The biggest surprise so far! But slowly … Coming in from Kabale in southern Uganda, already the border police gave me the sense of correctness that would prevail through the rest of my stay in Rwanda. Driving at 60km/h, the maximum speed in the country, and for once on the right side of the road again, our bus arrived towards evening at Kigali’s Nyabugogo bus station. Since my request to be picked up had apparently not been heard, I was left at the hustle and bustle of a big African bus station, where many a dodgy looking guy is seeking his fortune from a rather clueless mzungu. It was easy enough for me though to shake most of them off quite quickly, except for one who clung to my heels as I tried to negotiate the buses, taxis and touts at the various bus stops. Helped by a guy from an internet café, I took a cab and off we went towards Murugo hostel. On the way there, I was surprised by boda-boda drivers who were actually wearing a helmet, and indeed had a helmet for passengers as well (and would insist you wear it, as I later learnt)! And almost miraculously, coming from Uganda at least, there were lots of traffic lights, on major roads with countdowns for the green light, and on major roads the corners were equipped with LEDs on the curb. Just wow! Still, the layout of the town is rather difficult, even for a local taxi driver, since most roads are numbered, and the best thing to do is to know a landmark building nearby. I later learnt that the one relevant for my hostel was the Ministry of Agriculture, though no boda-boda (here called “moto”) or taxi driver knew it by this name, nor by its French version, but only as Minagri. The habit of abbreviating words may have been inherited from the French, though that language has been largely abandoned in official contexts in 2007, and relationships with France are complicated, to put it mildly.
Driving to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in the early morning hours (5:30) is like entering a magic world. Mist hangs in the valleys below as you proceed at an altitude of around 2300m. The name derives from the local Runyakitara language(s), and means something like ‘place of darkness’. This has been a forest forever, and it is as primeval as a forest can be in the 21st century.
For the impatient ones, here’s some Gorilla video caption. [switch to HD]