Rwanda-The Switzerland of Africa

It’s true what has been said about Rwanda by others. Everything is just perfect…. spotlessly clean, stunningly beautiful with friendly people. 
The border crossing was painless. Another “so called” one stop crossing. But this time it worked! There is also a cunning way to get you to exit the border post on the correct side of the road for Rwanda…..which is on the RHS.

There was a thunder storm threatening. We needed to find a place to stay soon. We had so enjoyed our new found friend, Jonathan Bean, at the German Boma, that we’d lost track of time, which delayed our departure.

We stopped relatively close to the Ruvumu border in a town named Kayonza

No plastic shopping bags in Rwanda!

We found a place to stay on T4A,  The Eastland Guest House, situated soon after the turning towards Kagali. There was a huge lawn at the rear of the guesthouse where we were able to park. Electricity was also available which makes cooking so much easier. While preparing supper we heard music coming from the bar area and went to check it out after eating. A local singer-songwriter was accompaning himself on guitar. He had a lovely voice and played the guitar with an unusual picking style. He sang great melodies with French lyrics. Very entertaining. We were happy and knew we would enjoy our stay in Rwanda.
The following morning we carried on to Lake Kivu instead of stopping in Kigali, except for a brief stop at Simba supermarket and some excellent Rwanda grown coffee too. We passed through stunning countryside with terraced crops grown on the steep mountain slopes

Farming on every available piece of land

and through many tiny villages with their speedbumps and 50 kph speed limits. 

Clean and well kept vilages

Progress was slow but we didn’t mind. It was all so different to anything we’d encountered before in Africa. The journey to Lake Kivu was one mountain pass after the other. 

Hotel Bethanie, Lake Kivu

We finally arrived at Hotel Bethanie, beautifully positioned with the most exquisite view of the lake.

Lake view from our campsite

Lake Kivu is one of the deep Rift valley lakes situated on the border between the DRC and Rwanda. Part of the Albertine Rift which forms the western region of the Rift Valley. Also in this area lies the Congo Nile Divide. Rain that falls west of these mountains flows into the Congo River and rain falling east flows into the Nile. 
Rwanda is a small country and the most densely populated in Africa. Although the population only numbers around 8 million. Consequently camping is not easy. Many of the campsites are part of a lodge or guesthouse, as in this case too, so you are not always catered for properly but located in a driveway or piece of grassed land within the complex.

Hotel Bethanie. Beautiful campsite

 At Hotel Bethanie we were next to the restuarant and had to use the ablutions there. It did not spoil our stay though. We were in paradise!

Boats on Lake Kivu

Fishing Boat on Lake Kivu

We took the recently tarred road south called the Congo Nile Route to the Nyungwe Forest National Park. 

View of Lake Kivu from the Congo Nile Route

We followed the meanderings of the lake up and down steep and winding mountain passes. Every now and again we drove along the lakeside, passing rice paddies. 

Wherever you look people are busy in the fields.

Then back up the passes again lined with tea plantations. 

Tea plantations right next to the forest

What a wonderful experience. Eventually the road turned away from the lake and climbed high into the surrounding mountains. We’d entered the Nyungwe Forest.

 The forest has various vegetation zones as the altitude varies. From tall trees at the lower level to the bamboo zone at the highest level. 

L’Hoeste redback monkey.

Each zone supports different species of primates and bird life.The bamboo forest in the south east supports the rare owl faced monkey which we never found. The most important aspect of the Nyungwe Forest is without doubt that it is the source of two of Africa’s greatest rivers.

The forest is host to flowers too

We camped in the forest at the Uwinka campsite which had flush toilets and solar heated showers. It was also the parks headquarters and a very popular location for hikers to set off from. There was also a canopy zipline over the forest for those that wanted a closer look from above.

We awoke exhilarated from sleeping at a high alititude to the sound of birds and monkeys.

Forest road

We continued our drive through the beautiful forest on an excellent tarred road back towards Kigali, passing many small villages and farmlands on the way.
Kigali is unbelievably clean and functional in every way. Even downtown where road works were taking place there wasn’t chaos!  The T4A recommended camping in the city had closed down! We’d noticed an establishment with a giraffe entrance on our way through Kigali on the first day and thought we’d give it a try. The usual evening thunderstorm slowed our 15km trip down and we ended up in the dark in a downpour! We’d nearly stopped at a B&B on the way but we were determined to stay at our original choice. It was dreadful!!  Thankfully we return to the B&B.

Micha’s B&B tuned out to be a great choice and was definitely meant to be. They made special arrangements for secure parking. The owner, her name was Peace,  gave us 50% discount and it included breakfast! That night we slept in luxury after a magnificent shower in a beautifully appointed bathroom. We will certainly suggest to T4A to include them as suitable accomodation in Kigali. 

We found that T4A had many inaccuracies and wrong information for Rwanda on their maps. In most cases it was about the state of roads, most of which are now beautifully tarred and re-routed in some cases. The worst of all was to try to navigate by street names in Kigali….they had all changed to a number system! Fortunately the new town names had already been updated.

Kigali skyline taken at the Genocide Memorial Museum

We seldom venture into cities unless it is absolutely necessary for shopping, exchanging money and purchasing sim cards.  However there is a “mustsee” here: The Genocide Memorial and Museum in the north of the city. I’d not been very keen to go, nor had Solveig. We both tend to be Ostriches when it comes to things we perceive as unpleasant, but after so many fellow travellers suggested that we cannot miss it, we left it to the last thing we did in  Kigali. The experience was very sobering. One can form many theories and draw many different causes for the Genocide from the facts presented but one thing is certain…..never again! 
After leaving Kigali we continued with our northwards mission.

Farm workers busy in the fields

We have found very detailed and useful information on two blogs we’ve used often in our choice of route. They are Slow Donkey from Stan and Ann in East London and from Scot and Helena from UK,  who we’ve met often in Africa. Thanks so much both of you for such a wealth of information. A good read for anybody considering doing something similar.
We arrived in Kinigi Guest House (thanks Stan) right at the edge of the Gorilla park and set up camp next to a shelter that had an electrical conection.

The Virunga mountains
View from our campsite
Cultural village where events take place

 We were not doing any Gorilla trekking in Rwanda. It’s even more expensive here (US $ 750 per person) than in Uganda. That’s more than our entire budget for Rwanda!! Besides that, we cannot tolerate any canned tour excursions. If we’re meant to see gorillas,  then we will naturally. That goes for all birds and  animals we see on our travels. That’s the bonus for being there in nature.

George and a Friendly Gorilla

Who has ever tasted an egg from granny’s chicken run at the bottom of her garden? Lovely, large, freshly laid eggs with a naturally yellow yolk. The eggs we purchased from the tiny store in Kisoro brought back those memories. As well as the bananas, pawpaw, bread, tomatoes and avos. It’s the best way to get rid of the small change you tend to collect in each country before you move on to the next one. The larger notes are used for diesel. Solveig gets great pleasure from shopping and chatting with the locals as well.
Then it was border time again! 

Author: Ian & Solveig's Overland Adventures

Although we never achieved our original goal of reaching Norway overland through Africa, our experience was so unexpectedly rewarding that we've not been able to settled down again! So we added new destinations to our lust for adventure. We hope that you will join us in sharing new exciting places and encounters with the amazing people we meet along the way.

4 thoughts on “Rwanda-The Switzerland of Africa”

  1. Hi Ian (and Solveig of course)

    We are enjoying following you. Very jealous, and your photos are super!

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