74 – Kigali Drowning
Mon 8th Feb, Bellevie Logement, Kigali, Rwanda
Again, i will by the end of the day, and this entry, regret taking the day bus into a new city & country. Today’s plan was to go from Kampala to Kigali, a nine hour bus ride through the Ugandan countryside before emerging into the Rwandan hills.
Kampala Coaches’ 4 seats to a row allowed more room than this one, 5 seats to a row. It was still fairly comfortable though, since the bus was half empty. We passed through some bad roads on the early part of the trip, which delayed the bus by maybe an hour. Include with that the constant traffic police stops, and you have a bus that will reach Kigali after dark.
The terrain again was lush green leafy trees set against a hillside landscape. Passed by Ntungamo and Kabale, towns which are bases for gorilla tracking. We reached the border at around 5pm. Again, as with all the East African countries so far, border formalities are quick and painless. Visas are available at the border, though i didn’t need one for Rwanda. The money changing touts at the border were all there, but they offered much better rates than the forex back in Kampala. Selling Rwandan francs at 3.4 instead of the forex’s 3.9.
They were showing movies on the bus. However the English movie had been dubbed over with what i think is Kinyarwanda language. They did not dub over each actor’s voice though, instead a narrator said out the whole story. For example: “The big strong guy punched the little guy in the nuts till he keeled over. An action packed movie!”
The fun started as we got into Rwanda. It started to rain, heavily. The vehicles on the main highway slowed down and by the time we got to Kigali, the town was drowning in rainwater. Ok, i may be exaggerating, but when we got into Kigali, it was dark, pouring and i had no idea where we were. The bus pulled into the bus park at Nyabugogo bus station, 2km away from town. The bus park itself was calf deep in rainwater, and the local passengers were protesting at being dropped off there. I got off, grabbed my bag from the luggage compartment under the bus, and made for shelter, with a horde of other people. The rain didn’t seem to subside, and this was a stupid location in the dark to wait, so i got out my poncho, slipped it over and ran across to the well lighted petrol station. Here at least there was more room and it’s a better place to ask for directions.
My options were to grab a minivan shared taxi to the city centre where all the hotels were, or to take a taxi motor. The latter was out of the question, since most of them were taking cover in the petrol station, not being suited to go out into the heavy rain. So i decided to wait, for a full hour hoping for the rain to subside, before asking for directions to the minivan that goes to town. The problem here was hardly anyone around the bus station spoke English, and even though the signs were in French, no one i asked spoke French either. So i stood in my poncho in the rain on the side of the road i figured led to the city centre. Do that long enough and someone who could help would come over to help. And that was exactly what happened, true story.
I took the minivan (150 RF) down to somewhere where someone told me to drop off. Actually it was the passenger beside, and the somewhere was in town. I tried to find a landmark with which i can use to orientate myself on my map. I looked for Hotel Gloria, but it had closed down. Instead, a little further down the road was Belle Vie Logement, and across the road from it was the New Modern Guest House. I stayed in the former, a peculiar place behind the restaurant which was closed at night. The place was dark, with only one or two lights, and had 4 rooms in the back corridor of the restaurant. But it was in the centre of town, and at 6000 RF, was probably the cheapest i will get staying in Kigali.
I was too tired and wet to try another place anyway. The rooms were basic but comfortable enough, and since my prerequisite of a working power point was there, i am fine. I set out to boil some hot chocolate and had my last pack of instant noodles for dinner. That one single pack of instant noodles left in my bag from Addis probably saved my life. Warm and contented, i slept.