We’ve crossed the border from Rwanda into Tanzania towards the end of our cycling day today.
Rwanda has been short, but a very pleasant experience for all of us (personal illnesses and ailments aside). The country is often called the Switzerland of Africa, and rightly so. I see a lot of parallels between Rwanda and the place I call home:
- Relatively small land-locked country surrounded by bigger neighbours
- Very hilly and green
- Respectful drivers watching out for cyclists
- Great roads, mostly with a shoulder to cycle on
- Well-maintained infrastructure, houses and landscape—people seem to take pride in keeping both their own as well as communal property clean and in good shape (they even sweep the side of the road!)
- Focus on sustainability and green environment
- Relatively well developed compared to its neighboring countries (perhaps due at least partly to an inflow of foreign aid and funding after the genocide; however, it also seems that the people are very hard-working and take good care of their country)
If I’d have to choose one city amongst all of the places we’ve visited so far to spend a few months or years as an expat, it would definitely be Kigali. Having said that, I’ve caught myself several times these past days longing for the real Switzerland of Europe . . . but that’s just my personal story and mental low at the moment.
The only not so pleasant experience in general in Rwanda (same as in Uganda) has been the overload of kids. Most are very friendly and mean no harm. However, their constant shouting of “mzungu/wazungu” (white foreigner(s)), “how are YOU!” (as an exclamation with a big emphasis on the YOU), “where you go?” and so forth is becoming at bit tiring.
Worst of all, it makes me feel a little frustrated when they stand at the side of the road with open palms and shout “give me MY money”—evidence of the negative influence of foreign aid. While in Egypt and Sudan I mostly smiled and waved at the kids, I’ve now mostly changed towards a self-preservation strategy of ignorance. I simply don’t have the energy to be nice and friendly to all of them.
Cycling through Rwanda (same as partly also in Uganda), it’s also quite striking that one often sees people with massive knives, machetes, axes, and the like at the side of the road. They use these tools to cut grass (yes, indeed, they cut grass at the side of the road with machetes!), chop up fruits for sale, or work in the acres.
The fact that they are all holding a tool is a sign of their hard working culture. However, it also constantly reminds me of the genocide when those tools had become weapons of mass destruction, sadly so.
Just before we crossed the border into Tanzania, we crossed over the infamous Kagera River. As we’ve been told, during the time of the genocide, piles and piles of corpses were floating down that river. Let’s hope the dark side of history will never ever repeat itself (neither in Rwanda, nor in Austria or elsewhere)!!!
Stage 37: Kayonza – Nyakasanza (Rwanda), 106km
Road & traffic condition:
Great scenic roads on perfect tar; respectful drivers.
Lovely sunny weather in the morning; very hot in the afternoon when we finished our riding day with a massive climb. For the first time again since Sudan, I’ve had to stop because of the heat (other riders’ heat stroke experience not yet forgotten).
Very scenic riding day in Rwanda; smooth border crossing into Tanzania.
Felt a lot better today than yesterday; mental energy almost back to normal—as evidenced by the fact that I bothered to take photos again 🙂