Friday, August 13, 2010

East Africa and coming home to Rwanda

As Anna and Aimey’s African Adventure draws to a close, and Anna’s Suitcase begins to pack up all her worldly treasures, I thought I give a summary of the last few days bumping along the roads of East Africa. We left off and I was lamenting the loss of Aimey’s camera and about 300 great pictures. We left Mombasa at night, catching the legendary Nairobi-Mombasa train. We secured our berth and made our way to the dining car for dinner. The food was great, the cockroach joining us, not so much. Met a nice Irish guy and an arrogant Canadian-born, Kenyan-raised, British-educated man who was travelling to Nairobi to meet with a lawyer to take care of business. Sketchy. We were lulled to sleep by the clickity-clack of the rail cars as they travelled through Kenya and I was securely tucked into the upper bunk with what looks like a seatbelt/crib for my safety.

We arrived in Nairobi (which is nicknamed Nairobbery) without being mugged and so thought that, given the law of averages, we would have nothing stolen. We were right! Nairobi, though our visit was short, was a pleasant treat of capitalism and bustle. We spent the afternoon taking local (and very slow) busses out to the suburb of Karen to visit the Kazuri Jewelry factory. I first fell inlove with Kazuri in the Nairobi airport and have been dreaming about it ever since. I suppose I could have just bought something in an overpriced shop in the city, but there’s something about going out to where the sweat is poured into these little, beautiful clay beads. Kazuri was founded in the seventies by a British woman as a company to employ – and give health care – to single mothers. There are over 300 employees now and they make the most beautiful jewelry. We had a lovely tour and then spent too much time humming and haaaing over what to buy, and for whom, in their shop. In the end, I came away with a few beautiful pieces that you will all envy when I get home! That night we met Alan, a former VSO volunteer and fellow blogger, as well as a random girl that Aimey met in a coffee shop and we headed out to Haandi for Indian food. My mouth still waters when I think of the meal.

So from Nairobi to Kampala we splurged an extra $10 to take the “royal class” coach for a short 13 hour (or so) journey. Plush seats and even a breakfast of eggs and samosas! Of course, we were not even out of the city when we were stopped by a horrific traffic accident that had us waiting for over an hour just to pass a semi-trailer and the wreckage of what one could assume was once a taxi. Hours and hours later – after passing countless tea plantations – we crossed the Ugandan border and were shortly thereafter dropped off at an intersection leading to Jinga, the place from which we were going to raft down the Nile River. We knew that the taxi ride to the hotel would be about 15,000 from Jinja but had no idea how to actually get to the town of Jinja itself. Hmm…. Thankfully a handful of competitive boda-boda (motorcycle) drivers approached us and, unlike Rwanda, had no helmets. Given that it was night, given that it was the highway, given that we had a big packs, we opted to not take the risk and tried – unsuccessfully – to get a taxi. Thankfully, one of the boda-boda drivers, who did not take our lack of patronage personally, offered to call us one but that taxi seemed to be taking forever. Eventually, another car pulled up and Aimey asked if he was a taxi and would he take us into town. He was there to pick up a friend but offered us a lift while he was waiting. As it turned out, he wasn’t a taxi driver but just a random, and Aimey and I found ourselves hitchhiking by accident once again. Michael, who is also a teacher, offered to find us a proper taxi when we got to Jinja and even negotiated a good rate for us. Of course, to negotiate this rate he told us to stay in the car so the driver didn’t see that it was two mzungus – a sure way to have to pay more! Eventually we made it out to the Backpackers Campsite, were given a safari tent full of spiders to sleep in (no nets) and enjoy a beer, a meal and a card game. We were also treated to a video of that day’s rafting trip, and if I wasn’t nervous before about rafting down a Class 5 river, I was now! Praying that our boat wouldn’t flip the next day, and praying that the spiders were also sleeping and not wanting to crawl all over my face in the middle of the night, I drifted off to sleep with the sound of the Nile River just below.

So…rafting the Nile? Imagine the MindBender Rollercoaster at West Ed. Now imagine a washing machine. Now imagine that you are on the rollercoaster INSIDE a FREAKING washing machine. That’s sort of what it feels like to be on the Nile. But with Jamie our guide – who ‘btw’ was AWESOME – we made it through most rapids in one piece. Of course, I felt like a bit of an All Star after our first rapid when all of our gang were tossed outside of the boat except me and Jamie. “Bring it on Nile,” I said all tough-like.

Until the second rapid.

That’s when our boat hit a wave and flipped ass over tea kettle, landing on some of us, including Jamie. However…we all made it back in the boat and managed to get through the rest of the rapids relatively unscathed. It was the most fun that I’ve had being tossed around in raging white water. Thanks Jamie!

After Jinja we chilled and shopped for souvenirs in Kampala. Crazy, hectic, congested Kampala. Security was everywhere and we were searched going into our hotel, a restaurant and the post office. Since the bombings, I guess they aren’t taking chances. Fair enough. Things were good and fun and after getting our bus ticket to Kigali, hopped on a boda-boda which are fun and slow and crowed (three on a bike…really?). Of course, pulling up to our hotel the truck that was backing up didn’t see us….or in reality, did see us but refused to stop. Aimey bailed off the back of the bike before getting hit and the driver and I banged furiously on the door of the truck to get his attention – something I’ve been dying to do since arriving! For our last meal we managed to hit up a great little restaurant for dinner AND get a boda-boda driver that spoke Kinyarwanda! I felt at home!!!

Finally….after three great weeks and so many wonderful experiences, we were on a bus bound for Kigali. Crossing the border did feel like home and it was refreshing to drive on the right, hear Kinyarwanda, see no garbage and no houses painted advertising corporations. Of course, the tell tale signs we were coming to Rwanda were listening to Kenny Rogers on the bus and having our packs searched at the border for plastic bags. We arrived at the bus park and were thrilled when, after we declined a taxi, the driver actually listened and walked away!! No hassle in Rwanda. I love it here. I felt at home. Now it’s time to pack up and enjoy a last Rwandan inzoga – which, incidentally, means “beer” in Kinyarwanda but “dead animal” in Swahili. Go figure.


  1. hahaha my mouth is watering too... Haandi was delicious. Take care in Canada and don't forget to holla if you come back to Kenya!

    Alan in Kenya

  2. Anna, what would you think of coming back to Rwanda, this time in Kigali?

    Conditions here would be much much different I assure you. All aside however, thank you so much for your contribution to Kibungo an area that I know and love so much.

  3. Anna, what would you think of coming back to Rwanda, this time in Kigali?

    Conditions here would be much much different I assure you. All aside however, thank you so much for your contribution to Kibungo an area that I know and love so much.