Monday, July 25, 2011


We hadn’t realised that when we went across the Burundi border we had crossed into another time zone.  So we were up at 7am getting packed and ready to leave, only to find out that we were actually up at 6am Burundi time! Oh well, early start to the day we left through a relatively quiet city up towards Rwanda.  The climb away from the Lake was incredible, with the road zigzagging around hairbend corners.  It is unbelievable that the bicycles loaded with nearly 30kgs of bananas manage to make these turns considering most of them don’t have breaks and only use their custom made slopes from old car tyres as breaks! The other bicycles heading uphill catch lifts holding onto the back of trucks driving up the hill, not knowing what the road ahead was going to throw at them! This road towards the border was extremely busy, and terrifying at times with super fast taxi’s overtaking very close and on blind corners! Slowly slowly we made our way towards the border.

The Burundi/Rwanda border was in a valley and took us quite some patience to get through as all the officials were working on African time.  Being South Africans, we did not need to pay for a visa to enter the country as we get 30 days allowance. We had some Burundi shillings left, so we exchanged them at the border -our first border exchange of the trip.  It was so relaxed and the guy counted the money into our hands. So great not having to be scared of any shoddy tactics! A little more comfortable at riding on the right, we headed into Rwanda excited to see what lay ahead.  Immediately the number of people on the side of the road decreased, and when we hit the first town, Butare, we were amazed at how clean and orderly it was.
Countryside of Burundi

The start of a village in Burundi

Great tar road winding its way down to the border in the valley

  We stopped in at a roadside lodge for something to eat before continuing the drive through to Kigali, the capital.  Although there were still a lot of banana plantations on the rolling hills, we noticed that the agriculture seemed to be more organised and the fields of different colour for each crop looked like a quilt across a hill.  Really beautiful! The relatively quiet road suddenly became a highway of busses the closer we got to Kigali. Again kamikaze busses that overtake even if there is oncoming traffic, and if they don’t overtake then they are so close behind you that its almost too scary to break incase they don’t break too! We let each of them overtake each other and us while we tried to not be completely pushed off the road.  Just outside the city we drove along a flat straight road cutting through a beautiful floodplain.  As we turned the corner at the end we were in Kigali.  Again we were amazed at how clean the city is.

Ready for some breakfast/lunch - Food!
View of Kigali town centre
 Our accommodation, One Love Campsite, was tucked away at the bottom of the valley with long green grass and restaurant on site.  Needing to get some more local money we set up the tent and decided to head up the hill to town centre to find the bank to draw money.  Another excellent set of African directions and we were lost in the centre of town. Frustrated we pulled into what looked like a shopping mall and asked the parking assistant for some help.  We weren’t too far off and left the bikes in the parking lot to walk up to the ATM.  Feeling hunger pangs again we went back to camp to have some dinner.

The next morning we did about 5 bucket loads of washing, not having had a chance to wash anything since Arusha.  Having that all done we went to the Genocide Memorial Museum to learn about what Rwanda is so well known for.  It was a very moving experience as we walked through the halls reading how the genocide was orchestrated by some powerful people and the horrifying consequences of their actions.  The museum also has information on other genocides that have occurred around the world such as the Holocaust in Germany, genocide in Vietnam, Namibia and Serbia. 

Row of mass graves at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Museum

Needing to stock up on some supplies and get dinner for that night, we headed back to the shopping centre we had found the night before.  We also did some internet searches and contacted a friend of Nick’s cousin who lives in Ruhengeri – our next destination.  We were so lucky that Julie replied quickly that afternoon and said we should stay with her when we get there.  Collecting the washing, and then making a wholesome meal, we were in bed excited to see more of Rwanda the next day.  

Sunset at One Love Campsite

It is amazing as you drive through Rwanda, between the beautiful landscape and villages you notice purple banners all over the place.  These are the other memorial sites from the genocide, mass graves now covered in flowers and well maintained in remembrance of the people that died.  Along the road to Ruhengeri we travelled along a river with irrigation canals branching into the agricultural fields. The land then rises up to rolling hills of green.

Excellent roads! :)

Rolling hills of Rwanda
A distant volcano...
We arrived in Ruhengeri early in the afternoon and had some time to kill while Julie finished working. We found a great place called Volcana and had delicious pizzas for lunch with a Primus beer.   Julie sent us directions on how to get to her place and when we arrived we were welcomed with open arms into her house.  Hot water bath and bed we were so happy!!  Julie runs an NGO called ‘Art of Conservation’ where she teaches children about keeping healthy and conservation using art to make it more fun.  We helped her with preparation for Mondays class before jumping into her car for a drive up towards the volcanoes near Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge for a drink.  Julie then arranged for us to meet another expat working in Ruhengeri called Jock.  He is currently building a Rwandan team of cyclists hoping to take them to the Olympic Games in the future.  An avid motorbike rider too, we chatted about taking a ride sometime over the weekend along one of the many beautiful biking roads in Rwanda. 

Zulu - Jock's huge boerbull. He even has his own page on FB!

Our great new friend Julie with the too cute puppy!

In the morning we were up pretty early eager to help Julie with a project she had told us about the night before.  Along with her NGO work she has also been involved in fixing up the tennis courts in Ruhengeri and assisting with forming a tennis league for the children in the area. Part of this involved constructing an ablution block for the tennis courts.  On the last Saturday of the month she holds a class for the tennis kids before their training to teach them about conservation and healthy living too.  We watched the class for a bit before going out to get supplies to help paint the ablution block.  It was so much fun having a project to do, and the kids thought it was fun too and before we knew it they had all the paint brushes and we had nothing to do! That afternoon was spent lazing before we met up with Jock in the evening for a delicious home cooked meal!

Saturday class for the tennis and running children

The children thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to paint!

The ablution block needing its first coat of paint!

And then all the kids joined us :)

Any stick extension will do!

Rewarding Mutzig! :)

Having arranged to meet Jock at noon the next day, we stayed in bed as long as possible before offloading the bikes for the afternoons ride. We headed towards Lake Kivu and then turned off towards the town of Gitarama on an excellent tarred road that weaved its way through the mountains down to a large river.  It was such a spectacular ride, and really fun to be doing it with another rider and without our panniers! Julie had arranged for Abdool, the owner of Volcana, to cook us a special Moroccon meal for dinner. What an end to a fabulous day!

Jock enjoying the view on the ride!

Julie snapping away...

Quilt looking countryside!

Monday morning we were up early and ready to go to class with Julie.  The school is located a little way outside Ruhengeri and when we arrived we were welcomed by a very excited class to have some visitors! We listened and learnt about juvenile gorillas and the work Jane Goodall did in Rwanda before getting the chance to join the kids in the artwork - such a fun morning. Art of Conservation is doing such a great job, and has contributed so much to the school. If you would like to assist the NGO please contact Julie on  The afternoon was spent researching about Uganda, and packing up our gear to head out the next day.

Classrooms with a few volcanos in the background

Our lesson for the day!

The drawing we followed.

Our classroom

Super proud of his painting

Yay! time to be creative!

Julie teaching the class about how gorillas make their night nests - Nick is the silverback in the middle!

Such a great team doing excellent work! Thank You!

Art of conservation offices

1 comment:

  1. This reminds of my time in Rwanda.. I miss that place!