5 May 2010

Mums Blog Part 3 - My suprise long weekend!


About a week into my visit Nikki surprised me by saying we were going on a long week-end to the DRC (Congo).   Not only going to the Congo, but driving through Rwanda to get there!
We left here last Thursday afternoon and headed and stayed at a hotel about an hour from the Uganda/Rwanda border.  We left fairly early in the next morning to head for the border crossing.  I was quite surprised that it went fairly smoothly and about 30 mins later we were driving through Rwanda. 
I had no idea what to expect as I knew very little about Rwanda, apart from what most people will have heard about, the terrible genocide of 1994.  In several places there are monuments erected signifying there are huge mass graves in the area.  They are very simple metal arches across the road with a large board to the side detailing what they represent.  Just another of this world’s mindless atrocities!

Rwanda is extremely hilly with steep winding roads, and is known as the Country of 1000 hills, and what hills they are.  At a couple of points we were so high we were driving in low cloud for a while, quite eerie.  It is a lovely looking country.  The hillsides are mostly made up of “patchwork quilt” fields.  They seem to utilise every bit for growing food/crops. It seemed very clean and the roads were pretty good.  Heading towards and out of the capital city, Kigali, you see people walking on both sides of the roads.  I have never seen so many people just walking, some carrying enormous loads on their heads, some just walking. ... and remember this is an extremely hilly country!!!  You feel you want to ask them where they are going or where they have come from.  Round every bend were more people, just walking.  Rwanda seemed to be a place that would be nice to visit if you were this way and wanted to go somewhere different for a few days break.  Naturally we were on the main road, so didn't get to see anything more inland.  But it looked clean and the countryside looked very lush and well used. Further on towards the Rwanda/DRC border I saw a rather large volcano, one of a group of 3.  This apparently erupted a few years back spilling lava down to the town of Goma just inside the Congo border.  Our drive through Rwanda took just over 4 hours and it was good to see the change in countryside from what I have seen in Uganda, with every growing space being used.
We then came to the Rwanda/DRC border crossing into Goma  The same routine as before, fill in the forms to leave Rwanda  and then fill in forms to enter Congo and headed into Goma.  Well the DRC is again something else.  Loads of UN cars, trucks, workers, forces etc.  DRC police and even the armed riot police walking down the main high street. Obviously heard I was in town!. We stayed at a hotel on the edge of Lake Kivu, a very large lake with a beautiful view.
The next morning we left to catch a high speed ferry to go to Bukavu at the other end of the lake.  On the way to the ferry, we saw a few baptisms of older people taking place in the lake, something I had never witnessed before.  There was quite a crowd of people there singing whilst standing in the water.  The trip was just over 2 hrs long and the scenery was good, some small islands but also one quite large one plus quite a few people out in fishing boats.  We were staying at a hotel the decor of which had a typical African theme of browns, golds and orange colors.  Next morning we went driving inland towards the local Airport.  This certainly was an experience.  Terrible, and I mean terrible, roads (our potholes are nothing in comparison and we do have tarmac on the roads!!!)  Four of us crammed in the back of a 4x4 type car and 2 in the front, driving out of Bukavu for a journey of about 1.1/2hrs, literally squashed!!!!  Had it been another country I would have said leave me behind.  We went along the coast a bit then inland and saw much the same as you see in Uganda, although near the ferry port it is horrendous and we even saw people living in tents!  It looked like the same poverty as here in Uganda and the same with a lot of the villages inland.  People look at you because you are a Mzunga (white person) and the children wave.  Eventually we got to the airport where there were literally loads of tents of UN troups of different nations in fields along this road.  After about half an hour we began the long journey back to the hotel  in the same squashed position as we came up in.  What a joy it was to get out and stretch as many parts of our body as we could.   We left Bukavu the following morning and went to the same hotel.   We had a short drive around Goma where we saw the remains of the volcano eruption of a few years back.  Many houses were covered in lava from this eruption, some of them having just the top floor showing through.  People live in these homes, knowing that underneath is the remainder of their home. Then back to the hotel for the night and an early set off the next morning for the return journey to Uganda.  This took us about 13 hours including 2 border crossings and a stop for food. 
So a brief description of my week-end.  Very interesting, amazing scenery, places I would never ever have thought I would go to, but also very very tiring.   I have to admit that I feel safer in Uganda that I did in the DRC, but then it is quite a volatile country. There was an obvious evidence of poverty, especially around the port of Bukavu, even with people living in tents and it looked like they had been there for quite a long time.  Rwanda certainly has some hills, not a place for a walking holiday, but the countryside that I saw looked green and lush and full of use.  I cannot comment on what it is like further inland.   It was good to get back home for a good night’s sleep after a very enjoyable surprise week-end.

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