRY FACTS Pop: 8,648,248 Area: 26,338 sq km Gov't: Republic Religion: Catholic 56.5%, Protestant 26%, Adventist 11.1%, Indigenous Belief 0.1% View Map
Gorilla Country, Sabyinyo and Gahinga Volcanoes, Rwanda, September 2004  

Rwanda Flag RWANDA


September 16. KAMPALA TO KIGALI In the morning we caught a taxi to the bus station, which wasn't much of a bus station.  The bus companies are privately run so there wasn't a central bus station in Kampala.  Horizon, an Ugandan own bus company, was located near the center of the city but just consisted of a small portable building, a ticket booth and aKigali, Rwanda parking lot.  When we arrived there wasn't a bus in sight and very few people were around so Rob went to check on the status.  They assured him it was on its way and directed us to a stack of plastic chairs under a portable canopy where we could wait.  With some time to kill Rob ran to get some breakfast food while I watched the bags.  People slowly started to pool up. The parking lot was in the process of having tarmac laid down so it was a stick patchwork of black asphalt. 

Eventually the bus pulled up and people began to position themselves to get on board.  The bus had originated in Nairobi so it was already full of sleepy passengers that had been riding all night.  That meant that the baggage space above the seats was also packed.  Rob watched as they loaded the bigger bags under the bus.  In the back of the main compartment they loaded a big oil drum that said "toxic" on it.  There probably wasn't oil inside but we didn't want our bags anywhere near it anyway.  The manager of the bus station had been extremely friendly towards us from the time we bought our tickets and came out of the booth to introduce us to the driver, a tall, easy-going man from Kenya.  He made a point of asking the driver to help us with the customs check at the border and made sure our bags got stored in a safe place under the bus. 

Batwa Art, Kigali, RwandaWith all of the existing passengers getting on and off the bus it was a struggle to wedge our way on board.  People were busy moving bags around inside of the bus, trying to make room for their stuff and blocking the aisle in the process.  Fortunately, there were assigned seats but I immediately sank when I saw where ours were located.  They were directly under one of the bus speakers, which would no doubt be thumping along for the whole ride.  Once the bus was finally underway we asked the ticket taker if we could change to the back of the bus.

The drive was swift but pretty smooth. We soon passed the equator mark. The road continued its straight undulating path to the border, sweeping past acres of lush green landscape.  We made one stop at a gas station for a bathroom break, there wasn't any toilet on the bus.  It was pretty grim.  A spray painted sign for the women's toilet pointed me to a 10'x10' concrete slab surrounded with sheet metal walls.  There was one hole in the middle of the slab and nothing over the top.  A chunk of concrete partially covered the hole.  Across from the women's "toilet" was a men's room.  It was a solid building with two stalls inside.  I looked at the women's hole as other women from the bus started to queue up for their turn.  Then I looked at the neatly built men's toilet and thought, "Screw this!" and walked over to the men's room. I wasn't the only women with this idea.  One eager, heavy set woman from the bus tried to jump the line in front of me to get a stall first.  She was one of the smugglers we had determined, a group of people on the bus that all seemed to know each other and spent the entire ride monitoring the bags they had stashed inKigali, Rwanda various corners of the bus.  I held my ground on my turn and jumped into the vacant stall to find it was already well used.  Many other people seemed to be just finding the odd bush to take care of business.  That may have been the more pleasant option from several standpoints but it had definite environmental drawbacks. 

Most of the distance between Kampala and Kigali was in Uganda so it was a relief when we finally reached the border.  The money change touts were on us the minute we got off the bus.  It didn't matter what we said they persisted.  "No, I don't need to change money."  "I already changed my money." "Go away!" Once I reached a high enough level of frustration they would say "You don't need to change money?" Still some followed us all of the way through the no man's land trying to get us to change money that we didn't have to even change. 

The immigration queues in Uganda and Rwanda were both pretty easy. We filled out our forms and waited our turn.  The bus drove ahead while the passengers all walked across the bridge separating Uganda and Rwanda at their own pace.  It was the custom's check on the Rwanda side was a real hassle.  They made each of us claim our carry-on bags and wait next to our big bags that had been unloaded from underneath the bus.  One-by-one the custom's official went from bag to bag and person to person.  They opened nearly everyone's bags and took a peek or grabbed a feel of the inside.  We were near the end of the line.  Our driver assured us it wouldn't be a big deal and when our turn came the officers just looked at our bags and said "okay".  Sometimes being the foreigner gave us privileges.  We had to drag ALL of our bags back onto the bus this time which meant the aisle became packed with people's luggage.  And, all of this hassle was meant to prevent people from smuggling goods into Rwanda.  Guns were a concern Kigali, Rwandabut the big reason was the high taxes in Rwanda on imported goods.   But, when we reached our seats again we found guys lined up at our window grabbing bags of stuff from people outside.  As the custom's officers stood on one side of the bus they were loading smuggled goods right into the bus from the other side.  It was almost comical.  I set my pack down in front of our window and gestured for them to use a different window.  We didn't need to have anything to do with that.

