Kigali, Rwanda

UpdatesPosted by Karl Kristian Larsen 10 Jun, 2010 15:12:58

Along with Ecuador, Rwanda was one of the countries I was really interested in visiting. And since I did stay on Zanzibar a bit longer than scheduled I decided to fly here rather then the epic overland-dalla-dalla (aka Tanzanian public transport) trip first planned.

Kigali proved to be a nice introduction, the airport was among the calmest I’ve ever been to (outside Europe), and the city felt safe! Still Kigali was such a surreal place to be. I’ve read about the 1994 genocide, and I’ve seen numerous movies/documentaries about Rwanda where 800,000+ people were killed during the 100 days of madness. And this was the place where everything happened, to walk in the streets and imagine the Interhamwe (the killing militia) probably had a roadblock here by this junction, that the corpses most likely were left there, in that
ditch or just to sip a coca-cola by the pool at the REAL Hotel des Mille Collines (famous from Hotel Rwanda) felt absurd.

But rapidly I decided that I didn’t want to remember Rwanda as this sad horrible place. Everywhere I met people with hopes for the future, people smiled and Kigali felt like a really western city (no litter, no begging and busy people), well maybe apart from the moto-taxis (more about those later). I wanted to experience Kigali and Rwanda as a prime tourist destination, therefore I dropped my plan to indulge in genocide books, but rather started reading the amazing story of “Dian Fossey –
Gorillas in the Mist”, also set in Rwanda, in the Virunga volcanoes. Much likely this also got to do with the fact that I just acquired a “gorilla-visiting-permit” for some days later. I also decided that I would only search up one genocide memorial and after that rather focus on the natural beauty of Rwanda and the sophisticated eateries of Kigali!

So, the moto-taxies, I haven’t seen them in any other country than Rwanda (so far), but here’s the idea: You give a teenage-guy a motorcycle (or a moped), but usually I think they were 125cc, these guys drive around the streets looking for passengers (there’s almost more moto-taxis than cars). Seldom you have to wait more than one minute, you will get a helmet, you discuss the price (cheap – like 1USD within the city), I always say “drive carefully”, you climb on, and then the trips starts. The teenager drives past traffic, sometimes one the sidewalk, sometime in the opposite file. Sometimes in goes too fast, and sometimes you feel scared. But thanks to passenger-motorcycle-experience with Jorgen and Jon Magnus at least I knew how I should position myself. In addition I doubt that the teenager wants to collide himself and that he knows his motorcycle very well, so therefore I put my thrust in their hands. And it worked, I had 8 trips with mototaxi around Kigali (twice even with my 20+kg backpack, that must have been a sight!)

At my second day I got invited to a dinner with Harald, Sigri (both Norwegian Red Cross Youth-delegates in Rwanda) and their friends. It was a nice evening, 10 people volunteering one way or another in Rwanda and me, the backpacker. Trough friends of them I even got a place to stay in my next city (Huye).

Modern Kigali seen from "Kigali Memorial Centre".
In the front of the picture are massgraves where 250 000 people are buried.

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