After that we needed to get out of the city of Kigali and so we headed for Gisenyi on the northern shore of Lake Kivu which has the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo which runs down the middle of the lake. Gisenyi is a lovely spot right on the sandy beaches of the lake and used by locals and expats for a bit of swimming, boating and relaxing, we stayed the night in a great little hotel and enjoyed some great food that night. However the doof doof music from the bar across the road kept us awake until 1 am which put a dampener on the situation. We started following the Congo Nile Trail the next morning when we suddenly remembered that our Carnet for the Land Cruiser was about to expire on the 11th off April and that we could only get the one year extension for it back in Nairobi. This would mean a return to Nairobi and also meant that we would miss some of Rwanda and some of Uganda but it’s something we just had to do. So I rang the Automobile Association of Kenya and asked if we could have it done now but then pick it up on our return but the answer was no, they needed the carnet to do this. So there had to be a change of plans and we set off back to Kigali and then from there we would need to go back to Nairobi which would take about a week.
Though as we were driving I rang Chris at Jungle Junction in Nairobi where we had stored our car to see if he had any other way of doing it. He suggested we try the AA club of Rwanda which we tried but they were unable to help. We stayed at a different hotel in Kigali this time The Step Town Hotel and the manager there John came up with the brilliant suggestion of sending the carnet via DHL courier back to Kenya. So I rang AA Kenya to confirm that this was possible and Nina said yes it was. Chris from Jungle Junction agreed to pick it up and take it to AA Kenya for me and then send it back again via DHL. It did mean however that until it returned we would not be able to cross any borders but we did have a lot more to do in Rwanda so that was fine.
We had a spare few hours in the afternoon so we drove 30 kilometres south of Kigali to the Ntarama Church genocide memorial where approximately 5,000 people in the church, sunday school, kitchen and surrounds where murdered on the 14th of April 1994. Again it was very moving for us seeing displays of the skulls, bones, clothing and personal belongings of the men, women and children who were murdered there. There is a memorial name board at the site with only 1,500 peoples names of the 5,000 murdered and that’s because whole families were murdered and so there is no one still alive to give the names of the dead. Our guide Chantelle lost her father on that day and still has not forgiven the killer because he will not admit fault, to make matters worse he has finished his sentence and now lives back in the community. Having said that though the overwhelming thoughts are that they must all, Tutsi and Hutu move on and they must live in harmony, without this there would never be peace in Rwanda.
We next headed down to Butare which is the second largest city and the main attractions for us were the National Museum and also the Cathedral. The drive down was very similar to all the other roads we had travelled in Rwanda, intensively farmed lands with many small towns in between and we seemed to be either climbing or descending all day, no wonder Rwanda is referred to as the land of a 1000 hills! We arrived early in the afternoon so we went straight to the museum and for the sum of $9 each we had a personal guide who came around and explained all about the different exhibits to us. This was great and he was very happy to answer all our questions which was great. The museum is outstanding and very well put together and worth every cent.
From there we went and checked into a hotel because yet again the heavy afternoon rains were coming in and our leaky roof top tent was just not up to the job. We then went for a town walk which took us past the Cathedral and it was much bigger than we were expecting, not so grand as the ones we had seen in the UK and Europe but still had a lot of charm and warmth.
On our way back we spotted a shop with some great Kitenge materials so Pauline bought one to send home. A Kitenge is a piece of material 6 yards long and 2 yards wide and has all sorts of print designs, we paid $15 for it.
The next day we set off for some hot water springs at a place called Bugarama but had only travelled for 10 minutes when we were held up by a Youth Games bicycle teams time trial being held on the road we wanted to take.
One and a half hours later we were on our way again and climbed up to over 2,500 metres above sea level going through the Nyungwe Forest National Park but what struck us was the number of Rwandan Army soldiers who were in place at intervals of every 500 metres along the road. This went on for a good 40 kilometres and we since found out that it is as a result of some gunmen from Burundi had on several occasions come across the border and stole food and livestock and even taken some Rwandan citizens back with them to carry the loot. Anyway the soldiers were all quite friendly and mostly gave us a wave as we went past.
While we descended down out of the park it started raining hard and we decided to abandon the drive into the hot springs and go directly to the bottom of Lake Kivu to a town called Cyangugu where again we had to get a hotel room due to the rain.
The hotel room looked straight out over the lake and we sat and watched the fishermen go out for the night. Here we noticed that they have three quite big boats lashed together with long poles which they paddle out whilst singing all the way to the middle of the lake. They then stop and anchor before stretching the boats right out using the long poles. They then deploy the net right under all three boats before putting very bright lights on to attract the fish. Then they sleep on the boats and pull their nets in the next morning before coming back in to shore.
Tonight we heard the very annoying news that we would have to return back to Kenya to get our Carnet extension after all so tomorrow we start the drive back to Kigali where we will have to wait for our Carnet to come back with DHL and then head for Nairobi crossing two borders in the process.
The next morning we set off for Kigali hoping and praying that our Carnet was on the DHL courier plane back from Nairobi to Kigali. It was a big day but a very enjoyable drive with the very few vehicles that Rwanda have on their excellent roads. However again we were stopped for the second day of the cycling race which was frustrating but gave us the opportunity while waiting to have a chat to some young boys aged between about 6 and 15 and one boy in particular was really enthusiastic to talk to us and after an hour or so of chatting I thought he would be a really good candidate to give a soccer ball to. His face lit up with a smile as wide as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and it was just delightful to see a little boy who had so much less than all the other boys in the group leave us on such a happy note.
We arrived back at the Step Town Hotel to find that yes our carnet was back which means we are all go for leaving Rwanda in the morning even though we had not spent enough time in Rwanda to do it justice. It was a big day because Marcus had left his special pillow (don’t ask!) back at the camp we used at Lake Bunyonyi so after clearing the border which went quite smoothly (until Marcus realised later that he had left his reading glasses behind), we entered Uganda again and deviated to pick up the pillow before then heading up to Kampala.
Thanks Rwanda it’s been short but great.