Today was another long travel day, this time to get us to a new country. It felt a little more manageable as it was broken up into different legs. Super unfortunately we had to get up at 3 am, to catch our 4 am taxi ride with Remmy to the bus. We had asked for a wake up call to make doubly sure we got up in time if we didn’t hear my watch. So we got that wake up call, 30 minutes late after listening to them call the room across the hall repeatedly, also later than needed. We left and got our taxi andin what we learned was true Remmy style we got in the taxi and he drove us about 10 minutes away to where the bus was waiting. He seemed to know the bus guys as they were waiting for us and we hadn’t told them to. This time we were able to keep our bags above us in the little overhead compartments wedged in really tight. Then we, the lone passengers, started off on our bus journey to the bus stop to pick up the rest of the passengers. As we drove we watched in dawning disbelief as we passed the main street that we had walked all of yesterday, turned the corner towards our hotel, drove directly past our hotel and stopped not 50 feet down the street to pick up about 6 passengers at a different hotel. Screwed by Remmy. You got to give him credit for the art of his taxi cons, he is always pleasant and did get us to the bus… If you’re in Mwanza look for Remmy the taxi driver, BUT, only take his advice on what to pay other people, like the bus company, but don’t pay him any more than you know you should. This is what it is like to be a muzungu (translates as “one who contains their farts” but now adays generally means “white person” in a slightly derogutory manner) – targetted for your naivite, it is what it is.
The bus continued on picking up passengers at a few places and eventually making it to the official bus stop in Ngezi. It was fairly empty at this point so Ryan grabbed an aisle to himself and slept while I slept in our seats. After a while drifting in and out of sleep we realized we were stopped again and people were filing out. A bathroom break we figured so we kind of drifted back into sleep until I woke up to hear Ryan talking with the bus conductor, it went like this:
Conductor: You need a ticket
Ryan: I have a ticket
Con:No, you have to get a ticket
Ryan: But I have a ticket already (shows him ticket)
Con: No, you have to get off the bus, you need a ticket (points out the window)
Ryan: Why? (more emphatic) I have a ticket
Con: You need a ticket for the boat
Ryan: (thinking he is having problems with English and trying to say bus) I ALREADY HAVE A BUS TICKET
Con: For the boat, the boat
Ryan: What boat?..there’s a boat
Con: You must get off and get a ticket
Ryan: a ticket for the boat? ohhhhh, (realizing the bus has to take a ferry across part of the lake and that he already knew this from his guidebook but it is only 4:30 in the morning and he doesn’t function very well at this time of day) the boat, right. Lindsay wait here I’ll go get the tickets.
Lindsay: But we already have tickets
Condcutor now to Lindsay: You have to get off the bus
Lindsay: I’m waiting for my husband and not getting off until he comes back
Conductor: You need a ticket
Lindsay: I have a ticket
Conductor: A ticket for the boat
Ryan returning with tickets: There’s a boat/ferry we have to take
Lindsay: There’s a boat???
It was a little confusing for everyone involved compacted by the fact it was still before 5 am in the morning. While Ryan was getting tickets the conductor continued to yell at me that I had to get off the bus, which I was about to do with the bags when Ryan returned and told me about the boat. It may have been helpful to know this ahead of time. So after arguing again with the conductor that the ticket Ryan got was good for two people, which it was and said so on it, we got off the bus. Just like home the people and vehicles must get on the ferry and take the ferry trip seperately. This of course made sense once we realized we were going on a ferry and not being told to buy more bus tickets. Bus and boat sound very similar at 5 in the morning. Finally we got on the boat, the bus got on the boat, and we were all on our way.
We watched the sunrise come over the kopjes as we sailed away from shore of lake Victoria heading towards another shore of the lake not that far away. Again we were the only mzungus to be seen and an atraction for people to stare at. Some kids sitting next to us seemed particularly curious – Ryan gave them a parachute man toy and showed them how to use it – they smiled so big and wouldn’t let go of it, each one touching it while holding hands. It was cute. The only problem was we were on a ferry and they couldn’t actually play with it, they just got the theory course in how to play with it through gesture. Ferry trip ended and we all got back on the bus and continued on our trip to Benako.
Eventually after slowly watching the scenery change from flat with rock kopjes and baobobs to green with gently rolling hills we made it to Benako. We were dropped off, after luckly not getting off a town too early because the bus driver called us back on the bus, and went to find a bathroom. A random taxi driver, or tout, led us to a restaurant, sort of, then around back to a squatty that I used for the quoted 100 shillings (which is about normal). Of course after using the squatty he said that he meant 1000 shillings – we gave him 500 and walked away still giving them too much money for one little pee. We managed to find a public taxi and shoved our things into it, along with 8 other people and some more luggage, all in a mini mini station wagon. Ryan said that at one point he looked in front of him to see the driver and realized that half of the driver was sitting out side of the car, at least his feet were still inside to work the pedals, or at least hopefully they were. After 20 minutes in this clown car we made it to Rusumo and the border.
At Rusumo we walked to the TZ exit visa desk, then down a very long road full of waiting truckers and trucks, and to a bridge that crosses the river which has a very large muddy water waterfall. We stopped to admire and take pictures of this waterfall and our first look at Rwanda, or at least the white line between the two countries. Once crossing the bridge we found a welcome to Rwanda sign that was put up sometime in the 70s from the look of it, took a picture with it and then continued to the immigration window. The actual entry took some time – a long process of filing out a form, get it stamped here, take it to the next window, pay the entry fee, take it over here for the receipt, etc. The best part was when the one set of guys stapled my visa together with some piece of paper. I then took it 2 steps to the right and watched that guy take out the staple, throw it away, then file the papers seperately, priceless. I could save them hundreds on staples a year just by NOT USING THEM. Finally, about 45 minutes later, we were allowed into the country of Rwanda.
As soon as we got inside there was a noticeable difference in, well everything. It starts with the giant signs about stamping out corruption and continued with the helpful and friendly people, and then the transit system, which has rules and size regulations. After walking up the hill we caught a minubus, which actually was a mini bus this time and not just a stipped down cargo van. We bought tickets, and actually had a reserved seat, and nice big windows. The 3.5 hour ride to Kigali, with our packs on our laps or at our feet, was beautiful. Rwanda really is a land of 1000 hills, nice lush green ones with nice little towns all painted in the colours of coca-cola, and bic, Primus (beer), MTN and some paint company. There are trees everywhere and it is clean, no litter/garbage to be seen and buildings are freshly painted thanks to all the different company sponsors. Entering Kigali, the capital, if like any big city in the world. Bussling, skyscrapers, traffic, It was incredible coming from Arusha where two storey buildings seem to be a feat of engineering. It’s hard to drive through here knowing its history – hard to believe these streets were lined with bodies.
The bus left us at the rather busy bus/taxi park and we found another taxi to over pay for to take us to the hostel, Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel. Problem being nobody knows where it is. Luckily, Ryan had written out the driving directions the night before and they named a hotel, The Top Tower Hotel, as being across the street, apparently it is known by taxi drivers as that was able to get us close and we gestured the directions from there as english and french didn’t seem to help. The hostel is ok. Rooms are ok, and the lowest price in Kigali, bathrooms could use work, but all is made up for with the great hostel atmosphere, free breakfast, and the fact that all proceeds go to the genocide memorial. We ended up in a tent outside camping for 3 nights as it was cheap and the private rooms were full. Grabbed dinner down the street at the chinses restaurant which is very tasty and we ordered way too much food as we had starved/dehydrated ourselves on purpose on the bus trip again. A very long day but now we’re ready to explore Rwanda.