I went to Rwanda last August for 4 days on a recce. I really didn’t know what to expect, although a number of friends and colleagues were telling me how they loved it there and that I would surely like it too. And I did. The airport in Kigali is small but clean and functional, and immediately on arrival I witnessed the law on plastic bags being enforced. A family who flew with us from Johannesburg had done some duty free shopping and had their purchases in the typical sealed airport bag. They were not allowed to leave the airport with it. The security officer made sure they unpacked the bag and left it with her (I suppose there is some procedure around disposing of all those confiscated bags but I haven’t had a chance to investigate yet). That’s a good sign, I thought. I’m used to there being all sorts of rules and regulations that are not really followed in most of the African countries I visited 😉 So arriving in a place where one of the most innovative laws is actually observed was quite refreshing! Driving from the airport to where we were staying (the house we will be living in actually) confirmed Kigali’s reputation as the cleanest city in Africa. The streets were spotless, there were no bits of paper or cigarette buts on pavements or lawns. I was told that every last Saturday of the month is a day of community service when Rwandans get involved in all sorts of community projects, one of which is cleaning the streets. Unsurprisingly, they take great pride in keeping their capital so tidy, first impressions are very important after all!
During my short stay I joined our hosts on a rather crazy trip to Lake Kivu to participate in a party on a boat. It’s called Barge Party and has been taking place in the town of Gisenyi since 2013. Attended mostly by expats based in Rwanda and Goma (a town in DR Congo on the border with Rwanda where a UN peacekeeping mission is based, as well as various development agencies), it’s a fun, if slightly bizarre, event to simply chill with some beers while cruising on the lake. A Dutch guy was the DJ and we did dance quite a bit, although it was hot and humid, and we really didn’t want to wear the life jackets. Rwandan police turned up on a speed boat at one point to make sure we did have them on, and while they smiled and wished us a good evening, their massive guns made me feel a little bit uneasy… They certainly were keeping an eye on us!
The cruise was very pleasant, although the UN military planes flying over our heads to and from Goma while we were drinking beers with typical Western club music in the background created a rather surreal atmosphere… Still, it was great to see the lake and meet some people! The Barge Party is becoming more and more popular every year, and locals join in as well, which is great as I’m not a fan of “expats only” events… I took some photos of before, during and after the party, here they are 🙂
We stayed that night in Gisenyi in a pretty hotel called Paradis Malahide. It’s right on the lake so we had breakfast with a view!
The trip to Gisenyi and back to Kigali was very picturesque. There are virtually no straight roads though, you always go around a hill, and it’s either up or down. Using the horn is therefore essential to inform other drivers you are coming, but also to indicate that you want to overtake. Apart from getting used to driving on the right hand side of the road (after 4 years in South Africa where they drive on the left), there will be a lot to learn about driving styles and communication 😉 Concentration is key, especially that the views on the way are quite pretty!
My first encounter with Rwanda was very positive. In exactly two weeks’ time I will be there again, this time for much longer though! 🙂