Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. --- Mark Twain

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rwanda, Kigali

Or just,  “Le Pays des Mille Collines - Land of a Thousand Hills”.

Rwanda is a mountainous and green country in the middle of Africa , smaller than Estonia, the area is 26. 338 km2. But according to wikipedia the population is 11,4 million and so this makes Rwanda the most derisely populated country (419 inhabitants per square kilometre) in Africa.

Katuna, Uganda – the Rwandan border. I drive to the barrier, try to get out of the car , and perform this with difficulties because again quite many „assistants“ are present by the car. And it is said that legalization here should be quick and free of problems. And so it really is. There are fingerprint scanners at Uganda`s major borderguard stations, and a few minutes later, when the lights on the apparatus turn green, another stamp is added in the passport and I am wished a good journey. I return to the car and drive to the barrier again. The barrier does not want to rise up, as a kind of a car document is said to be missing. I make a suggestion that - I will drive behind the barrier, park the car and then will find the official, who can issue the necessary paper. This suggestion is accepted. The required paper is of size 4x4 cm, the number of the car is written down there and the current date. The only question is – which direction I will be going , either Kampala (Uganda) or Kigali ( Rwanda). My answer is Kigali and I point in the direction of Rwanda, that`s enough. One of the officers knows about Estonia and the location of it as well. Overall – nothing special, all this paper-work on Uganda`s side took less than 15 minutes, I guess. As the queue at the passport check-up was small.

Just a few hundred metres further and there it was – the next country – Rwanda. A young man in uniform tried to have a look inside the car, then asked if I was alone and when I had said - yes – the barrier was lifted up and he pointed to the direction immigration office. The officials looked at the personal data page in the passport, discussed something between themselves , and not checking the passport more closely informed , that I should have filled the visa application via internet before. Having found the Rwanda visa in the passport the whole procedure was over in a minute. The car - check turned out this way - I stood in a queue together with local truck drivers about 10 minutes in the police station ( it was probably a police station) till quite a big amount of data was written down . Including license number, and some information from insurance policy. My driving license, issued in Estonia, was accepted, at least no questions were asked. And the same with COMESA Yellow card. Also accepted. And then the next 4x4 cm size of a paper, with the number of the car and today`s date. Go. It probably meant that I should leave the border zone before tomorrow.
Driving on, beside there is a trestle and at the moment two small cargo vans are being emptied from the goods. Nobody tells me to stop and I will not volunteer either to make a stop. And soon there is the barrier and an armed guard, for whom this small paper is enough.
Welcome to Rwanda. I had made preparations and was expecting the moment when plastic bags would be searched in the car. As Rwanda is one of the two (another is Eritrea) African plastc-bags- free countries and the production or taking the plastic bags to the country is illegal. But nothing happaned. The word „preparation“ meant that all the things , decently packed into plastic bags before, were taken out and bags were thrown away. This time it was in vain. And I had heard stories that all the travel bags were reviewed and even socks were shaken out from plasic bags.

But this plastic-bag-ban really works. At least in this country there was no sight of
huge areas covered with plastic bags while approaching a populated place. In the shops the items are put into paper bags. Plastic bottles are on sale, but the road sides and town streets are really clean.

Immediately after the border there was a large advertising board by the road – No corruption – or something similar. I could not take a photo because the locals didn`t seem to approve it.
There is right- hand traffic in Rwanda and in the neighbouring country Burundi as well. Like in Europe. And the town traffic in Kigali is much less dense compared to Uganda or Kenya. The same with traffic on the roads. The country is mountainous and the the rises and falls are steeper. Resembles much to Austria but no tunnels and bridges.


Rwanda, Kigali

The prices. So and so. The first example. I was looking for a post-office to send some postcards to Estonia.


The new citymap shows that there has to be one - but there in none. The locals say that it has been removed somewhere. The Skynet mail company also didn`t know the exact address, it was supposed to be somewhere in the centre of the city. But they suggested that they could send the postcards themselves. At first it took quite a long time to specify the location of Estonia ( Estonia EU). This time I didn`t take the globe out of the car, but with the help of a stamp-size map the location was more or less indicated. I asked the price again – all together 94 USD for six postcards. And I was asked if that was too much. In my opinion it really was.
In Ruhengeri  I went to a local post-office and all together I paid for sending 6x400=2400 Rwanda Francs or 3 Euros.


And one more local place of sale. To explain – the Rwandan currency exchange rate is 1 EUR = 845 RWF (Rwandan francs).

The assortment was rather small, everything was seen on the table. To be more exact – three different products were on sale. The price of pineapple - 1000 RWF, a bunch of bananas 300 RWF and fat pies in a plastic bucket, one pie was as much as I remember 300 RWF.
Just now, in the middle of blog-writing , the electricity went out. And this reminded me again that I made an error and was wrong on one fundamental rule of travelling in Africa.
This first basic rule is that - in the evening never go out without a flashlight. Because the evening soon turns into pitch dark African night and street lights are absolutely unknown here.
The second rule is – always take your GPS with you and save the location of the car. (recommended also outside of Africa). Or just nobody can steal it again, as it had happened in Djibouti. And the town map could also be followed in GPS, no need to stand at the intersection as a classic tourist with a paper map in hand.
Lake Kivu – Lake Kivu - the first European reached here only in 1894.


Gitarama, Kabgayi Church.

And the next post will be about this kind of animals.

Rwanda_Gorillas (8)

No comments: