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Formula One in a Toyota (part one)

Don't hit the chimps...

sunny 21 °C
View les deux Congos on mjsimek's travel map.

Breakfast in Ethiopia, lunch in Rwanda, and dinner in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Beat that, Dr. Livingstone!

The flight from Addis to Kigali was gorgeous and uneventful. Green gave way to sand quite suddenly as we entered Kenyan airspace over Lake Turkana. There was a small island in the middle of the lake with a few small lakes on it itself. Some were blue, one was green. Everything else was stark desert. Gorgeous.

But what's an African bienvenue without something going wrong? In true African travel tradition, what counts at the end of the day is that you get from A to B. You may go to C and F before making it to B, but that's to be expected, what with the comparatively low literacy rate... ;-)

For things to go to plan here, you must cash in good deeds done in past lives. My such account being empty and likely overdrawn, my guide, Jacques, was not waiting for me in the arrivals hall. That left me standing there as taxi driver bait. Not my first time at that game, but I learned a new trick this time. When a taxi driver approaches you, just ask "Are you Jacques?" and it disappoints them immediately. Rwandans, however, are very mild mannered people, a quality which I appreciate immensely in people, so this was the first time in all of my travels that I enjoyed being pestered by taxi drivers. They were genuinely kind, none of this "My friend..." stuff before the sales spiel.

Enter Emmanuel, with a sign labeled GoKongo in hand (GoCongo, with a C, is my travel arranger, but I so much prefer the usage of the K over the C that my heart literally jumped; I just get all linguistic like that at times). I learn after we get to the car that he is Emmanuel, not Jacques, and that Jacques is still on his way from Goma with the 4x4. Il nous fallait l'attendre. This was a fantastic twist, as it meant I got to see some of Kigali during the wait for Jacques. We went to a restaurant in a "mall" that overlooked (or rather underlooked due to its relative location) l'Hôtel des Mille Collines, now aka Hotel Rwanda, made famous for its part in the protection of a thousand refugees during the 1994 Rwandan Massacre. Over lunch in a New Orleans-themed restaurant named Bourbon, I got to learn that Emmanuel was actually the guy with whom I had originally booked this segment of the trip months ago, before choosing to go entirely with GoCongo and never contacting him again (oopsy... but in my defense, he never contacted me again, either). I also got to learn about his life, his wife, and his move to Kigali in 1994, after which the story skips many years to avoid discussing the killings.

I also got to learn that Emmanuel likes big butts. REALLY big ones. Africa may be comprised of 54 countries and thousands of languages, but just as it is said that the only thing Christians and Muslims in Nigeria can agree on is their hatred for gays, it can also be said that there is one thing on which all African women can agree: Liberté, Égalité, Ass. Anyway, he was telling me some story about his life when a woman came in with an arrière that undoubtedly required a C-section to give birth to. She must have been smuggling conflict diamonds in there or something, I have no idea, but that sh*t was ubiquitous. She finally sat down (Ô la chaise! La pauvre chaise!), behind Emmanuel, and a good thing it was, because as meek and as pure of mind as Emmanuel certainly is, my trip was over until she was out of sight.

We then drove through (Beautiful! Clean! SoCal, but with natural greenery!) Kigali to a gas station to meet Jacques. We pull in and see Jacques standing next to a hoisted up 4x4 under repair. Uh-oh. So, I leave the car to greet Jacques, and then I get back in the Toyota that Emmanuel had been driving me in (an antediluvian Corolla with a brainsick digital clock in the dashboard that counted from 17:00 to 17:59 every second like a shortened Groundhog Day gone dadaistic). We took that car instead. In Rwanda, I soon found out, you do not need a 4x4 if you stay on the main roads. The roads seemed quasi-Autobahn quality all the way to Cyangugu, the border town with DRC. Jacques is a great driver. In fact, he is a little too good...

Posted by mjsimek 22:53 Archived in Democratic Republic of Congo Tagged travel of africa republic congo drc democratic

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