We had spent the night in a small town not far from the Uganda / Rwanda border, but then because Rwanda is such a small country, distances between towns are so short, today’s goal of Gisenyi, was a mere a 60 km ride away. 60 km is nothing to us as we usually travel between 200 to 400 kilometers (depending on destination and road conditions). We tried very hard to take our time with everything. We slowly packed our bags and loaded our bikes, but we still hit the road at nine in the morning. We then tried to take it casually and ride slowly on Rwanda’s beautifully paved roads through sweeping hills and pasted pristine rice fields, but less than an hour later we reached Gisenyi.
Gisenyi is small border town situated on the lake’s edge with its two-shack border post that backs onto Goma in DR Congo. We check ourselves into a hotel where for the first time they offered free laundry service and car washing. I thought that was a joke until I woke the next day to discover my bike looking nice and shiny for a change!
The shiny bike did not last long as we took a small dirt road for 120 kilometers. We thought it would be another short day so we bided our time with lots of stops for photos, but we soon realized the road was full of potholes that forced us to travel much slower that we normally would. At five pm, just after a storm had rolled past, we finally arrived in the small township of Kibuye.
I was stunned at the beauty of the place. It looked exactly like the Marlborough Sounds where I grew up as a kid. We got a room at St Jeans Guest House, which overlooks the lake and its many coves. We had planned to stay one night, but we fell in love with the place and decided to stay another day and try to get some work down without being distracted by the view!
The following day we rode on to Kigali where we met with Eva, a German woman who had lived in Rwanda for the past four years. I got in touch with Eva through “Couch Surfing” and asked if she would like to have two smelly bikers for two weeks as paid housemates. Fortunately, for us she said yes and opened up her house to us. It turned out it would be slightly more expensive than staying in a hotel, but for two weeks, we would want to spread out and have a nice place to work.
When in Kigali, you cannot miss visiting the Genocide Museum. I had been to genocide museums in Cambodia on my first motorcycle adventure back in 2008. I was surprised to find for the first time an organized museum full of informational boards. However, as I walked around this complex, I did not react the way I thought I would and how I did back in Cambodia. I found the museum doesn’t actually shed / rub the horror of the situation on to you and I left without really feeling connected to it at all. I guess, I’ve watched one too many blood and guts movies in the past or maybe the museum should have been located in one of the many churches where they killed thousands in one single sweep.
As it turned out, Eva had to fly to Germany for a business meeting and we stayed on an extra few days to look after her house. Since I had extra time, I decided to wash my sleeping bag. After getting instructions off the internet and help from my friends, I was set to wash the bag for the first time since I bought it. I know that’s disgusting but I was scared to wash it in case I broke the bag and rendered it useless. However, it turned out to be easy, just a lot of hard work and Mother Nature did not help one bit. As I laid it down on the ground to start drying out a massive hailstorm swept over the city and even flooded parts of our house! I then spent the next 5 days gently pulling the feathers apart and making sure it dried evenly and fluffy, I think it’s going to be another four years before I try that again!
Our time in Kigali ended and we packed up and left for Burundi. The best thing about Rwanda is that it is so small. You are only doing short days, therefore feel freer to stop, and so we took a small detour to visit the Kings Palace in a small town called Nyaza along the way. The traditional huts are replicas of the original ones that originally sat on the adjacent hill. We were shown around the several different huts and the newer Belgium built palace. It gave us a better understanding to what life was like as a king during those times.
After a question and answer session with our fellow group about our trip, Mike and I rode on to Butare for the night before crossing into Burundi the following morning. Butare was a cute village with all its buildings in the Art Deco style. We stayed in a historic building, which used to be a hotel for Belgian people and had a terrible history of keeping the black people out of its gates to make sure the Belgians would not have to socialize with the black people.
Goodbye Rwanda. I am still amazed how fast you have developed in the past 20 years for an incredibly small but beautiful country.