Rwanda Day 2: Murambi Genocide Memorial

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Murambi Genocide Memorial. They ask visitors not to take pictures at the site.

Reading this week:

  • Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein

My first major observation on my second full day in Rwanda was that if you don’t like passion fruit, you should just leave. They serve it for breakfast and dessert and all the time. After my passionate breakfast, it was some errands and souvenir shopping. I stopped by a Huye coffee to buy some souvenir coffee for friends, and as happened often to me in Africa there was a dude “sneakily” taking selfies where I just so happened to be in the background. After I said to him “you could just ask, you know” (I did a whole photoshoot with two dudes while I was at Great Zimbabwe because they asked) he sheepishly put away his phone and walked off.

The major destination for the day was the Murambi Genocide Memorial. I got a little turned around, but eventually came across it. I had the place to myself, tourist-wise. I could have parked closer but I didn’t know that and it felt more appropriate to walk up to the memorial. The memorial, which was going to be a technical school, is perched on top of a picturesque mountain surrounded by other picturesque mountains and farms. It’s really stunningly beautiful and the grounds and so peaceful and serene. I walked in the front door and the lady working there gave a short explanation and I was off into the exhibits.

The first part is an explanation of the history of the genocide. It’s really well done though a little abrupt (I feel like they skip some details), but then again they do it in three languages so every time you add anything you add triple. The biggest thing I learned I think was about the participation of the French. The French troops were supporting the government which was initiating the genocide. At Murambi specifically they repeatedly gang raped the girls there and played volleyball pretty much on top of a mass grave. They fought to repel the RPF, who are credited with ending the genocide. At the end of these exhibits there are two “burial chambers” where bodies were supposed to be on display. I knew they had bodies at Murambi and so I steeled myself but when you go into the rooms the chambers are empty. So I was somewhat relieved, frankly. That was the end of this part and for the next part the lady took you around the outside.

Outside, they have an uncovered (and empty) mass grave to give you a sense of the scale of the killing (as numbers go, approximately 50,000 people were murdered, which makes it 5% of the total victims of the genocide). Then you go back into the former dormitories. In the first few rooms they have clothing that was removed from some of the bodies and used for identification by the families. She took me to the location of the former volleyball court and where the French had installed rockets to repel the RPF.

Then she took me to the bodies. I thought I had “gotten out of” seeing the bodies, but before you know it she is showing you the rooms. It was not what I expected. I kinda figured they would be behind glass or something because I had glimpsed glass cases through some windows. But you turn the corner and you are just in the room with the bodies, with nothing between you and them. You can smell them. Some of the people still have hair and some still have clothes. They are laid out on platforms and are skeletal. On some the skin has broken and ribs are exposed. There are adults and children and babies. I went into all the rooms in the first block because I felt I had to. There were maybe 20 people per room. I think there were four or five rooms. After those rooms were the rooms I had seen with the glass cases. In the first two rooms the cases were filled with just femurs, sorted by age and sex. “Female over 30,” “Male under 30.” I tried counting but couldn’t. I think each case represented something like 30 people. Then the next few rooms had skulls, neatly laid out in rows and again sorted by age and sex. Some of the skulls were smashed or had whole chunks missing. Somehow to me the femurs were more impactful than the skulls because skulls are people but femurs are just kind of the anonymous tolling of death.

In that block I think there were the remains of 200 or so people, which is such a tiny fragment. There were two more blocks but I couldn’t bring myself to go look. The last stop was the mass grave where the people were re-interred. She said that there were 50,000 people in it. It’s just a white tiled platform on the top with flowers laid on it, but it’s where 50,000 people are. And then with that tour is over and you are walking down the driveway of the memorial looking at those picturesque mountains again.

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Rwanda Day 1

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The Rock of Kamegeri. I don’t know why I made this expression.

The rest of my COS trip I spent driving around Rwanda and looking at stuff. To drive around Rwanda I of course rented a car. This was fantastically simple. I called up this car rental agency and 30 minutes later they showed up to my hotel with a car. They didn’t even look at my driver’s license or anything. We drove together to an ATM so I could get cash to pay them, and then they left on a motorcycle taxi. So there I was in the middle of an African city in charge of a car when I hadn’t driven in 27 months. I can happily report that I never crashed and only got pulled over once. I did several times find myself driving on the left side of the road instead of the right, but thankfully there was no one else around.

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Some lumps of clay that will be pottery someday. I took this picture just to justify my trip to this pottery place.

