This was by far the most jam-packed, non-stop trip I've ever taken. I barely had time to write a quick daily email to Cody and I definitely didn't have time to reflect on the emotional and spiritual impact of each day. I got very little sleep. I saw and experienced a thousand new things. I met many remarkable people. When I got home Thursday evening, I slept from 10 PM until 7:30 AM. I ate breakfast then went back to sleep until lunch. I was awake a few hours before falling asleep (again) with Lucas on the couch. I went to bed at 10 PM and slept soundly all night until 8 AM this morning and I still feel tired!
Here is something I became quite well acquainted with during the week: the bus. Our driver Alphonse was a pro at navigating the narrow streets, avoiding the pedestrians and motorcycles, slipping within inches of parked vehicles, backing into narrow driveways flanked by brick walls, and twisting and turning along the mountainous road between Kigali and Gisenyi at night in the rain. Driving in Rwanda is an art form.
Rwanda is called The Land of a Thousand Hills. It is a lush, fertile, beautiful place known for growing coffee and tea, but all crops grow easily in the temperate climate. The land is packed with people, so every inch of available soil is used. One can see crops and gardens all the way up the sloped sides of the hills. In places, cows are standing at perilous angles and gardens appear to defy gravity.
The capital city Kigali is a bustling area of neighborhoods, shopping, and business. The roads are full of people. There are workers and children in the fields. There are many motorcycles, and even more people walking along the sides of the road. The women carry huge loads balanced perfectly on their heads, some have babies tied to their backs. Guards armed with automatic weapons are posted near government buildings throughout the city. It's busy and crowded, horns honk in the streets.
The 2 hour drive from Kigali to Gisenyi to the West is along a stunning mountain road with countless twists and jaw-dropping vistas of valleys. A few team members fell to motion sickness as we made our way. Pedestrians flank the 2 lane road on either side for the entire drive. Many walk out in the street and respond to the honk of the bus as it barrels through.
Gisenyi sits on Lake Kiva, a large lake that borders Rwanda and Congo. Here is the view from my hotel balcony. It is cooler than Kigali, and more rural. One can find hotels in the major cities of Rwanda that cater to Western tourists. Tourism is booming here. The land is beautiful, and many also come to see the gorillas because Rwanda is one of the only places where they can be seen in the wild.
It isn't cheap...I think it costs around $700 per person to see them.
It was hot and humid in the afternoon, but the mornings and evenings were cool. I fell in love with the land of Rwanda first, then I started to fall in love with the people.