As the bird flies there wasn't much distance left to reach Kigali but the road became narrow and windy, significantly slowing us down.  The sky was getting dark so I was thankful for our driver's safe driving skills.  With bags piled up everywhere Rob and I couldn't sit together anymore so he took a seat next to the woman behind us.  She was a nicely dressed woman but had a glum look on her face.  As the ride went on he gradually struck up a conversation with her.  I could only hear parts of what they were saying but he later told me it had been quite a moving conversation. 

The woman lived in Nairobi but was from Rwanda and while she never explicitly said so it appeared she was a Tutsi.  She mentioned to Rob that she was a Jehovah's Witness and, out of curiosity, he asked how she decided to join the religion.  Missionary work is busy all over Africa, through many different organizations, but we hadn't encountered any other Jehovah's Witnesses.  She explained that on the worst day of her life, the day her entire family was killed, she was sitting and crying when a Jehovah's Witness came to console her.  The person explained that she would see everyone in her family again someday and gave her hope to go on.  She was very careful how she worded everything and after she first told Rob about her family dying she later just referred to it as "the thing I told you about before".   It had been ten years since the Rwandan genocide and while the tribal names, Hutu and Tutsi, have become widely known the people themselves don't really look different from one another.  In fact, prior to colonialism the groups often intermarried.  It was the BelgianRuhengeri, Rwanda colonists that segregated the two groups and gave the Tutsis a controlling role in the government, setting an early stage for a horrific uprising that came much later.  In just ten fragile years the country has come a long way in confronting what happened and trying to move on.  Today there is not much good that can come from identifying yourself with one group or the other.  They all just need to be Rwandans. 

By the time we finally reached Kigali it was totally dark outside.  We could see the lights of the city spilling out over the surrounding hillsides.  The bus station was on the edge of town so we needed to catch a cab to our hotel.  The woman that Rob had been talking to wanted to help us get into town and arranged for one of the other women on the bus to share a taxi with us.  The woman didn't speak much English but was going in the same direction and had a load of luggage.  We were sure that we could find our own way but were touched by the hospitality and accepted. 

Kigali wasn't known for its abundance of quality or affordable accommodations so we opted for the Okapi Hotel.  It was on the high end of our budget but had been recommended and we didn't want to be moving from place to place in search of a room at night.  The rooms were more expensive than we had hoped and the reception staff weren't great but the hotel did have a restaurant with a view.  We decided to take a room for one night and look into options the next day.  We even splurged for the cable TV.   The room was on the third floor and overlooked the dirt parking lot in front of the hotel.  The surrounding buildings didn't look like much but they still managed to generate a fair amount of noise and the permanently open window at the top of our balcony door allowed us hear it all loud and clear.  The room itself was basic but clean.  The beds were well worn foam mattresses but the bathroom had a bathtub. A bathtub!  I could hardly remember the last bath I had taken.  It must have been back in Santorini, in March.  We put our bags down and went for dinner downstairs.  It was pretty marginal food but the waiters were nice.  As soon as we got back to the room I didn't waste any time getting a bath ready, only there wasn't much hot water.  It just trickled out and then went dead.  It was such a let down.  We felt like we were paying for that bathtub and definitely deserved hot water!  We called downstairs and they said they would check to make sure the valves were on.  Eventually I got large amounts of hot water but it was all sort Muhabura Volcano, Rwandaof brown, probably rust from the pipes. We called downstairs again and they sent a service man up to take a look and he confirmed that the brown water would eventually go away if I ran it long enough and, sure enough, it did get better.  In the end I just settled for some grit floating around the bottom of the tub and sank in. It felt really good.  After our nine and a half hour bus trip it was a small bit of luxury.  My body soaked up the water and sloughed off the dry, dead skin until I could see it floating in the water.  Yuck. 

Stretched out over our hard foam mattresses, listening to the street noise through the window, we tried to watch some cable TV but that turned out to be a bit overrated as well.  They had a system of sharing channels so there were only so many of one channel available in the hotel.  We had to call to request that a channel but hooked up to our room.  Then we learned that the better channels couldn't get proper sound.  What did we expect?  That was the reason we were paying more for the room, why should it actually work?

ZANZIBAR Stone Town July 11 July 12-14 Nungwi July 15-18 Stone Town I: July 19-23 II: July 19-23 Paje July 23-27 Stone Town July 27-Aug 1

TANZANIA Dar Es Salaam Aug 1-3 Moshi I: Aug 3-31 II: Aug 3-31 III: Aug 3-31 Safari Circuit Aug 17 Aug 18 Aug 19 Aug 20 Aug 21 Mt. Kilimanjaro Aug 23 Aug 24 Aug 25 Aug 26 Aug 27 Aug 28

KENYA Nairobi Sept 1 Sept 2 Sept 3 Sept 4-5

UGANDA Kampala Sept 6 Sept 7-16 Kampala Short Stories

RWANDA Kigali Sept 16 Sept 17 Ruhengeri Sept 18 Sept 19 Gisenyi Sept 20 Kigali Sept 21 Sept 22

UGANDA Kampala Sept 23 Sept 24-26