Monday, 3 November 2014


Leaving my Neighbourhood

I woke up this morning with snot pouring out my face. Felt like I was coming down with a terrible cold, so popped some zinc and echinacea. Pierre arrived mid-morning to collect the car. J&P have bought a cycling business in Gisenyi, right up on the northern border with the DRC and Uganda. He was heading up to take a look at the place and invited me along. I was planning on spending the day under the covers, feeling sorry for myself, but when he arrived I couldn't resist. I threw myself through the shower and settled down with Percy to enjoy the three-hours up north.

Percy enjoys road trips.

Rwanda is one of the greenest, most beautiful countries on earth. The trip north takes you along winding mountain roads towards the volcanic ranges of the borderlands.

Unfortunate cramped cow in transit.

Raindrop on agricultural terraces.
Every inch of Rwanda is farmed.

'Exotic' Fresian cows crossing.

Towns and villages nestled in the valleys.

People walk along the sides of the roads.

We stopped off for breakfast of potatoes and goat brochettes at a little place called Nyirangarama. It's won awards for excellence and business innovation. Because of this it's a stop-off for almost every bus along that route. They sell food and fresh produce from the local farms, plus providing much needed conveniences for road-weary travellers. Weird - they also have goldfish! I've never seen these before in Rwanda, and can't help wondering how they got here.

We encountered one accident along the way. You can't really see, but somehow this lorry managed to jack-knife itself across the road. Very lucky not to have continued down the steep drop on the other side. 

We started out in beautiful sunshine, which continued all the way to Gisenyi... where it poured down.

Van 'the man' Morrison provided the perfect backing track for our descent to Lake Kivu in search of the bike shop. It was raining so hard when we got there that we decided to shelter at Paradis Malahide to regain our strength with tilapia. The staff met us at the car with umbrellas and even provided a little charcoal heater.

By the time we had finished our delicious meal, the rain had stopped and we were able to ask directions to the business. It wasn't easy to find as there were no signs outside.

Lake Kivu

Percy peeking out from my bag on the back of the bike.

Posing as two tourists, Pierre suggested we check out the merchandice, so we took the bikes for a short spin. All that cycling in Laos really paid off, and the bikes were really light and easy to ride. Though there are a lot of hills in Rwanda (Land of a Thousand Hills). It's fun going down, but hard work going up. The guide reckoned you could cycle all the way from Gisenyi to Chyangugu (from the very North to the very South of Rwanda) in five days. I don't think we would have lasted five minutes.

It was great fun, and we dropped the bikes off back at Paradis before taking a look round and wandering down to the beach. It was really nice to explore Gisenyi. I've only been here once before, back in 2008. Never got to see the lake.

Luxury apartments at Paradis Malahide.

Dilapidated house by the lake shore.

Black and white Kingfisher eating a fish.

We headed back through town, and I got to drive for a bit. Building up my confidence in public areas. I always feel nervous, but then once I'm behind the wheel it comes back quickly. Driving a right-hand drive actually isn't as tricky as I thought it would be. I think it's slightly easier than driving a left-hand drive across Europe, because you feel like you're sitting on the right side of the road, and you can see around things to overtake. I only hit my hand on the door twice looking for the gear stick. 

Gisenyi is right on the border with the DRC, and just across from Goma where some of the worst of the fighting takes place. This is one of the crossings.

There's also a huge active volcano, Nyiragongo. It errupted in 2002 destroying parts of Goma and leading to the evacuation of 400,000 people. You can see the steam billowing from it like a giant cloud factory.

Some great pictures online and by Google imaging it.

Anyway, it was a lovely day. Having not been out of Kigali since getting back in May, I've now had two great road trips (Muhazi and Gisenyi) in a week.

Pierre did a great job driving back in the dark, and we stopped at Nyirangarama again on the way back so that I could pick up a pineapple for my breakfast.

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