Total Distance: 6827km
Distance covered today: 300km
Start: Sunrise Residence, Bujumbura, Burundi
Finish: Peace Camp, Kamembe, Rwanda
To describe today is like trying to explain nuclear science to me. There are just no words to explain the endless mountains, villages, plantations and scenic beauty which I have not seen anywhere in Africa before. We left Bujumbura at 08h30 after a lovely omelette breakfast made by the cook from Sunrise Residence. It was funny to see up to 6 cyclists hanging onto the back of very fast moving trucks. At the same time heavily overloaded bicycles would come down the mountains at breakneck speeds and measured one doing 60km/h! They actually sit with the one leg onto the middle cross bar and our thinking is that they can jump off easier should the worst happen.
Every inch of the land, from the tip of the mountains to the valleys below are cultivated. Coffee tree branches are literally hanging into the road. The amount of food produced is staggering. And when I say mountains, imagine The Valley of a Thousand Hills north of Durban and think 'Valley of a Million Hills' up to 2000m above sea level. This evening we have to take voltarin injections into our knee caps and lower jaw, because the amount of times our mouths dropped down onto our knees at the scenery, was too many times to count. I will not blame anyone for not believing me when I say that over a 300km stretch we did today, there was not once a stretch of road which was straight for more than 200 meters. To give you an idea: The last 68km showed on the GPS as the crow flies as 29km! This is a motorbiker's ultimate dream of curved roads.To anyone complaining during the Argus cycle race about Suikerbossie, you must be grateful the event is not in Rwanda or Burundi because Suikerbossie is as flat as a pancake compared with these mountains.
We took the main road from Bujumbura to the border town of Kayanza. Once again the border procedure was so straight-forward that it did not take long before we were heading out. In fact it does not cost South Africans anything to enter Rwanda. The change was nearly immediate. The houses were looking much better and actually the houses here have lovely Toscana style roof tiles and the kaleidoscope of earthy browns and reds of the houses amongst the hills and the fields are very pretty. From a distance one can actually imagine to be driving in hilly Italy or Spain. Rwanda is often called the Switzerland of Africa. Not because only of the landscapes but also due to the law-abiding citizens. The houses in the cities are built at near European precision and I am in love with this country.
We first went to a town called Butare (sometimes called Huye) and we stopped at one of many monuments dedicated to the Genocide in 1994. A simple building set amongst lovely gardens contains the photos of all the people in this town who were killed during the Genocide where 800 000 people where killed in a moment of a 3 month killing spree madness between the two major tribes the Hutus and the Tutsis. Please read that figure again: 800 THOUSAND! From an outsider's viewpoint it is hard to understand this as one just cannot a) see the physical difference between the two tribes and b) that people who looks so peaceful can do this to each other. I am not sure what was worse - 800 000 people, mothers of children, grand parents, children, fathers, normal people like you and me, were wiped away from the face of the earth forever OR us as a Western world to do absolutely NOTHING to intervene. The emotions experienced here are very hard to explain but to me it was the saddest moment of the whole trip.
In Butare we turned westwards towards Nyungwe Forest. As said, everywhere the land is cultivated however it is wonderful to see that this pristine forest is kept and in it is a number of primates including chimpanzees. The prices to stay and trek have been increased so dramatically that we decided that it is just way outside our budget and will try in one of the other forests our luck again. The forest is truly magical and we drove for at least 50km through huge trees, lush and thick undergrowth and spotted a few monkeys and olive baboons. We continued westwards to Lake Kivu and as we broke out of the forest, we entered massive tea plantations. Fields of more than 5km in length reached into the distance and creating a very scenic setting on the hills. We got to the pretty town of Kamembe and if you can imagine coming down the hills to Knysna Lagoon with the town on the lake shore, it is the closest I can describe it. But it is so very beautiful here that I can actually see myself living just here. All these lakes and mountains and greenery are straight from a story book.
Another day which blew us away at scenery no-one would believe us when we tell them.
Tomorrow we are heading to Kigali the capital of Rwanda and then on to Uganda.
Thank you to all for the lovely messages and again I so wish you could all experience the landscapes we are privileged to witness.