Arriving in Rwanda

Monday, December 5, 2011  at 6:52 AM
Written By: Chris Coulon.

Our last day in Kabale/Uganda ended up rather subdued.  It being Tuesday, Danalynn had two and a half hours to put in for e-tutoring, which should have been business as usual.  Unfortunately this was also the day the entire town lost power for the whole day.  Much of our day was spent hanging out in front of our host’s internet café, hoping the power would return and people watching while I nursed a killer headache and we tried several new and unfamiliar fruits from passing vendors.  By 19:00 we threw in the towel and wandered up to the top of a hill overlooking the town to watch the giant bats, which inhabit the summit trees, take flight for their nocturnal forays.  When we finally wandered back down, well after dark, the power saw fit to grace us with its presence.  We finished our work on the internet ASAP and I called it an early night, hoping to get some rest and rid myself of my headache.

kabale uganda tree of bats
Our host and I at the base of a gigantic tree, staring up at hundreds of bats

The following morning, taking some advice from our host, we made the decision to walk from Kabale to the Rwandan border.  We were assured that it was no more than a two hour walk, so naturally we came to the conclusion that it is probably more like three hours.  That morning I was feeling much better and even my headache had subdued to a minor inconvenience so we decided to make the trek.  After all, it would be a great opportunity to really appreciate the green hills and banana tree groves before departing for the savannahs of Tanzania.

hiking in uganda to rwanda nomad
Danalynn walking along a road in Southwest Uganda

A little over five hours later, I stumbled feverish and utterly exhausted over the Rwandan border.  Our “walk” had started out pleasant enough but about three hours in (right about when we expected to approach the border) my headache came back with a vengeance along with its friend fatigue and perhaps even a bit of delirium (checking later we discovered the distance from Kabale to the border was actually 23km).  At the border I collapsed on a small wooden bench as Danalynn began the long process of jumping through hoops that is entering a foreign country.  Eventually passports were stamped, currency exchanged and we found a decently priced bus to take us the rest of the way to Kigali (roughly another 2.5 hours away by car). 

hiking from uganda to rwanda nomad
Our roadside view

The way that most public transport in Africa works is that a bus or van will sit and wait until full before departing for its destination (this usually entails all open space within the vehicle to be occupied including sometimes hanging halfway out windows or crammed under dash boards; the system does not lack for economic efficiency).  Unfortunately, the bus that we had found was a 40-50 seater and only about 10% full as we climbed aboard.  The attendant assured us that it usually only takes about an hour to fill and we would definitely be on our way in a little over an hour.  At that point, I cared little and less; I found a seat and passed out. 

An hour and a half later I woke up, groggy but feeling a little better; only to realize that the bus had taken on only one additional passenger.  At that rate we could expect to leave the border by 22:00.  Rather than wait, we jumped ship, found a small car headed south, negotiated a price with the driver (roughly $4) and took off, bound for Kigali.  The drive was pleasant and beautiful.  Rwanda is aptly named the land of a thousand hills and for good reason.  As we meandered our way through the many ups and downs of Rwanda, we passed many small villages and more plantations; every now and then the tarmac road gave out for several hundred meters of gravel and potholes, but for the most part the ride was smooth. 

After two hours of driving we got our first glimpse of Kigali.  On top of one of the many green hills looming in the distance were the silhouettes of tall buildings and their surrounding urban sprawl.  The image seemed oddly out of place from the rest of the rural countryside surrounding it.  None the less, I was happy to be nearing the end of our day’s journey and nearly jubilant when our driver agreed to drop us off exactly where we planned to meet up with our host in the center of town.

kigali rwanda nomad
Kigali seen on the approach

Our new host turned out to be a volunteer from South Korea working with an organization akin to that of the American Peace Corps.  He had a great flat just outside of downtown Kigali.  Upon arriving at his home I took several minutes to fully appreciate being in a place with not only electricity and running water, but warm water and even wi-fi, before promptly passing out for the remainder of the day, happy to be finally done with the journey.

kigali rwanda nomad
Our view looking out from Downtown Kigali at a neighboring hill
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