The smallest capital city ever?

Trip Start Jan 31, 2006
Trip End Dec 11, 2006

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Flag of Rwanda  ,
Wednesday, February 1, 2006



So, having specifically booked a flight with Kenya Airways from Nairobi to Kigali to avoid having to use Rwandair Express, you can imagine my delight when we went out onto the tarmac at Nairobi to board a Rwandair Express plane to Kigali. I had never seen a plane that boarded from stairs under the back tail-fin before. The fact that it had previously belonged to Aeromexico didn't really give me any greater comfort either, particularly as it meant the evacuation instructions were in Spanish! Anyway, we strapped ourselves in and hoped for the best.

In the end, it was a pretty good flight (well, we arrived at Kigali which was good enough for me). We had arranged for our hotel to pick us up at the airport but of course they weren't there. After the shortest, most expensive taxi ride ever, we got to the hotel and were shown to our room, which hadn't been cleaned since the last occupant. It was all sorted out pretty quickly so we decided to explore Kigali.

The city is built on a number of hills and from the top of any of them you can see for miles and miles. It's very pretty, especially at nighttime. We headed for the centre of town so we could visit the tourist information office as a starting point (except it was shut - public holiday) so instead we decided to go for a wander round town. That took all of 10 minutes as the centre pretty much consists of two streets! After seeing the Hotel Mille Collines (which is featured in Hotel Rwanda) and having our every move watched by the locals we realised that there wasn't too much to be seen here and headed back to the hotel to cool off, as it was excruciatingly hot (not helped by the fact we were wearing jeans and hiking boots).

We spent the next couple of days generally lazing about and sampling Rwandan cuisine. Richard tried goat kebabs which he deemed chewy and I mainly stuck to what seems to be the staple diet of Rwandans - jam swiss roll for breakfast and chips for lunch and dinner. I did try Tilapia though which is local lake fish and it was really quite tasty.

On our last day in Kigali we visited the genocide memorial which is in a beautiful building at the top of one of the hills in Kigali. It was a sobering experience. The exhibition was really informative and thought provoking. After had been through the exhibition we wandered round the gardens which were stunning. However, it took me a while to realise that the large concrete areas were mass graves. There were about 5 mass graves there alone, and loads more across the whole country which really brought it home to me.

After that, we were pretty much ready to leave Kigali and so we packed up that evening (after some more chips) ready to be picked up in the morning to be taken to Kinigi to start our gorilla trekking tour.
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