Overland Day 9: Rwanda
Another blog post, another country. I’ve already been in Africa for 11 days and the 9 days on the truck have included a few long driving days so we’re moving swiftly along. Here’s what I’ve been up to:
Day 6 – We travelled 425km this day (Kampala to Kabale, Uganda), the longest journey we’ve had so far. It actually wasn’t too tedious as there was a good vibe on the truck and everyone was having a great time. We’ve probably settled in to the long drives now. Just as well, as I’m sure there are going to be plenty more of them.
The main highlight of the day was crossing the equator in Uganda. We stopped for breakfast a few photos and a nifty demonstration of how in the northern hemisphere water drains in an anti-clockwise direction, whereas in the southern hemisphere it drains clockwise. When it’s done directly on the equator, it drains straight down… pretty cool, methinks!
We made it to Cepha’s Inn, Kabale by about 6pm and it was my cook group’s turn. Getting the hang of cooking for 16 people now! The campsites around Kabale have had some security issues recently, however we were assured that the one we were staying in was safe. Unfortunately, it left us feeling a bit jittery and we had a small ‘incident’ in the night. My tent buddy swore blind she had heard someone walking around our tent and freaked out – not a great night’s sleep! We were all fine though, which is the main thing.
Day 7 – Set out early and crossed the Uganda-Rwanda border. It was definitely less stressful than the Kenya-Uganda crossing. Once again, the difference in the country was immediately noticeable; Rwanda is incredibly green and hilly (it’s known as the land of a thousand hills), and the people are the friendliest so far. Pretty much every time we get out the truck a little crowd gathers just to watch what we’re doing. It’s a bit odd to be honest but you get used to it. Not so great when you need a pee, though!
It didn’t take us long to get to the capital, Kigali. We spent a few hours at the Genocide Memorial Centre, a beautiful resting place for victims of the genocide. It was very sad and quite difficult, but a real eye-opener. It’s also shocking to see just how well the country has recovered even though the genocide was only 18 years ago. We then popped into Hôtel des Mille Collines, of Hotel Rwanda fame. The locals have quite a different view of the story, and it’s not quite as heroic as Hollywood has made it out to be. Apparently the refugees were only allowed to hide in the hotel if they could afford to pay.
Next stop was Fatima’s Lodge, Ruhengeri, which is where I am right now. The journey here was an absolutely stunning drive through winding hills with amazing views.
Day 8 – Possibly the most incredible day I’ve had so far and definitely a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience: I trekked to visit a family of mountain gorillas. I don’t even really know how to put into words just how incredible this was. The trek was a grueling 3 hours up the side of the mountain, an and hour and a half back down, but it was totally worth it. The gorillas are such magnificent creatures and so very peaceful. This day deserves a blog post all to itself and I will get to that when I am able to. All I can really say for now is: DO IT.
Went out for dinner with the group in the evening to a lovely local restaurant. Got a lift back to the accommodation on the back of a motorbike – a first for me! I was a bit nervous but it was great fun 🙂
Day 9 – Today has been a free day so I’ve spent the morning doing boring things like laundry, re-packing and catching up on emails. Some of us will be heading into town in the next couple of hours to visit the local market and have an early dinner. I need to try to get a few tops as I only brought three with me and one of them has gone walkies 🙁
This first part of the trip is known as the Gorillas and Gameparks loop and now that we’ve done the gorilla trek we’ll slowly head back to Kenya. That means another border crossing tomorrow: back into Uganda. I’m enjoying getting all these stamps in my passport!