A Gator in Dar Es Salaam

"Ex Africa semper aliquid novi - Out of Africa always something new" -Pliny the Elder

Friday, February 10, 2006

Kigali, Rwanda

Well currently I can be found in Kigali, Rwanda. Got in yesterday(Thursday) but before I get to that, here is a quick recap of what I have been up to...

Friday Jan 20
Board the Tazara Train bound for Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia. Stay in room with Tony, a Scotsman, 2 Tanzanians and a nice Zambian guy.

Jan 21
Arrive in Mbeya, SW Tanzania at about 2. Watch the Cameroon football game in the Cup of Nations. Wait to leave Mbeya...and wait. Leave Mbeya about midnite headed for Zambia.

Jan 22(early)
Disembark from the train and get exit visas from Tanzania(at about 2:30 a.m.). Get back on the train and 30 minutes later, get passport stamped by Zambian immigration.
Arrive at Mpika, Zambia at about 12. Sit at Mpika for sometime, rumours abound about how long we will sit there.

Monday Jan 23
Still sitting in Mpika. Mercer, me and Tony go in to town in a pickup with 6 South Africans to get Zambian money and maybe find a bus to Lusaka. Get money, but bus pulls away full as we return to bus station. Rumours continue, and we play UNO. AT 8:30 the train moves and we head on down the road to Lusaka. Beatiful lightning storm lights up the magnificent Zambian countryside.

Jan 24
Arrive at the Kapiri Mposhi train station about 8 after a beautiful sunrise through Zambia. Get off train and load on to minibus for the last 3 hours to Lusaka. Arrive in Lusaka about noon and get a taxi to ChaChaCha Backpackers, about a 15 minute walk from the city center. Nap and shower after 88 hours on a train. Everyone smells better. Walk around the city and enjoy lunch at Subway. Nice quiet evening at ChaChaCha.

Jan 25
Spend the day exploring Lusaka, my favorite city perhaps. We head to the market, which is an enjoyable experience and completely different from Mwenge/Kariakoo in Dar. Suprise...we are the only white people at the market. I buy a Zambia scarf and Tony meets the manager of the market who shows us a place in town where we can buy Zambia flags. The 3 of us love Zambia. People are great, friendly, clean...outstanding. In the afternoon we go to the national museum which is pretty nice and has a lot of info about the independence era. From there we head over the Irish Pub at Nanda Hill. Great place, we enjoy the Angola-DRC football game.

Thursday Jan 26
Head down to Livingstone on the 10 a.m. bus. We arrive at about 3 and watch Zambia lose in football with a number of Zambians. Spend the evening playing pool and drinking Mosi at JollyBoys Backpackers.

Friday Jan 27
Catch the 10 a.m. shuttle to Victoria Falls. Spend 3.5 hours wandering around the falls and marveling at how ridiculous they are. Tony and I hike down a steep hill to the view the bridge and part of the falls from below. Have a nice lunch of fresh fish at a great seafood place.

Saturday Jan 28
Decide if we are going to Namibia or back up north in to east Africa. Head to the market and get a few souvenirs while enjoying the coziness of Livingstone. Mercer and I decide to head back up north while Tony decides to go to Botswana and Zimbabwe for 5 days before returning to Dar.

Jan 29
Mercer and I catch a bus up to Lusaka and enjoy Baby Police 1, 2, and 3 as well as a few other classic Nigerian films. They are great...right. Get in to Lusaka about 5 and book bus tickets to get to Kampala on the bus that leaves Monday at 6. Check in to same room at ChaChaCha Backpackers. Go to Irish Pub again and spend a great deal of time talking with our waitress and chef who are hilarious. Decide Zambia is the greatest place ever.

Jan 30
Mercer and I walk around Lusaka all day, use internet and eat some ice cream, a few good meals and bookshopping to entertain on our large bus excursion. Bus leaves at 6.

Jan 31 Spend the day on the bus, go through Tanzanian border at about 7 and reluctantly admit that Tanzania is obnoxious, rude and dirty when compared with Zambia. Drive through western Tanzania watching bad movies and trying to zone them out. We are seated next to the bathroom which stinks. Sometime in early afternoon we seem to run over a baboon with the bus. These things happen. Drive through Mikumi National Park and see about 20 Elephants not to far from the road. We arrive in Dar at 10 and they send us to a pretty nice hotel, although we have to pay for it. Sleep in a bed for 6 hours.

Feb 1 Get to the Scandinavian bus station at 6:30 and the bus departs at 7:30 getting out of Dar at 8ish. Head north through Moshi and Arusha and then north around Mt. Meru where we are able to view Mt. Kilimanjaro as the sun sets on it. In to Masaai Land. Plenty of Zebras around. We go throught Kenyan border at about 7 and experience few problems although the Masaai women insist on us buying there jewelry, I am suckered in to buying a bracelet for a combination of Kenyan and Tanzanian money. About 60 cents. Get to Nairobi about 10 and they clean off the bus and we eat dinner. Nairobi is very western and also considered the most dangerous city in Africa for robberies, muggings, etc. They do have a highway system, which is crazy, not much desire to go back.

