After getting our bikes checked, buying extremely annoying but funny sounding honks, and entertaining the city valley hotel staff in Kigali for some time with our bikes, thousand of bags and extravagant meals (ordering tea and then topping up with our personal passion fruit, mango,and amazing Rwandan cheese etc.), we are finally ready to hit the road towards Tanzania.
Our group consists of 4 ladies for now;
Helen, who I met doing my first kayak lessons in Uganda. She’s lived in Kampala for about 10 month and is one of the few muzungos that can somehow speak Luganda (language spoken in central Uganda). She’s been planning this trip for some time- and was ready to do it by herself, but i think its ok we’re joining:)
Aja, is Helens old friend and is coming all the way from Czech to join this trip for 2 weeks. It’s her first time out of Europe, so going to Kongo and then cycling in Rwanda is a decent start to her traveling life!
Marie, I am actually still not sure what she does, but somehow she is in Kampala as well and has decided a couple of days before leaving she would join. How the heck she did it, I can’t tell- but over the weekend she managed to get a bike, bike cloth, camping stuff panniers (in Uganda!!- Owino Market in Kampala is the answer to that).
So Rwanda is called the country of the thousand hills- how on earth did we think it was a good idea to start here?! Leaving Kigali is pretty painful due to the hills to all sides..
We decide not to take the main road to the Tanzanian, but to take smaller roads leaving Kigali to the South. At around 4 o’clock we pass by one of the memorial churches of the genocide by Nyamata (1994, mass murders on Tutsi who have been trying to hide in churches from their successors). Its crazy; 23 years later it somehow looks as if this happened maybe three years ago. The belongings of the people are just put in a shed, not sorted, just pilled up. And the most absurd, the mass graves have just been reopened and all the bones are taken out to dry and clean them; any chance of genocide denial in the future is to be eradicated by this practice. The setting is grotesque; a church full of bones, sorted by skulls and other bones, pilled on top of each other – people are so cruel. Rwanda seems to be dealing really well with the history of the genocide, there are memorial sites everywhere in the country and being Hutu or Tutsi doesn’t seem to exist in Rwanda anymore- everyone is Rwandan and nothing else. I wonder if its really that simple.. but then again no one in Germany would ever ask again if someone is German OR Jewish (not sure if you can really compare these two though..)
Leaving the memorial church its almost dark and easy going; we decide to just ask some woman if we can just pitch our tents in their backyard – our theory: its safe, they are nice, its all good. The woman are really nice and it all seems to be great; we have a nice dinner with a great view and go to tents, ready to sleep.. Then suddenly the husband gets home and even though he is super friendly, a university professor from Kigali, he insists on us meeting the local chief tonight. What we didn’t know: if foreigners are staying anywhere else than guesthouses in Rwanda, the local chief needs know and allow our stay and meet you personally. In our heads all getting ready to pack our tents again. When he gets there, surprisingly he only wants to see our passports and what the heck we are doing here, and tells us that security for us will be provided.. We are super relieved, finding another spot to sleep at night after cycling all day- not so nice..
The next morning when we stick our head outside our tents it becomes clear what that meant by providing security- a police officer was placed outside to guard us overnight, another two show up while we pack up. Obviously, we already noticed that it doesn’t seem to be easy going in Rwanda to camp wild, but it became clear how no-go this was, when some local leader woman arrives as well and gives us a talk on how if something happens to us, they will be held responsible and especially at this time of the year (Genocide Memorial Phase in April was about to begin) it would be super irresponsible of us- so that was the ending of camping in Rwanda..
We continue our trip; more children, more beautiful but painful hills, some lakes, some Radler, more staring and screaming children -Rwanda is one of the most densely populated places in earth, so there is literally never a moment without people around, no matter how rural it is. Its even difficult to find a spot for a short-call (toilet break:))
Yes and then two days and maybe 100 km further, we somehow find ourselves in the same situation; its getting dark and no hotel. We’ve been sent from village to village for about an hour and promised by various villagers that there will be accommodation in the next village- finally we give up, since its already dark and we super tired from cycling up hills all day. The options are either taking a truck to the next town or finding accommodation- camping is obviously not an option..We must seem pretty desperate, because somewhere out of nowhere Friend and his brother Benko show up and offer us to stay in their mothers living room – of course we happily accept. They both work and study in Kigali, but are home to visit for the genocide memorial week. During a nice sit together in the evening with the mother, the two sons, who are in their 20s and their 6 year old nice, we enjoy the hospitality of this lovely family. Luckily we always have enough food and some Czech alcohol to share with them. Due to the mother formerly working for the government, we do not need to meet the local chief this time. At around 9 the mother sends everyone to bed; the girls need to rest. A big matrace is being prepared for us and it really reminds me of the all girls sleepover I’ve done when i was about 15 – they have taught me a lesson and therefore I decide to sleep on my own matrace after all:) Unfortunately the nights is not as restful as expected, since the mosquito don’t give us a break – and the sleeping bag is way too hot. I decide for the sweaty night and only leave the top of my face out- good enough for the mosquito- they buzz in my ear all night. When I wake up in the morning i can tell at first sight, that it wasn’t any better for the other three – no one actually slept.
This day we spend in a somehow nice hotel, so we can recover from the night, wash ourselves and our cloths and connect to the world. And then, somehow, its already time for Marie and Aha to head back home to Kampala and Czech. Their bikes are easily put on top of one of the small buses and they are on their way to Kigali.