My first destination was the Rock of Kamegeri. I stopped in town first to get some lunch. Due to my lack of French I only got fries and a salad, but it was pretty good and I went off for the rock. I blew past it at first because it didn’t have the promised sign, but went back, took a picture, and I was on my way to Gatagara Pottery. My usual shtick when left to my own devices on vacation is to look at as much stuff as possible, and in Rwanda I was going hard and fast. Gatagara is supposed to feature local artisans you can see at work. When I arrived no one was there, but the guard at the next door hospital called a dude for me. No one was potting that day, and the dude just opened up the gift shop for me. I bought a bowl and a cup (they both look pretty cool) mostly out of guilt for dragging the guy out there, but it was only about $6.

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Outside of the King’s Palace.

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The roof of the palace. The place was fantastically sturdy for being grass.

After that I was bound for the King’s Palace Museum. I went to three of Rwanda’s eight national museums that day. The King’s Palace Museum was pretty amazing. So the king (and according to the guy at the Ethnographic Museum, most Rwandans) lived in a giant hut made of grass. It’s woven like a giant basket and seems pretty darn sturdy no matter what the three little pigs taught me. It was amazing just to see the structure. We also met the small herd of royal cows with gigantic horns. The cows are just decorative though; they don’t eat them, and bury the cows when they die. They also had the “palace” built for the king by the Germans (It’s a rather nice and airy house) which was neat.

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Royal cows.

Then I was off to the nearby Museum of Rwesero, which is housed in the new palace the King was having built after a tour of Europe and seeing the other king’s digs (he died before it was finished). The museum used to be the art museum, but is now kinda nothing, and housed on the ground floor some iron smelting products (kinda neat actually) and upstairs an exhibit on fashion, but that was only bad pictures. I didn’t spend long, though I admired the banisters made out of spears. After this it was off to Huye.

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The Rwandans were big into spears, the king especially so. I asked the lady working there and she confirmed the spears were original to the new palace and thus at the King’s own behest. I liked his decorating style.

I arrived at Huye at about 1630 and wavered as to go to the Ethnographic Museum, since it closed at 1800. I decided to go and it was enough time. I got a guided tour by an extremely knowledgeable tour guide who was able to answer some random esoteric questions I had about the artifacts. There’s nothing too crazy in the museum (by which I mean I’m not new to the concept of a winnowing basket) but it is very nicely done and has a lot of stuff and like I said the tour guide was excellent and I was alone in the museum. The tour took an hour and I poked around by myself for a few more minutes and then head out. A whirlwind first full day of my actual Rwanda vacation.

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Displays from the Ethnographic Museum.

Nyiragongo Part 2

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Goma and Lake Kivu from the top of Mt. Nyiragongo.

In our last installment, I had climbed a volcano only to look at fog.

But then! We were sitting in the kitchen and I was looking out the window when suddenly I got a glimpse of Lake Kivu! It was clearing up! So we rushed out and the other two guys got their gear ready to take some pictures. It was so stunning to see the whole vista of Lake Kivu from thousands of meters up, and to see the city of Goma spread out along its shores with its million inhabitants. But by the time we could get a really good view the fog came again. But then the crater was clearing up! We could see the lava! So we ran over to get a better view of the lava but then it got foggy again. But then the lake cleared up again! It switched back and forth a few times and we kept bouncing back and forth before the fog really socked in again.

By that point we settled into dinner. Dinner was phenomenal. The chef announced each course which I thought was downright grand for being on top of a volcano. It started with soup they had hauled all the way from the bottom and heated, and dinner was rice, vegetables, and a delicious grilled porkchop. Highly recommend hiring a chef. Also thankfully after dinner the fog cleared again for a bit giving us a good long look at Lake Kivu. After hanging out for a bit we all went to bed exhausted.

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I noted on Facebook it was “like a lamp I used to have,” but then my mom helpfully pointed out we still had my lava lamp.

Around midnight they woke us up to get a view of the lava lake. The fog had cleared enough to give us a really good view. Right as we got up there to the crater I bothered to look up and you could also see the stars. Because of the other clouds though it was like we were alone in the world except for the stars and the volcano. It was a really powerful sight. I took some pictures and video but mostly I just stood there staring at the lava. You could hear it, even all the way up on the rim, and it’s amazing to watch it bubble and smoke and steam. I thought it was kinda like a pot on a brazier where the heat isn’t totally even and so the pot doesn’t all boil in the same spot. It’s so amazing.

