Travel to Rwanda

Trip Start Sep 06, 2012
Trip End Oct 09, 2012

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Where I stayed
Chez Lando

Flag of Rwanda  , Kigali City,
Monday, September 10, 2012

Today was a long transit day, taking me from Mauritius to Rwanda. I was up at 4:30 to be able to recheck my luggage and pay my hotel bill. By a bit after 5:30, I was on the road and heading south in the pre-dawn darkness, under a light rain. At 6:15 I was at the airport, going through the rather strange process of turning in a rental car in Mauritius.

I parked the car and walked to the arrival exit door, where arriving passengers leave the airport building to take their surface transportation. I walked right in past the policemen on guard. The key is to look like you're supposed to be doing this (which I was). I walked to the car rental counter and found the agent, who then walked back outside with me, checked the car, and then drove me to the upper level of the airport, the departure zone. I collected my suitcase, said goodbye, and walked inside.

I walked to the Air Mauritius check in counters, to start the process. I had purchased my tickets on Kenya Airways, and this was a codeshare flight, so they had some trouble getting the boarding pass issued, so I had to wait 20 minutes.

Immigration went quickly. At security the staff decided to swipe my carryon for explosives. They swabbed the bag with a white sampler cloth that they then place in a machine that "sniffs" for explosives. This took a few more minutes, and of course they found nothing.

I had a strong coffee in the departure lounge and waited until time to board for the 8:20 flight. The flight to Nairobi on the Airbus 319 was about 4 ˝ hours long and took us over the northern tip of Madagascar. There was quite a bit of turbulence along the way, on the other hand the flight was half empty which mean an empty seat next to me. That is a treat in the modern world of air travel.

We deplaned in Rwanda and I headed to the transit desk to get my boarding pass for the flight to Kigali, to leave four hours later. Then I walked all the way to the end of the airport terminal to the Java restaurant for a café au lait, and continued reading Wealth and Poverty of Nations. The Nairobi airport really shows its age. They should be building a new one to keep up with the huge numbers of passengers that fly through the city, but I see no signs of any such activity.

The flight to Kigali boarded on time. We passengers followed in a line, a Kenya Airways staff member down onto the tarmac and onto the plane, this time a smaller Brazilian-made Embraer. This flight was only a little over an hour long, but the crew managed to serve a snack and drinks in that time.  Arrival formalities went quickly in Kigali and I was out in the parking lot with my suitcase let than half an hour after landing. I negotiated a taxi to my usual hotel, Chez Lando and we moved quickly through the light traffic on the edge of town. No sooner had I arrived, paid the taxi and arrived at the front desk than the clerk said “Mr. Joel!”. I said “yes” and she said “you have a telephone call” and handed me the phone. It was Mr. Mundeli who had arrived a little late at the airport. He welcomed me and said he would arrive in a few minutes at the hotel. I checked in and found that my deposit $100 bill was now too old. Up until this trip they have wanted bills that were unmarked showing obvious sign of wear and later than 2003. Now they have apparently jumped to the 2006 series. It would be nice to know these things before leaving home. I found a newer bill and checked into my room in the main building of Chez Lando, about half the price of the newer, larger rooms spread on either side of the main building. The main building is the original structure,  predating the genocide, and the rooms show their age, but their good value for money. When I first began coming to this hotel 10 or 12 years ago they were $30 per night. Now they’re about twice that but still a very good price for Kigali.

As I was getting settled in to the room, Mr. Mundeli called from the front desk and I went down to greet him. We exchanged news of our families and common friends, including Jim Franks who visited here in the spring. I gave Mr. Mundeli some 8x10 photos of Mr. Franks visit and of Mr. Mrs. Mundeli on our epic trek up to encounter the mountain gorillas (see the blog from March–April for details). Photos are a much appreciated gift here. They’re not so uncommon as they used to be, but most people still never have a photo of themselves and really appreciate them.

We made our plans for the next few days and agreed to meet tomorrow morning at 8:30, so I can make the attempt to get my Burundi visa. Then we parted ways and I headed to the Forex bureau to buy some Rwandan francs, the walked across the busy main road leading into Kigali to the shopping area to buy some bottled water. A large neon sign was advertising Wrigley's "doublumint" gum, it must be a high traffic item...

After depositing the water in my room, I walked back out to Chez Lando's famous barbecue pit to have a beef brochette garni (with salad and fries). The specialty is goat brochettes, but the goat is considerably tougher, and hardly less expensive. A brochette, salad and fries costs about 5 dollars, and is safe to eat, again a pretty good value in Kigali. As I listened to the staff and the other clients, I was struck again by how English is become the default language in Rwanda. French used to be the common language, now it is clearly English.

As I was eating, one of the servers, Emmanuel, came up and greeted me warmly. He recognized me from previous visits and from Dr. Greg Swartz’s charity Smile Rwanda, which brings in dental supplies and training opportunities for local dentists. Dr. Swartz asked me to serve on the board which I’ve been happy to do, and Emmanuel recognized me from the website as well as previous visits to the hotel. We chatted briefly and he gave me a typical African greeting: ” you are welcome!”

The sun sank in the sky as I ate and I was struck again by how quickly the sun sets near the equator, it seems to plummet from daylight to dark, much more quickly that in more northerly or southerly latitudes.

It’s been a long day, so it won’t be a late night.
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Judy Dane on

Thank you and may God continue to keep and protect you.

Marguerite Evans on

Nice to hear about your journey through your blogs. Also, the blogs help us to keep you in our prayers. Bonne Continuation!

Bernard on

Good to hear you didn't have any major problems. Give our warmest regards to the Rwandan Brethren, especially the Mundelli. Keep up the excellent work you're doing in those parts of the world. Our prayers, as usual, are with you.

Mary Hendren on

Hi Joel,

Thanks for the latest update and picture of Chez Lando. We're glad you had a safe though tiring trip. We'll keep you in our prayers.


Margaret Villaescusa on

Hello Mr. Meeker,
I am, once again, enjoying your blogs. I love the interesting details of things you see and experience. The sights and sounds, makes me feel like I am traveling along with you. I hope the Feast in France goes very well. We had such a lovely time last year and send our greetings to the brethren. We know all those who attend in Orbey are in for a treat. Best wishes to you and your family.

Tess Washington on

Thank you Mr. Meeker...we're with you...English and Dr. Swartz's charity work are good things!

Clyde Kilough on

Hi Joel - thanks as always for the blog. Please give my greetings to Mr. and Mrs. Mundeli.

joelmeeker on

Thanks very much everyone for your comments and thoughts. I have passed along many of your greetings and will try to take care of the remaining ones tomorrow. Thanks for following this blog.

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