Today was a very long day but one that would show us so many things and be memorable for good and bad reasons.
I woke up really early in an attempt to have a nice shower before everybody used the hot water but fell down a ditch that ran across the campsite in the process. Luckily I didn’t injure myself and I was treated to a lovely hot shower, albeit in the dark. By 6am breakfast was ready and we left just after 7am so that we wouldn’t arrive in Rwanda too late and would have enough time to stop at the viewpoints along the way. The first viewpoint was at the top of the hill overlooking Lake Bunyonyi where we took some good photos and talked to a little kid who was reluctant to come close until I said hi in his local language.
On the way down the hill into Kabale the leg snapped on one of our seats at the back of the truck but luckily as we were driving through the town one of our group saw somebody welding something outside their house and we stopped to ask for their help. He agreed and spent 45 minutes helping us in exchange for a token payment – before 8am on a Sunday which was incredibly good service. We talked to some local kids for a while before making our way to the Rwandan border, arriving just after 9 and finally getting into Rwanda just before 11. Luckily the time was an hour behind in Rwanda so it was really 10am.
We arrived in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, at 1130 and made our way to the Genocide memorial. To start with we were given a brief tour of the gardens containing mass graves of over 258,000 people before being shown and a wall which has been started containing the names of all the people buried so far. After looking around the gardens we were taken to the main building for a self-guided tour of the exhibits.
The exhibits inside the memorial centre told the story of Rwanda in history, before occupation, the colonialisation by Belgium, the first genocide of 1959, the problems before the 1994 genocide, the role of the UN, experiences during the genocide and then the aftermath. It also showcased photos of people that were killed, their stories and finally showed the bones of some people that had been killed which was an incredibly moving experience. Upstairs there were further exhibits of other genocides such as Namibia, Germany, Armenia, Serbia etc which we browsed for a while before going to the gift shop in the courtyard where I managed to spend 15000 of the 19800 Rwandan Francs that I changed at the border on everything from charity wristbands and t-shirts.
Around 2 hours after arriving at the centre members of our group started congregating in the memorial centre car park for lunch, being attacked by flies in the process, before seeing people leaving a memorial service that had been taking place at the centre for somebody that was killed in the genocide but had only recently been identified.
We left Kigali and drove towards Ruhengeri, taking lots of good photos on the way. There are so many hills in this country which is how Rwanda earned its nickname – The land of 1000 hills – and in fact I didn’t see a piece of flat land during the entire journey. After arriving in Ruhengeri fairly late we made our way to Fatimas which is the accommodation attached to the convent that we are staying in for the next 3 nights. I have decided to upgrade to a private room as it was only $14 a night extra which was very reasonable and a few private nights in bed will probably do me the world of good as I haven’t slept much recently.
We had a nice meal of chilli and rice and drinks in the bar to talk about tomorrow’s gorilla trek before heading off our separate ways for an early night. We need to be awake at 5am tomorrow so all of the people in the rooms have agreed to wake each other at around 530 to ensure we are ready in time.
I’m looking forward to tomorrow and hope we’re lucky enough to see Gorillas. We’ve been warned that although it is virtually guaranteed that we will see Gorillas there are some days where nobody sees any.