Africa 2016: Day 3 And 4: Another Long Flight To The Center Of Africa, Kigali, Rwanda
I awoke before 5 a.m again on Tuesday morning in Doha, as we had an early flight to Kigali, Rwanda. The sun was again rising through the mist as we drove to the modern Doha airport. Temperatures at night were still near 80 degrees in the Arabian desert, even this close to the sea. At the airport we met up with members of our group and joined them on our flight to Kigali.We all discussed our excitement about our upcoming adventure, the highlight being our trek in the forest of Volcano National Park to see the endangered mountain gorillas.
Thanks to my sister Linda , I had my treasured window seat, but, unfortunately, my lack of sleep from the previous days caught up with me, and I slept until we were near the equator. I awoke to find a thunderstorm nursery, as cumulus clouds boiled up in the warm and moist equatorial air.
Our flight landed at the famous Entebbe Airport in Uganda for a short layover as some passengers disembarked the plane and others joined our flight to Kigali.
Once in the air again, we flew over famous Lake Victoria. I had wanted to see this vast lake in the heart of Africa since I first saw the African Queen. I imagined Humphrey and Audrey floating on that vast expanse of water below.
As we approached Kigali, I was surprised to find the landscape below to be brown and barren. I was, in my mind, expecting a lush tropical jungle. After we landed and made our way through immigration, I learned, from our guide that the dry season was just ending and that the brown and barren land would soon become lush, green and alive with the coming rains.
After our plane landed and we cleared customs, we made our way through the winding streets and hills of Kigali to our hotel, the Kigali Serena Hotel, located atop a hill in the downtown district. It was late afternoon, but there was still time to take a quick stroll through the streets near our hotel.
I was impressed with how modern the center of the city was, considering the tragic events that occurred here 20 years ago. More on those tragic events that later.
My sister and I walked a few blocks past many modern buildings, including a few embassies. The streets were not much different than than most other major cities in the world. Folks were walking to and from work, shopping or just strolling in the late afternoon sunshine.
However, what usually differs from city to city is the plant and animal life and the streets of Kigali were lined with many species of exotic flowers.
And the sounds of strange and beautiful birds filled the air. One tree was filled with these hawk like birds and I will leave it up to my “birder” friends to identify them.
As evening was approaching, we headed to the hotel, and after unpacking and showering we had our first meal with our group, many of which had traveled together before. A good meal and discussion about our upcoming adventure followed and,afterward, some folks relaxed outside at the beautiful pool at our hotel. The African night was enchanting. But I was off to bed, so I could get up early the next day to explore more of the city. Here is a link to some more photographs from our afternoon walk in Kigali.https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/africa-october-2016/nggallery/africa-october-2016/Kigali-Rwanda-afternoon-hike-October-11-2016-
Near the Equator, and Kigali is only a few degrees south of it, the days are pretty much equal for the entire year, so there are twelve hours of sunlight twelve hours of darkness each day. Since the sun was setting around 5:30 p.m. I knew it would rise early, around 5:30 a.m. and I wanted to be up to watch it. And I was up, and out and about before it rose, but unfortunately, from our location atop one of the hills of Kigali, I wasn’t able to watch it rise.
It was still a nice morning for a walk. The temperatures were a little cooler than one would expect so near the Equator, and this was a result of the high elevation of Kigali. It it about 5200 feet, or a mile above sea level.
I proceeded down along the main avenue past a number of embassies and many new buildings. There is a lot of new construction in the city.
Like all cities awaking in the world, many folks were on their way to work and school. There was not as much automobile traffic as in the cities of the industrial nations but there were plenty of folks on the streets at this early hour. Many were waiting for buses to take them to their destinations.
I was told the city was safe, but I did notice many of the gas stations, banks and other businesses did have armed guards at their entrances. I later learned this may be more of a reaction to the horrors that occurred during the genocide than an actual need to deter crime. I found the streets to be perfectly safe and the folks very friendly.
In addition to the humans walking the city I did see a lot of local birds flying about and filling the morning air with their songs.
I walked past the modern City Hall, and through a business and banking district. The district had all of the hallmarks of a modern city, including shops, restaurants and a very large supermarket.
All of this was located atop the highest hill in Kigali. I made my way down the hill and found myself entering a less affluent neighborhood, consisting of older homes and businesses. Unlike the business district, were hardly anyone noticed me carrying my camera and looking like a tourists, the folks in this neighborhood seemed to be surprised to see me walking about.
I would have loved to continue to explore these streets but it was getting late,and I was hungry, and didn’t want to miss breakfast before our group left for a tour of the city. So, it was with some regret, I headed back to the hotel. But the memories of my short morning walk in this central African capital city will always remain. Here is a link to some more photographs from my morning walk.https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/africa-october-2016/nggallery/africa-october-2016/Kigali-Rwanda-morning-walk-October-12-2016-
“The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say ‘Africa’. In reality, except as a geographical appellation, Africa does not exist.”
― Ryszard Kapuściński,