(march 23, 2008)
i have not been as nervous or excited for anything in a long time. the kind of childlike excitement that keeps you awake at night and makes you ever so slightly nauseous with anxiety about what is to come. i had done my last minute preparations before leaving nairobi, packing clothes suitable for hiking, bagging high energy snacks, and throwing my swiss army knife in my backpack for good measure. i had heard that trekking with the gorillas was a once in a lifetime experience not to be missed whatever the price and that it was surreal even if the hike up the volcano is tough.
to get to ruhengeri, the village close to the parc national des volcans, i took a bus from kigali (that was more like a matatu) and sat between 2 sweaty men where we had to fold our shoulders like accordions to fit 4 people across the seat. I thought at that moment that it is a good thing i don’t take up a lot of space and that rwandans tend to be thin people.
the 2 hour drive was on paved roads without potholes and with guardrails, both of which have become novelties to me. the views of the countless hills and valleys draped in all shades of green were stunning and made the numbing of my bum worthwhile.
my complimentary thoughts on rwanda and rwandans were temporarily suspended, however, when someone on the ‘taxi’ began a conversation, that soon involved everyone of the 18 passengers and driver, about the mzungu that continued for awhile in kinyarwanda with people looking in my direction every now and again without ever explaining what they all found so conversation-worthy about my existence. annoying.
but my limited kiswahili was useful in explaining where i wanted to go and soon realised that the person who bought me my ticket purchased the wrong one. makes me want to reinvigorate my swahili study, not to mention learn french once and for all. (but let me say now that the languages in rwanda are a bit of a smorgasboard of french, english, swahili, with nearly everyone speaking kinyarwanda – many of the people living in rwanda today grew up in kenya, uganda, tanzania, or further afield in the us or canada and so speak english or swahili instead of french, even though that was the official language for decades).
my guesthouse in ruhengeri was friendly and cozy enough. i was contented that it had warm water, and mosquito net (less because there were mosquitoes and more just so i could rest assure the creepy crawlies who neither creep nor crawl on my during the night), and a pillow. i’m afraid i may have offended the hotel staff though, when i didn’t eat much for dinner and wasn’t interested in indulging in friend bananas for dinner. but i managed to get to sleep in spite of my excitement and only woke about 5 times during the night worried that i had overslept.