What I love about travelling is the people you meet – through someone who knows someone who is related to someone else. This was such a case: the mother of a friend of my cousins’ lives in Kigali and had welcomed us!
We arrived dusty and tired in Kigali – and desperate for the luxury of a bedroom and proper bathroom. We were welcomed by Beulah, Jan and Danya into their busy life, and treated like one of the family. They were so immensely helpful with making sure we sorted out our admin, caught up with ourselves, and also saw a bit of the city.
It was only once we stopped moving that we realised how tired we were. I spent most of the first 2 days (Monday and Tuesday) catching up on sleep – morning naps and afternoon siestas became the order of the day. At the same time, Viking Explorer arranged for a timing belt change. Excellent contacts resulted in a mechanic coming to the house to complete the work. Unfortunately, the timing belt purchased in Uganda was the wrong size, so the mechanic needed to source another. All in all, an afternoon productively spent without moving too far from the comfort of the house.
Tuesday saw us on a guided tour of the city, courtesy of our kind hostess Beulah! We saw some of the key landmarks, and also some of their own favourite restaurants and hideaways. It is a fascinating city, and remarkable clean due to the banning of plastic carrier bags. The public spaces are well manicured, and the people friendly and welcoming. We stopped past the Genocide Memorial and the main market – Chimirongo: all to be visited later. We even made a brief stop at the Italian supermarket to taste their delicious gelato ice cream!
Tuesday was also birthday time for Danya, and so we were swept up in the celebrations, meeting of friends, and fantastic dinner at Korean / Japanese restaurant – Sakae.
Viking Explorer had been talking about sushi just a few days previously, so he was especially delighted at the venue! A fun evening, making new friends.
Feeling recovered – well, at least partially – on Wednesday we headed over to the Genocide Memorial Museum for a visit. It was a very tastefully, sensitively introduced and displayed. It covered a brief colonial history, and then the events leading up to the 100 day massacre of 800,000 people. The museum site itself is the final resting place of 250,000 people. Most people living in Rwanda were impacted in some way – losing families and friends. The second part of the museum has brief displays about other genocides in the world. Again, it was sensitively displayed, and very moving. After all the kindness and hospitality we have experienced on our travels, I found it so sad that people are capable of such brutality.
On Thursday, Beulah took us off for our next exploration – Chimirongo market! By African standards, this felt like quite an organised market. The market contains sellers of everything from clothes and shoes, fabrics, crafts and curios, fruit and vegetables, and everything in between! Beulah – being a local – already has a few friends amongst the sellers, and we were introduced to fabulous fabrics and very typical Rwandan crafts. After a few hours, we were the proud new owners of a few pieces of fabric, a new pair of sandals and typical imigongo paintings, done using cow dung. Afterwards, we visited a local coffee shop where I tried tree tomato juice – a bit tart but very tasty.
Roll on Friday, and it was time for the African International Club annual “Welcome Home” dinner. It was a great evening with a diverse international crowd and truly outstanding food. We certainly felt right at home!
The rest of our week was spent chatting, relaxing, reading, watching birds, and generally being spoilt rotten. But then, it was time to extract ourselves from the comfort of a room and pack ourselves back into the car …