Sunday, 3 April 2011

Pacing onwards

Rwanda seemed very rushed, the minute I entered we were cycling at full pace heading to the capital Kigali to meet our irish friends we met in Uganda the night before. This was the first time where we crossed the border and arrived at the capital city on the same day. Songs are great to keep you occupied on your way; going up, up, up... and down “Everyday is a winding road, get a little bit closer...” by Cheryl Crow was the song of the day.
I could not compare or recollect any thoughts zooming through the vegetated valleys and platforms of rice fields... suddenly we were heading to town.
That night was St Patricks Night which called for celebrations. This was a reoccuring moto in Rwanda; many celebrations for many occasions mainly birthdays, the weekend, or St. Patricks Day which we celebrated twice on the Thursday and Saturday (there was good reason at the time!!) Being the country of 1000 hills we decided to take a bus to meet our VSO (voluntary service organisation) friends that we had met in Ethiopia for another party. The engine was a soothing effortless feeling, swirling up the green hills. Green they were; the heavy rain forcasted for the wet season fell and the roads turned into rivers.

Rwanda is small. It is the 15th most densely populated country in the world. The hills are filled with corrugated iron rooftops and sloping tea plantations. Sprawled below lie divisions of water canals and the rice fields full of workers earning and maximising the farmland.
People talking about the hills and impossible cycling route of Rwanda left me with very high expectations. I thought of San Francisco, I got winding steady tarmacked slopes which was slow but definately possible.  My fitness had improved.  I had now been cycling the same distance as Steve had when I first met him - 8200km across Europe and the Middle East. 

After visiting a museum explaining all about the ghastly situation and affects of the very recent 1994 Rwandan genocide I was horrified. I couldn't help thinking and looking at things differently. People my age were orphans. A whole generation wiped out. Caged faces were potentially hidden but the elder people felt more reserved.

The children will be the new hope the ones that will be effected but will not remember.

The only person that opened up to me and actually spoke about the genocide mentioned the numerous positive factors that came from the shocking event...
  1. People lined up for one bus which then departed instead of the conductors shouting, competing and getting people in their one bus of which there were several going in that same direction.
  2. You have to wear a helmet on a taxi motorbike and each bike is only allowed to carry one person on the back.
  3. People get points from police if you sell items on the street on an illegal pitch to make sure everyone has an equal amount of space to market their product.
There is organisation.  It is the closest I have felt to civilisation for a long time.
Soon enough we were back on the loaded bikes heading across to Tanzania - only 2 days cycling from Kigali. The Rwandan border was unforgettable; only Rwanda has this exit. We had to cross a bridge with the most energetic waterfall and river followed by a very steep climb linking one immigration office to another.   A beautiful strong country.  I am very pleased we decided to cycle across West on a loop from Uganda to Rwanda instead of keeping to the southern route.  Now back on track the journey continues to Tanzania...