Remarkable Rwanda- The Land of a thousand hills



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Let me start by saying Rwanda was my favourite destination of 2017. My 2 cities visit to the "Singapore of Africa" beat all other countries I visited in 2017.

I flew into Kigali around 2am (Rwandan Time) on the 4th of November with Kenya Airways. The trip was smooth and even beyond my expectations. The exit experience in the Nigerian Airport has greatly improved and way better than than my experience in February of the same year.

I had to see for myself to believe how clean Rwanda is. That country is clean and its citizens are law abiding.

A Tour of Rwanda is not complete with the mention of the genocide which happened over 20 years ago. The country is one which has learned its lesson and is making every effort to heal its people and change the narrative of its horrific past.

Weather

November falls in the short rainy season for East Africa so it is not really an ideal time to visit the country. It rained for every day I spent in that country. The best time to visit is during the long dry season months of June to September or over the short dry season from mid-December to early February

What I did/Saw:

Due to the rain, I always had limited time to spend exploring the city daily. I was also pretty much lazy on this trip. First stop was the Belgian Peacekeepers Memorial, the site where ten Belgian UN peacekeepers (paratroopers) were murdered by the Hutu extremists in order to provoke the withdrawal of the UN forces, which then cleared the way for the Rwandan genocide to unfold.


Each stone column represents one of the paratroopers and the horizontal cuts in it represent the paratrooper's age.

Next stop was a walking tour of the city


Day 2 was the Kigali Genocide Memorial. You need to be emotionally strong to visit the genocide memorial and not break down in tears or worse be so into your emotions that the rest of your day is ruined. People were not only killed, the mutilation and rape is unimaginable. The Rwandan genocide which happened for about 100 days was one of the worst genocide in modern history that happened while the world kept mute. 

The Kigali Genocide Memorial which was opened on the 10th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The center honours the memory of the more than one million Rwandans killed in 1994. The Genocide Memorial includes three permanent exhibitions; a documentary of the 1994 Genocide, a children’s memorial and an exhibition on the history of genocidal violence around the world.





Day 3, I took the bus to Gisenyi where I spent a night. The rain started the moment I stepped into the hotel which meant I lost the whole of that day and went to bed pretty much early. 

Day 4, The next day, I took a walk from the hotel to the Rwanda/DRC border. 


On my way back from the border, I stopped by the Calafia Cafe for coffee.


After which, I took a bike to the The Nyamyumba hot spring which is situated about 7km from Gisenyi town centre. The hot spring is believed to have multiple medicinal and curative powers such as the healing of flu and rheumatic diseases. I paid 5,000 RWF for a foot and hand massage.  I also met a genocide victim, who shared bits of his experience with me. He was a child when the genocide happened and is the only surviving member of his entire nuclear and extended family;




Lastly, I went mask shopping for an acquaintance. This was the most stressful part of it all. I didn't have wifi and I had to go into a store which had free wifi to send him pictures. It took a while before we could agree on what he wanted. I had a bus to catch back to Kigali and I was almost certain, I would miss it but to God be the glory. 


Day 5, I paid the Inema Arts Center and the Ivuka Art Studio a visit. The Inema Arts Center has a coffee shop that reminds me of Bogobiri in Ikoyi. I got to chat with one of the artists at the Ivuka Art Studio, sharing my little art viewing experience and listening to his dream to someday visit Nigeria.

Inema Arts Center

Ivuka Art Studio


On my last night, I met up with some Nigerians who were in town for a conference in Kigali. Our host was a Rwandese lady who went all out to make sure we had a beautiful night. Before that, I visited the Kigali Convention Center and had coffee from Java situated in Kigali Heights.







Accommodation:

In Kigali, I lodged at the St Augustine Apart & Hotel. Reservation was made on Jumia Travel. It was difficult locating the hotel as the street numbering system is new to Rwandans. It is best to request for the closest landmark in the neighbourhood. I tried to change my hotel when I returned from Gisenyi but an hour after and 10 thousand Rwandan Francs after, the cab driver couldn't locate the street despite saying he knew the location. A good Samaritan also helped contact some of the people he knew in Jumia Travel Rwanda but alas they could not even give an accurate description of hotels located on their platform. I ended up going back to St Augustine.



The ambiance of this hotel was top-notch. The staff were very helpful, they helped me with translations while communicating with the bike or taxi drivers. Breakfast in bed because I refused to go to the dining room downstairs.

In Gisenyi, I spent the night at the Beach Garden BnB which I reserved on Booking.com.



I would excuse the fact that this budget hotel was sort of still at set up stage, and following my review on Booking, I was told the issues has been fixed. My issue was there was no mosquito net. It started raining the moment I got to the hotel and rained all night long. The rain meant all forms of insects flew into the room. Also unlike Kigali, there was no 24 hours electricity, the light was out for the most part of the night. The Wifi also did not work, so I was cut off from the rest of the world for more than 24 hours. The owner was pretty nice, he picked me up from the bus station and also dropped me at the bus park on my way back to Kigali.



What I ate:

I pretty much stayed off food in Rwanda. The two hotels I stayed in served the English breakfast. I got the Africa tea which had ginger in it. I actually loved the tea and had it all through my days there. 

Breakfast at St Augustine 
Breakfast at Garden Bnb



The only attempt with the Rwandese meal was when I thought I saw pepper soup but which turned out to be broth (Omi Eran). Apparently, this is an East African delicacy because my Ugandan and Kenyan friends were amazed at my shock.


Cofee from Calafia Cafe

Dinner at the meetup on my last night
I hope to visit Rwanda again someday and really get to explore Kigali and visit Kibuye, the other town which share Lake Kivu with Gisenyi. 


What do you think of Rwanda?
 Have you been to Rwanda? What was your experience like? Would you recommend it?

♥Lara

'Lara A

2 comments:

  1. Thank you very much for the education, Lara. I have heard so much about Rwanda. I hope to visit someday, though the word out there says the current president is turning out to be a ruthless dictator, and all the beauty just covers up his wicked acts.

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    1. Is Kigame a dictator? I won't know except I probably live in the country for a while. The Rwandan, I met says most of what is in the news in propaganda. Again, I still don't understand why African presidents always want to stay in power for ever. But whatever he is doing for his country is working well right now, the economy is growing rapidly and slowly becoming a regional power in East Africa. It is a country for those who do not have issues with abiding with rules and regulations. Rwanda is a beautiful tourist destination and I would recommend it as a tourist destination which is budget friendly

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