My apologies for the silence on the blogging front. After spending a completely fantastic week and a half in Kabale, Kisoro, and Rwanda, Kristen and I returned home to no power (still), no internet, and, as of today, no water. Seems that the water tank for our house is completely empty – dry season has certainly arrived! Needless to say, this trifecta has thrown a few wrenches in our work here.
It’s hard to believe it was over a week ago, but last Tuesday, after spending most of the morning recuperating from our hike the previous day, Kristen and I took bodas to the border and went through the rigmarole of exiting Uganda. Rwanda recently started imposing $50 visa fees for Canadians (previously it had been free for us to enter the country), which meant that we needed to complete an online visa application form before arriving at the border. The website had not been working for most of the previous week, though I’d been lucky enough to have been able to submit my form during a small window when the site would open on our slow internet connection here. Kristen, however, as well as a group of three other travellers we met while at Lake Bunyonyi for Christmas, had not yet gotten a response from the Rwandan authorities, and so were all turned away when they tried to enter the country. While they spent another night in Kisoro fruitlessly trying to get a hold of someone in immigration, I made my way from the border to Gisenyi, a beautiful town on Lake Kivu, just a few kilometres from the DRC. Vanessa, one of the previous Shanti volunteers who had travelled to Rwanda during her time here, had left very detailed information about her trip so it was a breeze for me to figure out which buses to take and how to find the cheap accommodation in town. I spent a quiet day and a half in Gisenyi, exploring around the town, walking by the lake and getting to see the the border with some tour guides I acquired along the way. Kristen and Jessica, Sune and Ido arrived late on Wednesday night, after finally getting some good luck in the form of a man who phoned immigration for them and talked with the official there until he agreed to issue the visas.
Thursday morning we took bodas up the peninsula to a gorgeous spot Kristen had discovered on a previous trip to Rwanda. In Rwanda their bodas have stricter regulations than Uganda, meaning that they are only allowed to carry one passenger at a time and everyone has to wear helmets. With five mzungus travelling on the back of motorcycles up to our destination, we must have been quite a sight to the locals we passed along the way. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast at outdoor tables overlooking Lake Kivu, and then spent most of the rest of the day lounging by the water, eating, and watching the nearby fisherman preparing their boats for that evening’s departure. Kristen and Jessica went for a quick swim in the water, but promptly got out when Kristen saw a methane gas bubble (the lake has the potential for a massive limnic eruption, though none have occurred thus far). We stuck around long enough to see the boats leaving at dusk, and then took a taxi back to where we were staying. The next morning, after we were all packed and ready to go, we took a bus to Kabali, a three hour journey that afforded us beautiful views of the Rwandan countryside. Following a little trial and error figuring out how to get to where we were staying, we headed to the mall in the centre of town for lunch, and then back to another spot in the same mall for dinner. We’d purchased “refreshments” for New Years Eve earlier in the day, so we hung out in the dorms listening to music and laughing with our new friends, and then took a taxi to a club in Kigali just before 12am. Apparently in Rwanda no one really does the countdown to New Years, but the DJ did get a big reaction from the crowd when he announced it was 2011.
We made our way back to our church accommodations sometime later that morning, and then spent a lazy Saturday in town, eating brunch and taking advantage of the free wireless internet. We found a beautiful spot for dinner that overlooked most of Kigali, and had a great meal there, reminiscing about our favourite moments of 2010. Kristen and I headed back into town so that we could Skype with family in Canada, which was a great way to end the day. We even managed to get a video feed for a few minutes, so I was able to see Mom, Dad, Kelly and Jan for the first time since I arrived in Africa. All in all, it was a great start to 2011.