The next morning started pretty early. When I first woke up it was entirely quiet and calm, and I just sat in my sleeping bag for a while listening to the volcano and the wind. I got up, packed, and then stepped out of my hut. Right when I stepped out of my hut it was phenomenal. At that moment the clouds at my level cleared and I could look out over the landscape and a layer of relatively low, patchy clouds added depth to the whole vista. Breakfast was an amazing omelet (I asked, jokingly, if when they needed to start the fire they just dashed down to the lava lake to grab some lava, but our chef just said “no, it would be too hard.”).

We stepped off at 0700 and again the fog was dense, which again I was in favor of because the first part of the hike, all steep rock face, had me scared shitless. The nice part about the descent is that it gets easier as you go along, and the day kept getting nicer as we lost altitude. The way down was relatively uneventful, as we passed the rest points quickly and when we finally dropped below the cloud layer the sun came out and it was a very pleasant hike. We made it down in a tad over 3 hours. We checked back in, loaded up the land cruiser, and head for the border. The border crossing went fairly smooth, though paying for another Rwanda visa is more complicated than I thought it should be. I took a bus back to Kigali despite the taxi driver that took me to the bus stop offering to drive me to Kigali for $100, then $80, and then $50. The bus is only $4 though and it leaves on a schedule, which utterly amazed me.

When I sat down to write my journal for the day I was in a rather nice hotel in Kigali and I could barely believe I had woken up on a volcano that morning. Soon though all my muscles were desperately sore and I passed out almost directly after I had some dinner. Seeing the volcano and getting to experience the beauty of the DRC and Virunga National Park had never really been on my list until I just happened to see it in an Instagram post (on National Geographic’s feed) so it was so serendipitous that I got to do it. I’m going to be looking for any excuse to go back.

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The crew (minus my French friend who was taking the photo).

Nyiragongo Part 1

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There’s lava down there, purportedly.

Reading this week:

  • True at First Light by Ernest Hemingway

It was time to climb Mt. Nyiragongo. This was the other highlight of my COS trip. Nyiragongo is an active volcano in the south of Virunga National Park just over the border from Rwanda in the DRC. People climb the volcano every day and it is a two day event, climbing up one day, staying at a camp at the summit, and then climbing down the next. After another luxurious night at Kibumba Camp I woke up early for breakfast and was driven over to the volcano.

When I arrived at the start of the trailhead there was a pretty big crowd and I was kinda disappointed, but it turned out most had just come down from the summit and I would be climbing up the volcano with just two other guys, Jeremy and YP. They were French and Swiss, and worked for Olam. Jeremy was actually familiar with the Isanya Coffee Plantation near Mbala which was pretty neat. But since the guides spoke French, and these two guys spoke French, I was the only Philistine around that didn’t speak French. They held all the briefings in English for my benefit and man I should have studied my French harder.

I had opted for the full package, so at the trailhead they had a backpack waiting for me with most of the necessary supplies. It included a sleeping bag, a fleece sleeping bag liner, a fleece sweater, a parka, and a rain poncho. I packed a change of clothes, extra socks, a notebook, and my little camera. I should have brought a flashlight but didn’t even think of it. I also should have brought toilet paper, because there isn’t any at the top, but, uh, this didn’t come up. I was actually woefully under-prepared for this whole event, because I only had kinda crappy tennis shoes instead of hiking books, just regular clothes, and my little point and shoot camera felt massively under-powered compared to my Francophone friends’ massive rig. Hiring a porter was an option, but being a manly man of manliness I opted out. Food was taken care of by our amazing chef Honoré and a porter hired to haul food for the whole party.

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At one point it rained on us.

I suppose I’m not exactly a mountaineer but this hike is tough. The trailhead is at about 2000m and the summit is at 3470m, and the trail is 8km long. I guess on average that’s a 9% grade, but it gets steeper and steeper as you go along. We wound up doing it in about 5 hours which is pretty much dead average. The guides will do the trip 2-3 times a week. The first part was a fairly pleasant hike through the jungle. There are a four pre-planned stops along the way and you eat lunch as you ascend (they had given us sandwiches and fruit at the trailhead).

About halfway up you pass by the vent that was the source of Nyrigongo’s 2002 eruption. The trail until that point is on a stretch of lava from the eruption, and the vent is still visibly off-gassing a bit. Besides that though, you couldn’t tell the area had been a lava-strewn hellscape only 17 years before. The lava from Nyrigongo flows extremely quickly, and given the steep sides of the volcano it moves fast. So we are told. The other interesting fact about the vent is that it is at the same height (again so they told us) as the lava lake inside the crater, and there was a lot of mountain left to climb.

