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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 19 Feb 2008

Location: Kigali, Rwanda

MapPlanet Ranger Feb 19th

After listening to a torrential rainstorm all night accompanied by the mournful chanting of the Muslims outside our compound, we were all up by 5:00am. We left Kahama and made it about 20km down the road before the highway traffic ground to a halt. Our driver got out to investigate and found that with all the rain the night before, the road had washed away and a fullyloaded truck was stuck in the hole. They were attempting to unload it but it was obvious that it was going to take some time. Athanase suggested that we get out and walk while he drove over the side of the road to the little dirt trail that ran parallel to the road. We were walking along remarking what a resourceful driver we have when it dawned on us that everything we owned, our money and passports included, were all in the vehicle and we couldn’t even see it. After a brisk ten-minute walk down the convoy of miscellaneous vehicles, much to our relief, we finally spotted the car.
Four hours later we finally arrived at the Tanzanian/Rwandan border. The bored woman working there thought that looking through every one of the ‘mzungu’s” suitcases would be a great diversion to her monotonous day. They did this in a cubbyhole of a room with a single chair that you are expected to balance your suitcase on. I had to call MJ in to hold everything that I had to take out as she kept motioning me to remove more. Four suitcases later we were back on the road. This crossing only cost us an hour, which was half the time it took on the way over!
On the outskirts of Kigali we saw the first signs of President Bush’s visit with armed police and guardsman on every corner. People were starting to congregate to view the motorcade. We were relieved to finally pull into Chez Lando and we began to unload only to be told that they were fully booked and our reservations were to begin tomorrow. They called another hotel and we loaded up again, and headed there. After checking into our fourth-floor furnace,(no elevator,) MJ shouted above the roar of the traffic, “Hey there are no mosquitoes in here!” Something positive anyway!
We hopped into a cab and headed down to the Milles Collines for some real food. We soon realized that we had left our book with our few helpful Kinyarwandan phrases in it and our ‘Lonely Planet’ guidebook back at the hotel. We also realized we didn’t know the name of our hotel and then found that our cab driver did not know English. As we neared the area where we thought Milles Collines was, the traffic was turned back for security reasons. Through gestures and a few words of broken-English we determined that he was going to take us on a different route. We went places that we don’t even drive our 4x4’s on in Canada, through the “Bronx of Kigali” and finally ended up within site of a well-paved road. He wasn’t able to drive further but pointed like the hotel was close. We hopped out and walked forward towards the few brightly vested policemen and were told that we would not be able to pass this way. After explaining our predicament and acting like helpless, women tourists he walked over to a US Embassy Land rover and spoke to them. They offered to drive us to the hotel for another 5000RF, the amount we had already paid to get this far. As we looked around at the crowd and the area we were in, we thought that sounded pretty good. I joked to the girls that, what was really said to the driver was, “Make sure you dispose of the bodies after you rob them.” (They didn’t think it was very funny.)
Another 15 minutes cruising through the ‘projects’ and we finally arrived at our destination and the ‘mzungu’ food. Later, after questioning one of the Milles Collines' employees, we learned the name of our hotel and headed back to watch what we had discovered earlier…an English speaking channel that wasn’t news!!