I went to the Rwanda Tourism Office early this morning to obtain my gorilla trekking permit. The office opened at 8am, and I hoped to be back at our lodge within an hour in order to get a lift with Paul and Wendy. They had pre-arranged a driver to go up north to where the trekking starts, and kindly offered that I could join them. Their driver was coming to the lodge to pick them up at 9am. That should have left plenty of time for me to sort out my permit.
I skipped breakfast and coffee, and made sure to be at the Tourism Office by 7.45am in order to be first in queue. The taxi driver warned me to be patient.
As expected, the office was still closed. I sat down and waited. No one came along to unlock the doors. By 8.15am, I started to lose my patience.
“Do you know when they open?” I asked the security guards.
“Maybe at 9am. Not before that,” they advised.
All official documentation from the Tourism Office clearly stated that they’d open from 8am on Saturdays, and that’s also the information they were giving out yesterday. Today, things were different and there was nothing I could do about it. I would lie if I pretended this didn’t drive me crazy, especially because I still hoped to get a lift with Paul and Wendy.
Knowing that I’d have to wait almost another hour, I looked for a place to at least get a coffee. There was only one place that seemed open—Camellia Tea House. To my big surprise, this turned out to be something like a JAVA House equivalent. They had great coffee, good food, fresh fruit juices, and—best of all—fast Internet!
I decided not to stress about timing. Surely I’d be able to sort out transport one way or another. That was a smart decision. From then onwards, I enjoyed my day again. Luckily, I had brought my laptop and so could use the time to catch up on my blog.
After 9am, I went back to the Tourism Office. It was open, and there was no other client. The gentlemen behind the counter attended to me immediately. However, there was a little problem. His colleague had by mistake allocated my permit to Natalie yesterday in their computer system. The only way for him to issue me the permit was to get that adjusted in their system. However, he had no access to it. So he tried to call his boss and headquarters. It took an hour until he finally managed reach someone and obtained the number of an IT person. It was 10.30am by the time I finally received my permit!
My initial plan was to go visit the Genocide museum, as most of us did. I would have had plenty of time left to do so. However, Camellia Tea House seemed the more attractive alternative to me. If I could have fast Internet, great coffee and good food, why would I want to go elsewhere? And so I went back to my same table, and would spend a lazy day chilling, eating and drinking. What a great rest day!
Meanwhile, Kim (new sectional rider from New Zealand who will spend a month with us) had sorted out transportation to go up north. I was lucky that she still had a seat left for me. Many thanks Kim for organizing!!!
Late afternoon, we drove up north—Kim, Anmei, Julian, Natalie, Sue, and myself, all seated in a 4×4. By the time we arrived in Musanze (the bigger town in the gorilla trekking area), it was already dark. All the others had booked accommodation with the local Cycling Club; only I had reserved a room at a different place via booking.com. The driver dropped off the others first, and then we went on a crazy search for my lodge.
The driver had to call the lodge several times to confirm directions. Finally, we spotted the sign—pointing 3km up a rocky dirt road through a dark forest. Driving there was an adventure by itself. When we finally arrived, loud night club music and thick smoke filled the air. A party was in full swing.
The owner of the lodge immediately came to attend to me. He was very apologetic about the noise. Apparently, the Rwanda Tourism Board had shown up with a group of people more or less unannounced that afternoon, and the owner of the lodge had no choice but host their party. He had tried to warn me, but didn’t have my contact details. However, in his own words, “if it was me, I wouldn’t want to sleep here with this noise.”
Luckily, our driver had waited outside, already suspecting that I wouldn’t want to stay overnight at that place. Upon the owner’s recommendation, he helped me find an alternative accommodation.
Twenty minutes later, we reached the so-called Buffalo Mountain Lodge. Happy ending—they still had a room for me, the room was massive and came with a nice hot shower, it was located much closer to the Cycling Club (so more convenient for our early morning gorilla trekking start), and it was cheaper than the place I had pre-booked! However, breakfast wasn’t included and the kitchen only opened at 7am, so I would have to start the day without coffee—no big deal.
I sat down in the restaurant/bar area for dinner. There was a bunch of local men drinking beer at the bar. However, they were very quiet/civilized and didn’t even look at me. What a blessing to pass incognito for a change!
“What time would you like to have breakfast?” the waitress asked me.
“Oh, I have to leave early, no problem,” I replied.
However, she now assured me that they would do breakfast for me. So we settled for coffee and omelet at 6.15am. Then I asked for my dinner bill. “Wait,” the waitress said and re-appeared with a plate of local fruits—desert courtesy of the lodge!
Early morning, I would receive my coffee and eggs as agreed. “How much is it?” I would ask when I had to leave.
“No, it’s OK. It’s included in the room price,” they had changed their mind.
What a pleasant experience! They must have been super-excited to have me stay with them as a guest. I promised that I’d write them a great review on TripAdvisor.
So, in conclusion, I’ve learnt today that things don’t always work as expected. However, they still do work out eventually, just in a different way—sometimes worse, sometimes better. It’s best to come without any expectations. This is Africa!