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Last rest stop before the final rock scramble.

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After ascending into the cloud line it is very cold. On the way up though I was just in a long-sleeve t-shirt and was still sweating. Don’t try this climb without a change of clothes. Depending on the time of year apparently it may or may not be cloudy at the top, but for us it was walking through pea soup. Not having ever seen the Alps, between the wind and the fog it felt very alpine, which was amazing considering we were hiking through steamy (not that steamy) jungle just that morning. Frankly I was glad the fog was there. The last chunk of the mountain is a steep rock scramble with a big heavy backpack and I was glad I couldn’t see how far I had to fall. Until we were back down it the next day I was scared of the descent the whole time I was up there.

Finally though the small “cabins” of the summit camp came out through the fog and we were at the top! I was a bit ahead of the other guys and one of the guides pointed out the smell, and initially I thought he was talking about the toilet. It was of course the sulfer smell of an active volcano. Besides our immense joy at having finished the hike, exhausted as we were, the top was a bit anti-climactic for us because it was solid fog. I had convinced myself that the heat of the volcano would keep the crater clear but this was not the case. It was pretty amazing to hear the lava boiling some 700m below us. After settling in and changing clothes we mostly hung out lamenting the lack of view for all that hiking. We took some pictures of us with fog and then hung out in the kitchen hut because there was a big warm brazier there. They gave us some tea and hot chocolate and it was a lovely time.

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Chillin’ in the kitchen hut.

Gorillas!

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After two weeks of blog posts about traveling somewhere, finally we’re on some content – gorillas! My first major event at Virunga National Park was going to go see some gorillas in their natural habitat. As explained to us the previous night in a brief by a ranger, we were off to see a family of 27 gorillas that had been habituated to human contact and were constantly tracked by park rangers. I woke up pretty early and enjoyed watching the sunrise over the park and watching the mountains come out of the mist. There was drumming in the distance that started up around 0500 and kept going for an hour. In the morning I also saw some very large hummingbirds getting some breakfast at the flowers around the camp.

We set off probably around 0730 and after another quick briefing we were off to see the gorillas. They were fairly close, but we had to hike for about an hour and a half up a very muddy trail in the quickly warming jungle. Before we set out they had given us face masks to protect the gorillas. The gorillas can contract human diseases and so we had to stay far enough away and wear these masks to prevent germs. Eventually we got to where the other rangers had been tracking the gorillas and were told to don our masks. We stepped off the trail and looked for gorillas.

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Me with the gorillas.

After stepping off the trail, we turned a corner and BAM, gorillas. That was stunning to turn the corner and then just be meters away from four gorillas just chilling on top of a little hill grooming each other. Then I looked around and there were quite a number more in the surrounding area. Experiences like these make me think that bigfoot or the yeti could be real, because despite weighing 500 pounds the gorillas could easily hide in the dense brush and if they didn’t want to be seen you would be hard pressed to spot them.

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Ranger helping Peter get that shot.

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We had an hour allotted with the gorillas. The rangers try to get you to the gorillas around the time they take their mid-morning nap and therefore aren’t moving much, but we showed up a bit early and wound up slowly following the gorillas as they moved through the underbrush eating leaves. We saw all sorts of fun family scenes. I remember seeing a mom holding a baby and a small juvenile hanging out in a little pocket of green and eventually a silverback came over to hang out. I really enjoyed watching the little baby gorillas, especially the ones that were climbing trees and hanging out up there. They were super cute. What else? A couple of times we got really good looks at a silverback just sitting down eating and then maybe moving away. We saw some larger gorillas climb up trees. I guess they’re not supposed to be all that arboreal but they’re pretty good at it despite that.

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Gorilla in a tree.

At one point a silverback got kinda mad at us I guess and came at us. I dropped into a crouch (per our briefing – you’re not supposed to run) but the guides said don’t be scared. He backed off eventually. There was one what I assume was a female that would keep watching us pretty close as she ate. I scared a baby that was staring at me; I waved my fingers and then it looked surprised and ducked down behind some bushes.

