Monday, June 18, 2007

Kahama to Rwanda

First, before I left Nomad they ended up giving each of us who went on the Ngorongoro crater tour $30 back due to us not being able to camp out on the rim of the crater as promised. We were hoping to get $50 but at least we got something.

Be sure to check out all the pics I posted below...

My parents sent me an e-mail flipping out about us going to Rwanda and Uganda, but it is very safe to travel here. Don't worry!

2 days ago Stacey and I took the bus I had booked from Arusha to Kahama. We almost slept too late, but we managed to get there about 10 minutes before the bus came by and picked us up at the entrance to our campsite 20km from Arusha. There was 5 people to a row, with about 75 people crammed in. There was barely enough room for my knees, overall it wasn't horribly uncomfortable...until we hit the dirt roads. It took about 7 hours to get from Arusha to Singida, including about 45 minutes stopped at a police checkpoint. 5 of those 7 hours were driving as fast as possible on a potholed dirt road that seemed to never end. It didn't make me feel any better when the guy next to us told us there was a bus crash on the road a few days ago were 18 people died and 60 were in the hospital (this was the reason for the long police checkpoint).

We had no idea how we were getting to Kahama because this bus was going to Mwanza, but the guy next to me, Henry, was so helpful and friendly, he found someone on the bus also going to Kahama, named Dennis. We had to get off at some random town and take a minibus to Kahama. Dennis escorted us the whole way and couldn't have been more friendly. He found us a nice hotel room in town (walked us there) and found a guy in town driving to Kigali the next day that would give us a ride (for a price). So we got a good night's sleep in a nice clean room for $10 a night, then Dennis skipped church that morning to help us meet up with the taxi driver and negotiate a good price. The final cost was $50, $25 each for a 450km ride in a nice comfortable Mercedes Benz to Kigali. The only problem was the border...

It turned out that guy who gave us a ride, Claude, was importing this car to Rwanda (it's a landlocked country, so he is driving it from the Tanzania coast to Rwanda). We get to the border, and of course customs takes 1.5hrs on the tanzania side and 1.5hours on the Rwanda side. So we wait 3 hours only to find out the car didn't clear customs on the Rwanda side and we have to get a ride into kigali with his friend George (Claude came along). George spoke english, which Claude did not, but we were getting a little worried as it was getting dark and they had to show their import papers at every police checkpoint...taking a long time to get to Kigali. Eventually we got to town and dropped Claude off...George had to drop the car off and pay the import taxes and we had to switch cars again to George's personal car.

We had a deal with Claude that he would take us to a specific address in Kigali...we get to the first address and the hotel charged $24 a night b/c there is some big conference in town. Too expensive and the reception guy seemed like an asshole, so George reccomended a place he knew for $10 a night. We go there, find a double room for $12. Finally, it's 8pm, dark out, spent 11hrs going 300 miles, get a room, then of course George starts asking for money for the ride. He wants $15, which is ridiculous, so I tell him I'll give him $5 for taking us from the original address to the new hotel and that satisfies him.

Hotel employees speak no english, only horrible french from taking it 4 yrs in high school is failing me completely...i can't even remember the most basic things. This morning we went to a coffee shop in a nice little mall and bumped into an American doctor who's been working in Namibia for the last couple years. He's in town for the huge AIDS conference that's going here. We had a nice long chat with him and he treated us to breakfast, which was very generous. I was even able to change my $3 worth of namibian money with him for some Rwandan Francs. He told us, they've really cleaned up the city for the conference since it's the first major conference in Kigali. Plenty of perfectly manicured gardens and cops everywhere on the streets. The city is is in the mountains and everything is on hills, it's very beautiful. Most of the roads in Rwanda are very well paved doesn't seem like the East Africa i've come to know.

Now the biggest problem is getting cash, there's no international ATMs here so I'll probably have to take a cash advance on my credit card to get funds. Might be able to western union myself some money also. This afternoon we'll be checking out the genocide museum which is supposed to be very well done and tomorrow we'll probably head to Butare then the Nyungwe Forest national park.


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