Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Kigali, Rwanda

[ed. notes: next few posts maybe a little confusing but you may want to review by reading the "real time" posts for January 28th (rwanda, rwanda), 30th (hotel rwanda), February 14th (where's the king of scotland?), and 15th (hey look, some pix).

Since my stay in Bujumbura, my friends Samuel and Jack headed off to the DRC (the true heart of darkness, war torn as it was). I grabbed a 12 hour minibus ride (on the New Yahoo Express) to the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

Burundi is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Tonnes of people on the road. Very mountainous terrain. Lots of deforestation. Wish I had some photos but I was unfortunately crammed into the middle of the bus. Suffice to say, it was a safe journey. No signs of civil war or flooding. however, because of the snake-like mountain roads, a fellow passenger did hurled out the window, leaving an unsightly streak of vomit the length of the bus. I think the key to traveling in places such as Burundi is to listen to local advice and ignore the Embassy (any diplomatic warning).

Rwanda turned out to be mountainous as well. Not as many people walking the roads though. Perhaps the most noticeable thing was the lack of garbage. The country is immaculately clean. I found out later that the government decreed that every Saturday be a national beautification day. This decree was instituted after the horrible genocide of 1994 to help instill a feeling of nationhood among an obviously traumatized, and divided population.

So, as I wait for more journal entries to reach their first birthdays, I've got a few photos to post of Kigali.]

the kigali genocide memorial. beautiful place for a very sad event in the history of mankind. the exhibits are very informative and top notch in quality (rivaling anything in the West and the apartheid museum in soweto, johannesburg). very thorough in presenting the history before, during, and after the horrific genocide of 1994. i thought the video clips of individual accounts of the event were particularly touching. the top floor is the genocide hall of infamy that memorializes such occurrences through out history. suffice to say, human beings do not seem to have learned from the lessons of the past. if you plan to go, entrance is free. they do have a big box for donations though. photography is prohibited inside the memorial.

photo's taken at one of the big roundabouts downtown. the biker in the photo is one of the ubiquitous boda bodas (motocycle taxis) on the streets of kigali. really cheap. really fast. really fun (i can see why people like biking). my advice is to put on that extra helmet. i saw a couple of really nasty accidents. other than the boda bodas being scary, i found kigali to be one of safest capital cities in africa.

walking around kigali is really strange, particularly after attending the genocide museum. you think just a decade ago these folks were killing each other lock stock and barrel. funny thing is, as an outsider, you can't tell who's a tutsi and who's a hutu. no one talks about the past. perhaps the most frustrating thing for a traveler is that you're never around long enough to sense if there's any underlying tension in the population. i mean there's got to be remnants of bad feelings... anyway, the photo is of me walking back to the hotel, Auberge Caverne. at 16 USD, it was the most expensive room on the trip. good value for the money though. showers... little luxuries that we take for granted in Canada. the Auberge can be found at 1°56'21.77"S 30° 3'40.85"E.

look bubba's standing in front of the real Hotel Rwanda (ha! bet you were expecting the real Don Cheadle). ok, its real name is the Hotel Des Mille Collines. i should have went in to take a look at the swimming pool. shortly after this photo was taken i went to chow down on shanghai cuisine and caught a vicious cold for dessert.

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