Eventually our hour was up and we head back down the trail. The rest of the afternoon was spent just hanging out at Kibumba camp, staring at Nyirogongo and imagining what it was going to be like to climb it the next day. Seeing the gorillas was really cool, and it was amazing to see them in their natural habitat. I was especially pleased that we had a small group; it was just Peter and I and the rangers and the gorillas. If you want to see gorillas I highly recommend coming over to the DRC; this was according to the biased rangers, but not only is seeing gorillas in Rwanda $1400 as opposed to $400 in the DRC, but the rangers say often they don’t even see gorillas. Plus Kibumba Camp at Virunga is gorgeous and just being in the area was phenomenal.

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The baby kept trying to run off and the juvenile kept dragging him back. Babysitting, you know?

Travel to Kibumba Camp

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Mt Nyirogongo, viewed from Kibumba Camp bar.

Reading this week:

  • The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons

After an evening in Rubavu, the next day it was time to cross over into the DRC to visit Virunga National Park. I was supposed to be at the border at noon, so in the morning I went for a walk. As I was walking around, there were a lot of other people carrying large carafes like the kind you keep hot water or coffee in. I also spotted two people carrying large pots on their heads, and in Rubavu and on the way there from Kigali I spotted a large number of little old women sweeping up sidewalks or weeding hedges. I was impressed. Eventually I took a taxi to the border, though I was delayed again by the president giving a speech or something preventing the taxis from getting to the border.

The border crossing went largely smoothly, though it was a bit confusing. First you have to check out of Rwanda, but there weren’t any signs or anything being like “check out of Rwanda here.” But I figured it out and then just waltzed across the border to the DRC. I had to wash my hands and had my temperature checked twice I think as a precaution against ebola. On the DRC side I had to go through immigration of course.

In the DRC they speak French and I had meant to brush up on my French, but then got lazy and figured my high school French would see me through. I really should have brushed up on my French. At DRC immigration I got in a line and went up to a counter with a sign that said “Rwanda -> RDC.” I figured that was for me but when I got there the dude behind the glass immediately yelled at me “ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE YOU GO. ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE.” I stood there bewildered and eventually he explained slightly better that I should go to window number five. I went to Window #5, got my stamp, got my yellow card checked, and went to the Virunga office which is right at immigration. Waiting for our ride to the park to arrive, I met Peter from Belgium. He has spent most of his career though working around Nigeria. He’s a pretty interesting dude and liked to talk.

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Goma street scene.

Eventually our driver showed up and took us to the park. The thing about the DRC of course is that if you are a consumer of US you only ever hear bad things about the DRC if you hear about it at all, so I didn’t know what to expect. To get to the park we had to drive through Goma, the border town and home apparently of 1 million people. I don’t know what I was expecting but Goma isn’t it. A lot of it was really nice though as you got to the outskirts it looked more familiar to my Zambia experience. I was struck by the stylishly dressed people. I guess I shouldn’t have been but I was. Outside of Goma we went through a checkpoint where we met the park rangers. That checkpoint was kinda wild. There were tons of motorcycles going through, dudes with guns (the rangers), run down buildings and volcanic stone, and it was sorta gloomy and the whole thing had a Mad Max vibe to it.

The rangers showed up and we got back in the Land Rover and drove the rest of the way to the camp. We drove through a few villages. The kids yelled Muzungu at us. The villages had goats and lots of sheep and a few cows, and the trees were these trees that look to me like bamboo but are regular trees, and the views got more and more gorgeous. Eventually we got to the camp and had a welcome passion fruit juice. Almost immediately there was a delicious lunch and then we got shown our glamping tents.

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Glamping.

The tents at Kibumba Camp in Virunga National Park have hot showers and running toilets and hot water for coffee in the room. It’s lux. They have a bar and patio with a fireplace (it was pretty chilly that high up) with stunning views looking right a Nyirogongo. I don’t have the words to describe this part of the country. The volcano was covered with mist most of the day but it rained eventually and cleared up and it was stunning. Off to the right is another volcano, also stunning. At night you can see the glow of the caldera on the clouds. In the evening one of the rangers came by and told us all about gorillas and about our trek the next day. After that I had a beer with Peter the Belgian and a German guy, and then a delicious dinner, and then returned to the tent to find a hot water bottle heating up the bed for me. The DRC is nice!

Travelling to the DRC

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Nyirogongo from Rubavu.

