After popping across in to the DRC for an unbelievable few days to meet the gorillas and climb Africa’s most active volcano, we continued traveling around Rwanda. From lakeside Gisenyi, we caught the twice-weekly ferry south on Lake Kivu to Kibuye, a scenic three-hour trip. It was a typically Rwandan ferry with one person per seat, life jackets for all and it left and arrived on time.
Kibuye is a pretty spot to spend a few days with beautiful views of the lake and it’s many islands, and the DRC mountains in the distance. Boat captains here are a dime a dozen and we explored a few of the nearby islands; meeting hundreds of fruits bats on Napoleon Island and swimming from Amahoro Island.
Amahoro means Peace in the local language and it was so named because during the genocide, a few people escaped to this island and survived. Like many churches across the country, the one attached to our accommodation at Hotel St Jean was the scene of a massacre as people fled to what they thought would be a safe haven. The church has been rebuilt with beautiful stained-glass windows and it was very moving to sit in silence for a few minutes.
We visited the Museum of Environment, the first of its kind in Rwanda, which had exhibits on fossil fuel & renewable energy and a herbal-medicine garden on the roof. It was interesting to learn how Rwanda is working to address it’s energy needs shortfall.
We continued on to the capital and immediately noticed how spotless and calm the streets were. It’s a hilly city, no bother and easy to get around (either on the bus or on one of the hundreds of boda-bodas that are absolutely everywhere).
We camped at Discover Rwanda and enjoyed coffee at a number of trendy cafes that would fit right in at home in East London; Inzora, above a bookshop, Shokola, above the public library, and RZ Manna, a Korean bakery with the most delicious doughnuts. Speaking of food, the burritos at Meze Fresh are divine while on Thursday Nights, the Inema Arts Centre is the trendiest spot in the city for a drink and some live music /DJ.
One should not leave Kigali without visiting the Genocide Museum. It is incredibly well done and absolutely heart breaking. It’s impossible to comprehend how almost a million Tutsis were slaughtered in 100 days. The beautiful gardens are the final resting place of 250,000 people, buried in huge mass graves, and the museum left us with lots more questions and a long reading list. Though it’s an incredibly difficult and sad book, one I’d ‘recommend’ is Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire of the Canadian Forces. Dallaire was head of the UN Mission in 1994 and remained in the country throughout the genocide.
From Kigali we made our way to the border and walked across into Tanzania to continue our travels.
It was incredibly easy getting around the country with public transport. The bus stations are among the calmest we’ve come across and there are many buses that leave at set departure times, arrive on time and are comfortable but still at low cost ‘local’ prices. Our bus to Gisenyi even had a charging point! The bodas are strictly one passenger per bike and all carry helmets.
After hearing so much about the country it was brilliant to see it for ourselves. The progress made in only 23 years is remarkable and a shining example to the whole world.