After a few days in Nairobi, I plan to travel to Rwanda. Before I go back to the Netherlands, I have to digest this whole experience. I will travel around the country of Rwanda and visit some of my VSO colleagues, whom I met during my training in the Netherlands.
I enter another world, when I arrive in Rwanda. It is clean, organised, not chaotic at all, green, hills. I feel the calmness of the country. People are nice, traveling is easy, people are honest. I meet a nice guy from Australia my first night in the guesthouse in the capital city Kigali. Next day we go for coffee and we visit a clothing shop with suits and dresses in colorful African prints. Since Rwanda was colonized by Belgium, the coffee and the croissants and other breads are delicious. They also left the mayonaise. The real Belgium mayonaise!
I travel to a volunteer in Gasiza, where I visit the school where he works by motorcycle, we hike through the beautiful mountains, with all the small agricultural pieces of land. Every part of Rwanda is cultivated, every family owns a small farmland, to be self sufficient. This sounds great, but leaves out the possibility to really grow. There is a lot of poverty in Rwanda.
After this visit I travel to the lake, to chill a few days. I stay in Home Saint Jean, a Belgium inspired building, on lake Kivu. I run every morning, through the hills, alongside the lake, beautiful sceeneries. I read books. I swim in the lake, the lake with a lot of gas/methane generation, which provides most of Rwandans with electricity. I chill on the little beach and get into contact with Chinese people, who are building the road alongside the lake. The Chinese seem to be experts in building roads. Really friendly people, with whom I eat the fried little fishes that come straight from the lake, delicious, with a mustard dip. They introduce me to their local sigarettes, real special ones. Chinese are real chauvinists. They don’t intermingle a lot and live in their own little China town, except for these Chinese, they were really friendly and open minded.
Next day I travel by boat to Rusizi. I want to visit the tropical rainforest Nyungwe. in the South, to spot the chimps. The ferry place is just a grass field on the shores of the lake. I wonder if it is correct, but yes it is. I meet two Peace Corps volunteers, great guys. They are in Rwanda for two years, teaching English in remote areas. One of them is building a boat to sail on the lake, visit some islands, pitch a tent and drink a beer. Exiting plan. The end of the boattrip he tells me about the Japanese expression, ‘ichi-g-ichi-e’, which stands for the people you meet only once in your life.
I meet a lot of ichi-g-ichi-e’s during my trip. An enrichment in life. I always think I meet people for a reason, I travel places for a reason. I love traveling on my own, no strings attached, nobody to take into account. I can get inspired by other travellers about places to visit. Sometimes I love to be on my own too, but it’s like my hair, when you have curly hair, you want it straight and the other way around. This is how I see traveling on my own. When I am too long on my own, I need to talk to people to get inspired, when I am surrounded by many people for a long time, I need to be on my own, I need my space. Fortunately traveling is like this, it’s is up to me, this is freedom!
Chimps in the rain
After the boat trip I take a random taxi, since the buses are finished for the day, to travel to the Nyungwe tropical rainforest. I stay in a guesthouse, next to the bookings office. I want to see the chimps, but without own transport, they can arrange it for 150 dollars. Incredible expensive, not in my budget. So I look for alternative options and figure out that a person who will do the chimps tracking the next day, will use her own transport. I get into contact with the hotel where she stays and try to manage, at 9 in the night, to get a lift to the chimps next morning at 5. Yes! Glad I managed and saved a lot of money. Interesting lady from Australia I travel with. The chimps are great, eventhough it was pooring cats and dogs. They live high upin the trees. They were eating figs and looking for shelter under the fig leaves. These apes are as close to our DNA as 98%. Apes differentiate from monkies, because of the lack of their tail. They carry their baby chimp in the front on their chest till these kids are 8 years old, at that time they move to the back till 12 years. Amazing how long they stay with their mums. Chimps are also so much stronger than human beings. Wonderful to gaze at them through the raindrops in the deep rainforest and listen to their communication.
Sauna, Coffee & Beads
After this great glimpse of the chimps, I travel to Butare. I decided in the bus where to go. The moment a read about this place, I see coffee places, sauna, yoga, icecream places, I am convinced. Apparently a few other VSO colleagues live here. I meet them and we have drinks in town. The next night I stay at a colleagues place, beautiful house and garden, I fell in love with this house. Hammock on the veranda, african fabrics everywhere. Great to stay here, we go to the sauna that evening. Hilarious, really small steamy sauna, with lovely eucalyptus herbs. The area outside the sauna is huge, normally there is gym going on. Also big tv screen outside the sauna, with fanatic karaoke singing going on. Love Africa!
Found a cute little coffee shop, with chapati’s and avocado and egg salad, fresh juices and good Rwandan coffee. Rwanda is one of the biggest export countries of arabic coffee beans.
I visit the National Museum of Rwanda and am amazed by the beads that also this Rwandan culture is rich of, like the Maasai culture. Beads are inseparably connected to African cultures, an interesting fact of decorating human bodies during all sorts of rituals and traditions.
That afternoon I travel to another colleague, in the middle of nowhere, swaying bus trip through the mountains. Great views. Stunning country. Back to basic, no shower, just bucket showers, which is totally ok. You use so much less water, than with a normal shower. Also no sink and no running water through the toilet. Beautiful place, nothing more you need. Real chill to hang around here, we watch movies, I write my blog, my column, read my book. Reading Narziss & Goldmund, Hermann Hesse, about opposite characters, philosophies and true friendship. Great time thanks to all my VSO colleagues who are so friendly and open to receive me with open arms.
Last stop at capital city Kigali. Visiting the Genocide Memorial, really impressive. Not to imagine what happened here in 1994, terrible black page of 100 days in Rwanda’s history. The hotel we were staying, happened to have a wedding that night, beautiful traditional dances. I need to go for fabric shopping and visit the tailors of AFRIEK. In my next post more about this!