Feb 2 Get in to Uganda about 7 and watch the sunrise over the Kenyan/Ugandan border. Ready to get off the damn bus. Get to Kampala at about 11 and get some Ugandan money. We check out the backpacker place, but its no good and we then head to New Gloria Hotel, which is nice and close to the city center. Meet my friend Alex(Tufts Univ.) and Leila from Tanzania at Dominos. Great pizza, just like at home. So exhausted that we retire early.

Friday Feb 3
Explore Kampala a little bit. We check out the Garden City mall, which is outstanding, good prices and just like a US mall. Eat great Indian food and head back to New Gloria. After 55 hours on buses in 3 days we are still so exhausted. Enjoy African Cup of Nations and chicken and rice at the hotel.

Saturday Feb 4
Walk all over Kampala. I really like it, similar to Dar is someways, but again I prefer it over Dar. Eat at a sidewalk cafe and check out the parliament building. Gawk at the ridiculously large storks which patrol everywhere and look capable of conquering Kampala if they want. Do a little shopping . Head over to Just Kickin' a football and rugby sports bar. Large crowd gathers to watch Nigeria-Tunisia. And lots of white guys getting pumped up for the England rugby match. Nigeria dramatically wins in penalty kicks and the 100 hundred or so Kampalans and myself and Mercer go wild as the north Africans Tunisia are eliminated. Stay to watch the Man United game and I buy Alex and Leila Smirnoff Ice. Not sure how or why, but Smirnoff products are about half what they are in the US.

Sunday Feb 5
Enjoy sleeping in and head to one of Kampalas famous Ice Cream parlours. Great ice cream, pretty laid back day just watching movies and exploring Kampala.

Monday Feb 6 Head back to mall where we get a few more things and enjoy the best Spaghetti in East Africa. Check out Munich at the movie theater. There are 4 people in the theater. I would highly reccomend Munich, it was outstanding. Figure out we want to go to Kabale in very southwestern Uganda.

Tuesday Feb 7
Get on the post office bus to Kabale at 8. Think we will be there by 1 but end up getting there at 4. 8 hours on a bus here is exhausting and we find a hotel room and eat a great big dinner before retiring for the night with our books.

Feb 8
Leave for Bunyonyi Overland Camp at 9. This region of Uganda is described as the Switzerland of Africa. It is beautiful. The Lake is amazing with a few of volcanoes on the Uganda/DRC border. Described in Lonely Planet as a "Lord of the Rings" setting. Basically just lounge around the place and look at the lake, play pool and checkers. Turn down the staff of the place when they ask if we want to smoke "the good stuff" Same guy who tries to sell us pot then asks for a church donation for a new building, hypocrite. Watch the Duke-UNC game one day later. My first basketball game all year and I forgot what it was like. J.J. Reddick is sick. Great dinner and then early to bed. Cold in this part of Uganda.

Feb 9
The cab driver we met the day before picks us up and we head thru Kabale to Rwandan border. We stop for an hour so he can fix a part, Mercer and I play 20 Questions. I win, obviously. We get to Rwandan border at about 12:30. Americans do not need a visa for Rwanda so that is great. We wait at the border for 2 hours until the minibus fills up with people. I am frustrated, but no other alternative. Get to Kigali about 4:30. Its an unbelievable drive in to Kigali. Rwanda is just beautiful/huge hills with farming all the way up. Strange to be here though. We get a hotel and enjoy a nice meal, not sure what to think of Kigali and all that it is, but we have great view of one corner of Kigali and suburbs.

Today I got some Rwandan Francs, Rwanda is almost as expensive as the US. We thought about changing to a cheaper hotel, but all are pretty nasty. Walk around town some. At 1 we head to the National Genocide Memorial and Museum. It is one of the most beautiful museums I have ever been to. It is so well done and difficult to get through. Lots of good information and then pictures of people who were killed in the genocide. There is a part that is pictures of children and then how they died and what there last words were. Kigali is so beautiful and so normal now, it is nearly impossible to imagine what happened here in 1994. Spend about 2 hours at the museum taking it all in. After that we got a cab over to the Hotel des Milles Collines(the hotel in Hotel Rwanda). I found this extremely surreal and strange. When I saw the movie last fall, I never imagined I would set foot in it. The actual hotel is different from the one in the movie, but I had a beer and spaghetti right next to the pool that was used as drinking water for hundreds of people housed by Paul Rusesibagina in 1994. If you havent seen this movie, then you should.

I am baffled in many ways by Kigali and Rwanda. I cannot possibly come to grips with what happened here and the genocide took place on a scale that I can not imagine. I did not cry at the museum or anything, its just impossible to comprehend. People live there lives, but I look at every person, wondering Hutu or Tutsi? Killer or Victim or both? Did this person use a machete to kill fellow Rwandans? What were they doing 12 years ago? How could something have happened like this? Where was the western world? Its a peaceful place now, but at the museum it said that almost no one doesnt know someone who was killed, killed someone, or aided in the genocide in 1994. I cant believe I am here in Rwanda.

The trip has been great, still one week to go...so tired...still a mzungu.


  • At 2/10/2006 9:45 PM, Anonymous Mom said…

    Thanks for your wonderfula account of your time over the past few weeks. I know everyone will enjoy and also appreciate it. No, I still can't watch the movie knowing you're there. I'll look forward to watching it with you when you're home. You and Mercer stay safe.

    We leave in exactly a week. Can't wait to see you.


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