Backpacking Rwanda

Musanze

14 December 2017

Backpacking Rwanda

'Can I search your bag?' A woman at the border asks me. From Entebbe, Uganda I took a flight to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

At the border, when I opened my bag I found out Rwanda is anticipating for a better environment. Plastic bags are forbidden and taken from you when they find one. Ziploc bags are tolerated. Walking around in Rwanda you will notice significant less garbage. In shops they will give you paper bags instead.

On my trip to Uganda and Congo, Rwanda would only be a short transfer to head to Congo. I wanted to learn more about the genocide in 1994, when hundreds and thousands of people died. So I decided to take a few days to discover Rwanda.

Nyamata Memorial

After my early morning flight, I met Marcus from Germany at my hostel Mijo. We both had the intention to visit Ntarama and Nyamata and we decided to go together.

We took a moto taxi to the bus stiation. From here we took a matatu to Nyamata. The ride was quicker than I thought and soon we arrived. Only a short walk and we arrived at the Nyamata church. A lady would be our guide. She told the horrible story about the Hutsi and Tutsi. People were seeking shelter in churches. But the attackers had no mercy! They killed all the people inside as well as outside the churches, using machetes, knives or any agricultural tool. The people were slaughtered.

Ntarama

After this horrifying story I took the moto bike again and headed to Ntarama church. Again we got a story full of blood and anger, leaving family and friends devastated. The bones are buried in mass graves. You can still see the bullet holes and blood spatter on the walls. When the attackers start to kill the people, they didn’t mercy on the children. The smaller children they smashed their heads against the walls! In the Sunday school the lady showed us a brownish shot on the wall.

With the mototaxi we drove back to Kigali. Together with Marcus I ate a late lunch and the rest of the day I just relaxed. Kigali seems to be a big city, but it wasn’t as busy as I expected. All the sights are widely spread trough town. You will need a bus or a moto taxi to get around.

Kigali

The next day I headed to the memorial and museum of the genocide in Kigali. I took my backpack because I wanted to take a bus to Musanze after the visit.

This museum was well explained and shocking, about the genocide of 1994 as well as genocide around the world. What the most got to me were the pictures of there children. With this picture they described the child, what they liked and how they got killed. There is also a large memorial area.

Musanze (or Ruhengeri)

I got a bus to Musanze from Kigali. When I arrived in Musanze, it rained heavily. Dripping wet I arrived at my accommodation Amahora lodge. The staff who worked there was super friendly and he offered me a small lunch. As the rain didn’t stop for hours, it didn’t appeal to me to go for a tour or a walk. Finally, at the end of the day and with the sun almost setting I could go for a walk and vista the town.

Musanze is also known as Ruhengeri. Not sure why this town has 2 names. It is small, with some shops, restaurants and tour agents. As this place is the starting point for seeing the Golden monkeys and gorilla trekking there are only a handful of tourists here.

The walk was nice, with a beautiful church and I got to see a choir in the building next to the church. In the evening I ate a lovely meal at ‘La Pailotte’ which seems to be a tourist meeting point. The food was lovely, but unfortunately malaria tablets giving me side effects which one of them is a lost of appetite.

Twin lakes Ruhondo and Burera

The next morning it was still raining. I got a little restless and I wanted to do something. Finally, I decided to go for a short hike. The staff at the accommodation recommended Twin lakes which is accessible with a motorbike. I hired a guide to tell me more about the lakes. The names of the lakes are Ruhondo and Burera. Together they are called Twin lakes because both lakes are connected via a dam. In the middle of the lakes there are a few islands. Both lakes are fed by rivers and a lake in Uganda. The hills and surroundings are very scenic. I just loved the hiking here and I wished I had more time to explore more. You can do a full day tour with a lunch and a boat ride across one of the lakes.

After a few hours it was time for me to leave. The moto taxi dropped me off in Ruhengeri, from where I took a bus to Gisenyi. In Gisenyi I got picked up by Barack from Congo Discovery Safaris. He has arranged my gorilla tracking and volcano climbing in Congo.

Regrets

I have to admit. My focus on this backpacking trip wasn’t Rwanda. I booked my flight to Uganda and intent to travel in those both countries. In the end I added Congo, because it had a volcano climb and a gorilla tracking tour.
But I wish I had arranged it differently! Rwanda has more national parks and sights to offer and I have to come back to see more of this country. I could easily combine Rwanda with Congo and safe more time and see a lot of sights.

Information backpacking Rwanda

Visa

You will need a visa to enter Rwanda. You can either buy a transfer visa, which his valid for 3 days or a 30 day visa. The last one you can arrange online. Some nationalities can pay for a 30 day visa on arrival, but you have to check this on forehand!

Another option is an Eastern Africa Visa. This visa is valid for 90 days in the countries Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. But pay attention! When you’ll leave ‘Eastern Africa’ and cross the border to Congo they will deactivate the visa. You have to buy a new visa when you show up at the border again.


Congo Discovery Safaris
arranged my trip to Congo

On this 12 day trip I have traveled to Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. For more information about my travel route please read here.

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