Long story short: RWANDA
Days spent: 9 (from January 26 to February 3rd, 2018)
Distance ridden: 740 kilometers
If you wish to see the detailed route, please this click the image of this map above to open a new page with OUR FULL ROUTE on Google Maps.
Challenges: The traffic switches back to right side in Rwanda, so it took half a day again to adjust the brain, but luckily there are almost no cars in rural areas in Rwanda and even very few motorcycles, so driving is very easy.
1. The biggest positive shock is how clean and tidy this country is. Last Sunday of every month is a cleaning day. Until lunch it’s forbidden to work - everyone must pickup trash and clean all around them, therefore the sight of trash on the side of the road and in towns and villages is very rare or at most places - non existent.
2. All the western and southwestern part of the country is a one big amazing panorama. It perfectly justifies the nickname of Rwanda - the land of a thousand hills. The views are incredible everywhere you look.
3. Kibuye - a very relaxed little town on the coast of the Lake Kivu.
4. Nyungwe Forest - a very dense and lush green jungle full of monkeys. It’s not only fun to ride it (again - fantastic twists on perfect pavement and very little traffic), but the National Park has great activities to offer - from Chimpanzee trekking to canopy walks above the forest.
5. The Kitabi ecocenter campground on top of the hill, next to a small tea plantation. The view from the tent was worth a million dollars! (check out the video below!)
6. Mugabi genocide memorial - a non-finished technical school where in 1994 over 18 000 people were killed during the genocide done by the Hutus to the Tutsis. Now it’s an informative museum which includes many graves of the people killed there and also exhibits a lot of exhumed bodies as all of them were thrown into the giant mass graves in the backyard of that school and buried there. A sad, but important place to understand tragic Rwandan history and appreciate the state this country is in now.
7. A very relaxed capital city Kigali where we were hosted by a wonderful Lithuanian family who live and work there.
Other places to visit:
1. Rwanda is famous for its gorillas which live on the slopes of beautiful volcanoes in the Northwest corner of the country (bordering Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo). Gorilla trekking is a popular attraction, but it’s also very pricy (1500 USD per person for a day’s hike). It’s also possible to go hiking up the volcanoes or even visit the ruins of the research center of the famous scientist Diana Fossey who spent her life working on researching and fighting for the protection of gorillas against poachers. She was eventually killed in Rwanda (probably by those same poachers) and is buried there next to her favourite gorilla.
2. Akagera National Park located in the Notheastern part of the country, on the border with Tanzania. So far the wildlife you can see there is quite limited compared to the world famous national parks of Kenya or Tanzania, but it’s automatically much less crowded with people.
Accomodation: The average price for the two of us camping was 10 EUR. Campgrounds we visited were clean and well run. With hot water available or being heated on demand. Hotels also often offer camping possibility with toilets and showers provided in a dedicated room.
Entering and exiting:
IN: We entered from Uganda via Cyanika border crossing. The importation of the motorcycles was very fast and easy - the gentleman stamped our Carnets again... without looking at the motorcycles. Nothing needed to be paid for them.
We were charged for the visas 30 USD each. They only accept payment in cash and only in USD. That was a bit of an inconvenience for us since we only had euros in cash left and there’s no ATM or an exchange office available at that border. We found a person who was exchanging money, but he offered to change 60 EUR to 60 USD. Other people like him did not even have dollars on them - only Ugandan shillings and Rwandan francs. Linas even got the permission to walk into the village on Rwandan side to find an exchange office, but none of them there had dollars or offered dollars at a decent rate (everywhere dollars were more expensive than euros). Eventually we agreed to exchange some dollars with the original gentleman, but then two bills (one dollar each) were not accepted by the immigration office of Rwanda because they were deemed as fake and the man who we got them from was no longer visible on anywhere near us... Luckily we had two other one dollar bills and were able to finally get the visas and the immigration stamps into our passports. Without this hassle for dollars (or if we had East African visa which includes Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda), the entering procedure to Rwanda would have been very fast and smooth.
OUT: We left Rwanda through Rusumo border control post. Maybe because it was Saturday, the place was almost empty. Both Rwandan and Tanzanian officials are located very conveniently in one building. For the first time for us in Africa, someone actually wanted to take a look at the motorcycles and make sure that the license plates match the information provided on our Carnet de Passages. That was the Rwandan officer. After making sure that the licence plates match the documents, he went back into the office and stamped us out.
Roads: Driving on the right side of the road. Most of the main roads are newly built and of perfect quality. The road NR11 from Gisenyi south (all along Lake Kivu) to Buhinga and then the road NR10 through Nyungwe Forest National Park and all the way to Huye (Butare) are the most perfect paved riding roads in Africa - with perfect scenery all along the way, extremely low traffic and never ending twists and turns all the way. The speed rarely exceeded 80 km/h and there were lots of villages with speed limit of 40 km/h, but there were no speed bumps any all and it was a pure joy to ride these roads on motorcycles.
Side roads are sometimes paved too or made from red soil as in the neighbouring countries, but mostly well maintained.
Fuel: About 1 EUR for a liter of premium unleaded. Gas stations only accepted payment in cash.
Roadside eateries: we haven’t tried any roadside cafeterias in Rwanda since the country is so small and usually our rides would be finished in early afternoon. However, we tried local pastry which looks like a ball-shaped doughnut, but tastes more like white bread, together with a very sweet tea. One such “doughnut” cost about 0.1 EUR. The price of the big cup of tea was the same.
People: Rwandans speak the language called Kinyarwanda. Only relatively recently they have joined the British Commonwealth and switched from previously widely used French to English language. Because of that quite a lot of people have limited English knowledge and sometimes it’s a bit difficult to communicate with the locals. Nevertheless, they are all very friendly, helpful and bright people.
A short video we made in Rwanda: