Hours by bus = 67, countries = 4, numb bums = 3, amount of dust swallowed = ALOT!
Monika, Lusajo and I embarked on a mammoth trip to Rwanda by bus – it is really expensive to fly within Africa so we decided instead to take the bus. There are 2 ways to get to the west of Africa through the Serengeti – costing $90 for the privilege of driving through at high speed seeing nothing or going round a mere 16 hours to Mwenza the first stop! The issue was the bus through the Serengeti about half the time wasn’t running that day so off we went on the 16 hour journey.
Thursday – 5am
We embarked the 16 hours in high spirits with Monika singing “we’re going to Rwanda, we’re going to Kigali, to see hotel Rwanda and the chimpanzees! wohoo” we were pretty much sitting of top of each other the seats were so small and the people in front were almost sitting in our laps.. People were also standing up in the aisles and loafs of bread swinging from the ceiling!! After 2 hours Monika and I both agreed that we would fly home!
The road conditions were terrible, bumpy and full of pot holes, however I got a surprising amount of sleep! We had packed sarnies so the 10 minute stop we had consisted of queuing up in a very long line for a disgusting unisex toilet – OK so a stinky hole in the ground! We finally arrived at Mwenza at 10pm the bread still swinging from the ceiling of the bus.. my legs were practically falling off, we could hardly walk and my bum had gone to sleep but we survived! We checked into a nice local hotel and I anti socially went straight to bed
After a traditional Swahili buffet breakfast consisting of egg, meat and fruit – I had very little and lots of coffee we headed out to find the internet and explore! Monika hadn’t got her visa back from Rwanda immigration yet so we were all hoping it would be in her inbox.. and it wasn’t.. we couldn’t leave TZ without it!
Mwanza is lovely, it is a beach town on lake Victoria, there is a huge divide between the rich and poor, this is evident from the beach houses and the houses set into the hills overlooking the city. However after walking through the town you see the poverty just like in Moshi and Dar.
In the middle of Mwenza there is a lovely hotel and just visable from the road was a roof top bar! I decided that we should go up there to view the town properly, watch the sun set and if they served alcohol have a little cheeky one!
The bar was lovely and the view was amazing from the top! We had fresh fish from the lake served with the head on (ewww). Lusajo has a few friends that live in Mwanza – one of them Coco owns a nightclub so that night we headed out to the club – it was slightly rough with some bizarre art on the wall but great for a few drinks and a good boogie until 3am!
After a slow start, plenty of coffee and the good news that Monika had her visa yay we headed in search of the beach. We got driven there by another of Sajo’s friends.. his car was very bizarre with fluffy covers on the seats and stuffed toys in the back weird but nice for a lift!
We arrived at a super posh beach resort in the middle of a poverty stricken neighbourhood, it was in the middle of nowhere but so nice. The hotel was built around a massive rock with water flowing through the middle of the restaurant and an infinity pool amazing and just $200 a night! We stayed for a drink and enjoyed the beach, the water was cool so we just paddled.
We booked our tickets for the bus in the middle of a car park, paying 2 random guys sitting on chairs – very bizarre I questioned if they were actual tickets but they looked real and Sajo and Monika thought it was OK. The bus was due to leave at 5:30 am so after a quick yummy pasta with mushrooms I got an early night.
LEG 2 Mwanza to Russomo (border)
Sunday 5 am we got up during a power cut – I had not planned on that and couldn’t find my torch so I got ready using the light from my phone and finished packing my bag. The bus was in a similar filthy condition to the bus from Moshi, it was already packed, we pushed our way on as I got to my seat I felt something in my bag.. A pick pocket had opened my bag but didn’t get chance to take anything before I pushed past him – quite a shock – note to self hold valuables firmly and keep an eye on them!
We were jammed in again but pleased to be finally on route to the border. After 7 hours of bumpy roads we heard people start talking about the border, we had turned down many offers offood and crazy alcohol being offered from traders on the side of the street through the bus window, but now I was starving and ready for some food!
LEG 3 Russomo to Rwanada border
We jumped off the bus in the middle of nowhere but were greeted by many taxi drivers all keen on getting us to the border. One taxi driver looked at me and Monika and decided we could fit in the boot of his car and he could still get us there not stopped by the fact he only had half a seat in the car left! We declined his generous offer and following an argument between a few taxi drivers squeezed ourselves in the back of another taxi with 2 locals we were now just 25 mins from the border!!
LEG 4 The border of Rwanda
Once we arrived at the border we had to try and work out which building to get our departure stamp marked, no one seemed that keen to help us or show us which way to go but we found it eventually!
Cars cannot cross the border at Russomo so we crossed by foot over a bridge with a lovely waterfall, over the other side of the bridge was a welcome to Rwanda sign!! We had made it . After a quick photo at the Rwanda sign we found immigration and got our arrival stamps.. Monika is from Canada and was the only one that had to pay $60 entry, it is free for us Brits!
LEG 5 The border to Kigali
Instantly on arrival we saw big differences in the cleanliness of Rwanda and the friendliness of the locals. There were modern lorries at the border that Sajo said he had never seen in Tanzania! We stopped at a café next to the border for chapatti and a drink before our final leg into the capital another 3 hours!! The people working in the café were lovely. We got talking to one lady who told us she had lost the majority of her family were killed in the genocide when she was a toddler; it was such a shocking realization to how real and recent the atrocities happened.
We took a classy bus – everyone had a spacious seat, the seats were cushioned and I had leg room!! Rwanda is known as the land of many hills and hundreds of smiles and now I know why. The locals were very welcoming, a few people said hello to us on the bus and as we arrived in Kigali they advised us on where to stay. I noticed as we were passing through the villages they all had power and people seemed busy but it wasn’t chaos like Tanzania.
Finally after 30+ hours and over $300 better off we had arrived in one piece in Kigali – Woopie!