We were loving Africa and didn’t want our time there to end so we booked a flight to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda in eastern Africa. The freedom we have to just change our route on a whim is amazing and I will be sad when it’s over.
The country is mainly known for the horrific genocide which occurred in the 1990s, but it has recovered since then and is currently rated as one of the ten safest countries in the world.
We spent a few of days in green and hilly Kigali which was very laid back and incredibly clean (something we kept noticing throughout the country). We stayed in the coolest hostel of the trip in the expat area packed with smart restaurants and nightlife and whizzed around on motobike taxis. It was a treat to have a drink from a smoothie bar.
The main ‘sight’ in the city is the Kigali Genocide Memorial. The incredibly well curated museum movingly explained the run up to the genocide, the 100 days when a million people were slaughtered and the aftermath. It was harrowing to read but made us realise how amazingly the Rwandan people have recovered and forgiven so quickly.
It was also depressing to understand more about the UN’s lack of involvement and how they potentially could have prevented it escalating had they acted sooner.
A relatively short (the county is only the size of Belgium with 12 million inhabitants) journey took us to beautiful Gisenyi on Lake Kivu, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The town sits on the edge of the 2,700 sq km body of water and we spent a peaceful few days relaxing on our porch outside our safari tent and walking around the scenic shore.
From here we headed to Musanze along a beautiful road lined with tea plantations and deep green hills with a patchwork of crops. The more we travelled around the country the more beautiful it became. We found a nice guesthouse ran by an Italian ex-NGO worker who served tasty home cooked pizza in the evenings.
The next day we headed out on a tour of the local area with a guide from a cooperative set up to capitalise on the tourists visiting the Volcanoes National Park to track gorillas (we are doing this over the border in Uganda, as it costs US$1,500 in Rwanda).
In a taxi with Janet, our guide and young mother, we headed out to the nearby twin lakes separated by a small isthmus. After being wowed by Lake Livu, these were even more stunning. With even greener and steeper sides which plunged into blue green water.
An enterprising trio of women offered to take us on a short boat ride across the lake surrounded by alpine-like trees. We could have been in Switzerland it was so green.
After lunch we hiked up for a view of both lakes and through a small village where we were besieged by local kids shouting ‘hello’.
As well as the beautiful scenery it was interesting talking to a Rwandan about society and government. We learnt that for one Saturday every month the whole country stops work and comes together to improve the local community by, for example, cleaning the streets or helping to build a school. There are also incentives to install solar panels and loans to buy cattle. It’s probably one of the most forward-thinking countries on the continent.
We only spent a week in the country and barely scratched the surface of all that Rwanda has to offer but loved our time, but particularly the friendly and smily people (and not forgetting the deliciously super spicy chili oil which I unfortunately wasn’t allowed to take on a flight as “I could’ve blinded someone with it”!) .
Next stop: Uganda