Friday, July 8, 2011

Five Hours to go

As I write this we are anticipating our trip home. We will leave our little house in about five hours and travel to the airport in the District vehicle – a pick-up with District of Rwamagana on the side, so we will go in style. We couldn’t find any taxis and didn’t think we would get our three suitcases on the back of a moto or in an overcrowded minibus so the Executive Secretary of the District came up with this idea when we told him our quandary.

Why three suitcases? You ask. Well one is full of stuff we don’t need or mistakenly thought we would and will be replaced by stuff we now know we do need but can’t get or find here. The only problem is we don’t think we will be able to fit into our return suitcase a kitchen sink (we don’t have one), washing machine (but we have no indoor water) or flat screen TV (our Kinyarwanda is not good enough to understand the local programmes). So what the heck! We will go back to our normal Rwanda life when we get back but will really look forward to the luxury of these things when we get home.

We are travelling Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa and after a five our wait to Heathrow and arriving at 7-15am where we know Mary’s sister Ann will be waiting for us to whisk us to Wallington. That’s matt’s 30th on that day so we’re looking forward to the party in the afternoon and the following week our own belated 60th birthday party organised by our wonderful sons. Aren’t they good?

Three Days of Beauty

View from the Balcony of the Hoiliday Hotel
One of the great advantages of doing VSO is that you get to see and go to lots of places you would never have seen had you stayed at home. The getting there and particularly coming back can be a bit of a trial but the bit in the middle is always worthwhile. That was all true for our last trip to Lake Kivu in the Western Province of Rwanda.

The getting there was an overcrowded 1 ¼ hour minibus to Kigali and a change to the Impala Coaches and, after an hour’s wait on a hot bus, a 2 ½ hour ride to Kibuye, one of the resorts on the edge of the Lake. Normally we would sleep but this journey was not only really beautiful but the twists and turns on the road made it impossible to stay upright. Rwanda is the land of “a Thousand Hills” and so many of them are in this area.

We can assure you it was worth the ride because the scenery was stunning!

If you want to research the Lake, just follow this link:-

But less of the oxidisers and the methane gas and more of the beauty!

It was a bit fraught at first as these things often can be but, once we got everything sorted, it was amazing. We had booked the Bethanie Guest House nearly a month ago and they said they would ring and confirm the day before as it was a 4 day weekend. They didn’t so I phoned them only to be told that the place was fully booked and they had given all the rooms away to a big group. Now, could that be a group of Americans celebrating the 4th July, I ask? Not that I am blaming them. That is the first time I have had a stand up shouting row in French with anyone on the phone. I could see our holiday slipping away and we so much needed it. It made me feel better though.

Golf Eden Park Hotel
But to the rescue came the Golf Eden Rock Hotel with a lake view room for not much more. So that’s where we spent the first night WITH THE DEAFENING MUSIC COMING FROM THE BEACH BAR OPPOSITE!!!! It was not the peace and tranquillity we had hoped for. So, another place had to be found. Fortunately, this time, the last room at the Holiday Hotel was snipped up and, after a bit of bartering (that’s the way it’s done here), a room at a reasonable price with balcony was secured and from hereon in the story improves.

I walked to it to do the deed (about 1km along the lake side), walked back, packed our bags and walked back again to find our room and the tranquillity of the lake, the striking views and the pleasant environment waiting for us. This was the peace we craved and now we had found it.
Holiday Hotel Resort
We spent the evening with Tricia from Gitarama, who was also searching for a bit of peace, at her Guest House Home St John which was jutted out onto the lake with Kivu all around. The walk there and back was worth the effort to meet another volunteer. Walking, walking, walking everywhere is the life here. Everyone is always on the move at all times. We were pleased we had made the move as we passed the Golf again on the way back as the music and partying was even louder. This time we are sure it was 4th July celebrations. Good luck to them!
The next day, we hired a boat and captain and did a tour of some of the islands in the mist and were amazed by the display of thousands upon thousands of bats that flew off the Napoleon’s Hat Island just letting us know that they were there. Now their flight may have had something to do with the whooping and banging done by the captain but it was great spectacle. I don’t think the RSPCA (or is it the RSPB?) would approve. What is a bat? Along with other birds and all manner of creatures, it was a great experience. We broke our trip at Peace Island and enjoyed a relaxing and tranquil break until the return trip to the hotel. We may have reached a venerable age but it is so good to know that we can still do such things.
Our  Boat

Relaxing on Peace Island
Peace on "Peace Island"

Bats, Bats, Bats everywhwere
 On the Sunday afternoon, sitting on the balcony, the peace was suddenly shattered with cars, motos, hooting of horns and general revellry. A wedding party had arrived at the hotel in great style. The bride and groom, already married, walked down to the jetty with the guests for photos, donned their life jackets and boarded a speed boat. the other guests went off in canapied boats and the peace was restored again. It was really interesting to watch.More walking, sleeping, reading, cross-stitching and taking in the scenery and we were ready the next day to come home, Now, to cut the story short, with a national holiday, Liberation day celebrations, the crazy non-existent bus timetable, it took us 9 hours to get back. But that was worth the effort again for the great weekend.
Church at Kibuye
 But it would be wrong not to finish with this following significant event in one of Africa’s most beautiful places. On the way back to the village, we stopped at the church where huge numbers of people were massacred during the genocide of 1994. I’ve attached a link which can describe the effect on the town better than I can.

Bathed in Light

The church was bathed in coloured light from the striking stain glass windows which coloured the simple stone building. It was a place for reflection and meditation about the past and the way people treat people and what can happen when human beings lose sight of the dignity and value of human life!

Bride and groom go off in life jackets