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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 02 Jun 2010

Location: Travel Day to Rwanda, Tanzania

MapWednesday, June 2nd

The Resthouse was a bustle of activity by 4:30 am as we prepared for our early morning taxi pickup. We had to be at the bus depot by 5:30 am. This large depot is always a hub of activity in the early hours of the morning. There’s an L shaped row of buses, everything from large Greyhound-type to small dali-dalis. People are everywhere, there’s a layer of smoke from the cooking fires, people walk around and offer little cups of ‘kahawa’ to the waiting passengers. We looked beside us and noticed a small pile of furniture and a mattress which soon disappeared into one of the buses. The Dar group was lucky enough to be boarding one of the ‘luxury’ buses while we would be riding in a van. Unfortunately, as we stood on front of the stall where we had purchased out tickets, there was no van to be seen. Our taxi driver went to investigate and would come by every so ofter to tell us the latest news…”We are making another call…) Finally he told us that they had tracked down the driver who had slept in. It didn’t really make sense because they very happily introduced us to our driver only seconds later. We still had no vehicle but felt we were getting somewhere. Eventually (one hour late) a half full van pulled up. We looked at our luggage (9 suitcases plus backpacks) and the van and did the math. It wasn’t looking good. The cramming began and in the end there were 17 of us in there. I’m sitting here laughing as I’m typing this because you would have to have seen it to believe it. We literally could not even move. Rylan’s face was pressed sideways into the window and we all had stuff piled on top of us.We headed down the road and soon pulled over. Words of ‘mzigo’ (luggage) and ‘mzungu’ (white-person) were flying around and we thought that the locals were upset about the extra luggage we had. It turns ut that, no, a mzungu with mzigo would also be getting on board. This poor Masters student from North Carolina had been deposited in scary Kahama at 1:30am and then wandered around in the maze of dirt roads, that all look the same, trying to find somewhere to sleep. He then missed the bus in the am. Anyway they managed to squeeze him in also. I think he was happy to see our ‘mzungu’ faces poking out from the crowded back of the van.
We all got out on the side of the road when we got our first flat tire in a village not far from Kahama. It was here that the back of my legs were vomited on by a one of our young passengers suffering from motion sickness. We were suspicious that the first tire wouldn’t last long when the smell of burning rubber started to come in through the back door which was slightly ajar and tied down. We used the opportunity of the second tire change to walk across the road and find a place to go to the bathroom in the bushes. Andrew and Rylan were hoping we didn’t stray too far when two guys with mine detectors went by while us girls were across the road. The bus guys used this opportunity to change another tire on the van which was also going flat. Also, during this whole trip we were discharging passengers at regular intervals, much to our excitement, but then we’d all groan as others would climb in to replace the ones who’d left. Between that and all of the police checks, it was a very long journey. At one of the checks, half of the men in the van jumped out and everyone started to argue. They eventually all got back in and lots of loud discussions ensued. We were told that the police thought that these men were Rwandan and told them that they would have to give them money if they wanted to go back to Rwanda. (They were all Tanzanian men.)
We eventually arrived at the border, haggled with the bus driver to take us down the hill to the Rwandan side, went through customs and then wheeled out many suitcases up the hill to a waiting bus. The whole process went well and we were back on the road in an hour.Heike was going to be spending the night at St Famille but Rylan Angela and I wanted to splurge and have a real room, with our own bathrooms, with hot water, a drain that works, and the internet. Yves (your wonderful!) had met us at the chaotic busy bus stop and helped us get to St Famille. Angela and Rylan sat on the curb with our bags while Yves and I walked around to try and find a hotel. It turns our phoning isn’t ano option because no one knows the numbers and apparently there aren’t directories!?! We found a place called Okapi Hotel and then sent back cab to pick up the other two. Our 2nd floor rooms are right beside a VERY busy, VERY loud street, but the view from the restaurant is of the entire city and is absolutely spectacular! I would like to stay here for two nights before heading our to the village of Muhanga. I have to try and track down the crate and need to have access to the internet to do these things.