Trip Start May 30, 2005
129Trip End Sep 30, 2006
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It's amazing what you can read in Guidebooks, if you bother to read them. Just before crossing into Rwanda I read that their ATMs are not hooked up to the international network. This means that you need to bring cash dollars, traveller's Checks, or get Credit Card advances. This put me in a quandry. I tried to contact David and Nicola before they left Kampala to make sure that they bring lots of cash with them, but I failed miserably to do this.
The next day was Friday. I got an email from them saying that they'd managed to book to see the Mountain Gorillas on the same day as me, and they would indeed be in Rwanda one day later than me
However, The thing is, David and Nicola would be arriving on a Friday night, with a weekend of bank closers to look forward to. My Credit Card probably couldn't handle much more abuse and I didn't know if they had a Mastercard, or visa (which couldn't be used) credit card. This spelt potential problems.
What I had to do was cash in most of my emergency Traveller's Checks (now leaving a very small emergency amount) and take out a cash advance up to what I thought my credit card limit might be. With associated charges and a poor exchange rate when they forceably changed my dollars into Rwandan Francs, I felt very very sore on leaving the bank. I also felt a little unsafe with about $700 worth of Francs and $200 in US currency stuffed into my money belt.
Of course the reason that I did this was because David and Nicola may not have had any cash, or access to cash. The money that I took out would cover their Gorilla permits and give us a little cash to see us through the weekend.
Sure enough they turned up that evening, I went down to the station for them arriving. Straight away David asked "Are there any ATMs here for me to get some money?"
"We don't have any cash, what are we going to do?"
"Let's not talk about something as crude as cash just now", I replied.
What I really meant was, "Shut up, I don't want to explain to you that I have about $900 in my money belt right now, not considering how busy it is here". He took the hint, but I also had to poke him in the eye first to make him shut up.
As it turned out they had a Mastercard credit card, meaning that they could pay for their Gorilla permit on their own. However, they did come to the bank of Ron for some spending money, I did give them a little allowance. In fact, we turned out to be more than a little flush and could have painted the town red if we'd wanted.
There isn't much to actually do in Kigali, but we did a great job of wandering around aimlessly. The people are friendly here on the most part, but they do have a bad habit. Quite often after saying hello they'll turn to their friends, say something in Rwandese and then start laughing. They're so obviously talking about you that it's embarrasing. I wish they'd stop it.
On the Saturday evening we visited the only Ethiopian restaurant (La Lalibela) in town with a random called Claire that we'd picked up along the way. They had the most amazing buffet on, and I had to resist going up too many times, otherwise I'd have needed to roll home. I recommend to anyone that's in town to get themselves down there on a Saturday night.
Sunday was a much harder day. We visited the 1994 Genocide Remembrance Center. It was horrific, it truely was. It gave the details that lead to the Genocide, perhaps unsurprising one of the main factors was the state of affairs left here by the Europeans that colonised Rwanda for a while. Also, The UN ignored warnings from those in Rwanda about what could potentially happen.
Of course no-one could have predicted, and now can't believe the true horrors of what happened here. The Remembrance Center doesn't pull any punches. Just as you think you've seen enough, you're invited upstairs. Here you're presented with a gallary of children's picures. Underneath each one there is a short section of information which reads something like:
Favourite Pastime: Football
Favourite Subject at School: Maths
Best Friend: Big Sister
Cause of Death: Hacked by Machette
There is also a section covering the other major genocides of the 20th centuary, Albanians, The Holocost, Cambodia.
We left the center individually, we didn't feel like talking, it took a while for us to properly do so again. The center is important, it's important that people visit, it's important that we remember what happened, and it's important that we don't let it happen again.
In the afternoon we took a bus out to Ruhengeri.