Reading this week:

  • Endymion by Dan Simmons

After my jaunt to Zimbabwe, my next destination was Virunga National Park in the DRC. The easiest way to get there is to fly into Kigali, Rwanda, and then head to the border from there. Getting to the airport in Harare and flying to Kigali all went very smoothly, and I arrived in Kigali a little after the sun had set. I had arranged to stay at the Teahouse B&B in Kigali, and they sent a taxi to pick me up. First impression of Kigali was that it is beautiful. It was just warm enough to be very pleasant and seeing all the lights on the hills during the taxi drive was amazing. It reminded me of landing in Guam for the first time and driving down the beach with the weather and the lights reflecting on the water.

The next day confirmed my first impression over and over. After a fantastic breakfast at the hotel they called me a taxi and took me to the bus station. Rwanda took some getting used to though after two years in Zambia. In Rwanda they drive on the right side of the road, as opposed to the left in Zambia, so for a while I kept thinking we were driving on the wrong side of the road. I also had to get used to the currency. It’s 900 francs to the dollar, but I would just think of the 5000 franc note as five bucks. Then, when something was five bucks, in my head I’m like “five bucks?! It’s practically free!” But in Zambia in Kwatcha I would hesitate before spending 50 Kwatcha (aka $5) on something. The taxi ride to the bus station was 8000 francs which I felt was pretty cheap, but that’s a 80 kwatcha taxi ride.

The bus station went smoothly with the taxi driver finding me a bus. I got on the bus and we actually left pretty quick. It didn’t really matter though; I thought this trip was supposed to take no more than three hours but it took five. I think this is because we were more or less following the president of Rwanda and there were roadblocks that slowed us down. Some thoughts I wrote down on the ride: First off Kigali is like, so so nice. It’s nicer than American cities. I wonder what the hell Peace Corps volunteers do in Rwanda. If things were this nice in Zambia I’d be thinking to myself “development complete.” At the bus station a guy was walking around selling magazines, and offered me the English-language version of The Economist to give you a sense I guess of what people are reading around here. I was excited to see people growing cocoyam in the gardens I could see by the road. I was also very impressed by the cushions on the bike racks. In Zambia and here people ride around on people’s bike racks. But no one in Zambia has ever apparently thought of putting a cushion on the bike rack, and when I saw that here I was like “oh man that’s genius.” A lot of the buildings also have these super sweet tile roofs, like the Italian (I guess) tile that’s semi-circular. It looks super nice and cool. I also saw sheep along the way which I thought was unusual (also goats and cows). The whole country is comprised of gorgeous valleys, some terraced and others covered in banana groves. I spent the whole bus ride staring out the window mesmerized by how gorgeous it was.

After arriving in Rubavu I checked into a hotel and then set off to check out the town. I went by this crafts co-op where I spotted a knife that looked like a shona knife in Zimbabwe I had wanted to get for my brother. It’s wrapped in what I think is goat hide and is perfect because it is super dull. I bought it, fearful I would never see another like it (this fear was misplaced). When I went into the crafts shop next door they had more of the same. Walking up that street was cool because the street frames Mt. Nyirogongo and man it is imposing. It’s like, 2000 meters above Rubavu and has smoke coming from the top. I can’t wait to climb it. I wandered around Rubavu and eventually bought a black market sim card. Sort of. I stopped by a sim card stand and asked how much. There was a language barrier. He eventually said 3000 which I think it actually about 10 times too much. He asked if I had a passport and I said no. I handed him 5000 and he thought for a bit and gave me the sim card. I asked for change; he said we were “finished.” So I think I bribed my way into a sim card and I think I paid 100x too much considering they are 5 kwatcha in Zambia but oh well.

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Lake Kivu from the bar.

I kept walking and got to the lakeshore, eventually stopping by a gorgeous bar where I had two beers (Turbo King, which I initially figured was motor oil or something) and dinner and another beer. It was lovely and had great views of the lake. The bar also played country music (and “Hotel California”) which, I can never decide how jarring it is to be so far from America, really in the deepest part of Africa (I mean Wakanda is supposed to be nearby) and hear American pop culture. After that I walked back to the hotel. I passed a number of guys working out and a pretty enthusiastic basketball game, both of which impressed me a lot because I never saw that sort of thing in Zambia.

After I got back to the hotel it was slightly jarring to read a news article in Al Jazeera saying a town in North Kivu (Virunga National Park is in North Kivu) was attacked and captured by guerrillas, severely hampering efforts at fighting ebola. I checked and the epicenter of the outbreak was only about 200km to the north of me. Disease and fighting was raging 200km to the north of me but everything where I was felt and looked amazing. I wondered how close it had to get before they close the park?

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