(Reposted from an earlier version here)
After Bujumbura, Kigali came as a major culture shock. Rwanda’s roads are well known among old East Africa hands, but it still comes as a shock every time. Riding the taxi-moto, I kept bracing myself for the potholes that didn’t come. Walking to the restaurant in the evening, I kept noticing new things – like street lights and pavements – that in some ways seem so natural but in others are downright weird. I found the whole thing very disconcerting, but it was good to be in a country where everything works for a change, and good to see Lisa again and meet Bryan.
We spent the first evening in Kigali, where we had a great Chinese meal with some of Lisa’s friends, who were mostly American but some Europeans, then the next morning up early to get a bus to Gisenyi. We got there in the early afternoon, found a hotel recommended by one of Lisa’s friends, and checked in. Then waited hours for lunch. Lisa, Parker (her housemate in Kigali) and I had all ordered pizza – which turned out to be a mistake, as it resembled nothing so much as a hard bread base with pasta sauce on top like a layer of soup. I actually didn’t find it that bad once I scraped off the pasta sauce, replaced the cheese, and ate the pasta sauce separately, but I was in the minority!
After lunch, we headed to the beach to lie in the sun for a few hours – we used ‘muzungu power’ to walk purposefully into the Serena Hotel, to use their private beach, which was stunning and avoided inevitable uncomfortableness on the public beach next door. The beach was stunning, and the lake great to swim in – a little cold at first, and a bit of a rocky floor in a band just off the shore, and a little bit of an undertow, but that was made up for by the lack of salt, and the waves to play in, bringing out my inner three-year-old. We stayed to watch the sunset, and when the most spectacular rays had passed, wandered back into town – and on the way found a performance by the most incredibly talented acrobatics group. Unfortunately none of us had our flip camera with us, but I got one picture and I think Lisa and Bryan took some photos, some of which will hopefully come out. They were amazing though, leaping and tumbling over one another and forming the most amazing pyramids. Embarrassingly, after the performance they came over and shook hands with Lisa and I; but if you’re ever in Gisenyi on a Saturday night it’s worth wandering down to the park by the Serena to see if they’re there.
For dinner, we followed our hotel’s recommendation and headed to White Rock, a restaurant by the lake. This turned out to be a Good Decision – one of the best meals I’ve had since I got here, delicious Tilapia in a butter sauce, with potatoes and vegetables, and a crepe with lemon and sugar for desert (the Americans found my pronunciation of ‘crepe’ very amusing) . Then off to bed – slightly challenging as it was a pretty dark night and none of us had a torch – spotting the glowing red of Goma’s volcano on the way. Went to sleep hoping that there wouldn’t be any eruptions or mudslides in the night that might cause Lake Kivu to explode and kill us all, then up in the morning to follow my long-held ambition of going to Congo – on which, a separate post above!