We started our east African adventure in Kigali, Rwanda- but lets start with how we ended up here in the first place… One night hanging out with our friends over (sour) beers, Tara & Kevin they informed us that they would embarking on a month long adventure in east Africa, under the influence of alcohol we decided to partake! There were times that I wondered what we were getting ourselves into but knowing how well-traveled the two are and the prospect of seeing lions in the wild, we could not pass the opportunity up. Since we had prior work obligations we were unable to meet up with them until mid-way through their trip but based on the fact that they wandered into Congo on their gorilla trekking trip, maybe that was a good thing! ;) We met up with them on new years eve in Kigali at the Hotel Des Mille Collines, the hotel famous for the movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’. A perfect way to bring in the new year, with jet lag, crummy champagne, and in T & K’s case, travel illness. We managed to make it until midnight and Ben & I were up by 6am the next morning, in time to bring in our local Austin new year; a time I can say we have never been awake on new years day. We spent the first day of 2014 laying in bed and watching other countries bring in their new years and drinking drinks appropriate to those countries.
Rwanda is surprisingly different from the other 2 countries we visited on our trip. Since the 1994 genocide they have become a very progressive and very clean country that is working very hard to become united and move forward from their past. We visited the 2 main memorial sites of the genocide, two churches where 10,000 people were killed, each. A ‘tourist attraction’ that leaves you with no words but only filled with sadness and hopes for a less devastating future for all of mankind. Both memorial sites, Nyamata and Murambi were left virtually untouched, covered in the clothing of the deceased and skulls and bones were pilled in corners. The guides would tell us the stories of how and where people’s lives were taken as if they had told it a million times before.
To perk the day up a bit we went to a manual bowling site with our driver, Fiarce, he had never played before so it was fun to teach him how to play. Side note, going bowling where people are putting the pins together down the lane by hand is one of the coolest things I’ve seen! Albeit slower, the food in Rwanda is similar to other east African food we had, grilled meats, fried potatoes, soups, and amazing grilled fish. As mentioned before, Kigali is a larger city where I felt relatively safe during the day time. People walk everywhere and when it’s too far to walk it is easy to find a motor taxi for 500 franc ($.75). “Mille Collines” translates to a thousand hills where you can see houses upon houses and many people walking their bikes up said hills! Despite being close to the equator the temperatures are fairly mild and the morning always brings in a heavy fog clouding the city for most of the day. When the rains come, they come hard and since the area is conditioned for beautiful weather, it’s easy to be stuck indoors during their brief and heavy rain showers. All in all there is not that much to do in Kigali itself but it is known for their night life, which we were too jet-lagged to experience. I am happy that we were able to experience a country that defied some of the stereotypes that I expected from Africa. The other countries did live up the stereotypes however….
Below you can see some of our favorite photos of the locals, views of the city, as well as a photo of Nyamata memorial site – some photos with our iphone, mostly with our dslr. I figured one memorial photo was enough since the 2nd memorial site contained bodies of over 45,000 people and it was emotionally draining enough to live through it once.
Murakoze! (Thank you in Kinyarwanda)