Hector and I were keen to spread out wings outside of Kigali. After getting an update on the safety of different spots from Yves, a classmate form London, over a good coffee in Kigali, we jumped on the bus to Gisenyi. We rolled rough the hilly green countryside to the northwest, past the Parc de Volcans, which is home to the Rwandan portion of mountain gorillas, although costing a couple of hundred USD more to visit there.
Gisenyi is located on the eastern shore of Lake Kivu, which apparently lies over a massive and rather unstable store of methane gas, which is due to be drilled for to provide power and make the geology more stable. Only a couple of kms away lies Goma in the DRC. These days it’s one of the hot spots of the civil war that has been going on in the Eastern DRC for several years, it previously was another launch pad to see the gorillas, or to climb Nyiragongo volcano which is topped by a lava lake. The city was half destroyed 11 years ago when the volcano spewed a trail of lava obliterating buildings in its wake. The Rwandan Genocide has left long term impacts here, with a large portion of the Congolese civil war being due to Hutus, in particular the interhamwe which fled after the genocide and have been causing trouble since. The area is still dotted with refugee or IDP camps, which seems to be a source of UNHCR mongrammed polythene sheeting for the enterprising businessman.
Hector was keen to go to Goma, with the aim of writing an article for a travel magazine about whether Goma was still a possibility for the adventurous traveller keen to see the Gorillas. A lack of a preexisting visa, and not willing to cough up an inflated ‘rate’ in USD meant he was turned back. Instead we spent the day having a dip in the lake, and watching thunder and lightening illuminate the sky over the DRC. The thunderstorm induced powercut wasn’t too much of an issue walking home to our $2 a night hostel, due to the regular lightning, although i guess when the NZ government states that the border area with the DRC is extreme risk, walking one street away probably fitted that classification. In saying that, we had done our research from locals and expats in Rwanda, and weren’t embarking on adventures blindly. The DRC holds a certain mystique to it, with big mountains rising up from the lake, hard to attain visas, active volcanoes and raging thunderstorms only on the other side of the border. In reality, I’m sure it is like any country ravaged by war, exploitation and disease.
We were in Rwanda during the rainy season which became very apparent on the drive home. The bus back to Kigali was stopped by a queue of vehicles on a hilly section of the road, amid a heavy deluge. Up ahead a fresh slip had covered both lanes. Whilst heavy machinery was fetched, the drivers all got stuck in cleaning the obstruction and allowing us to skirt past the slip. however impatient vehicles had clogged both lanes on the other side, trying to jockey for pole position when the slip was cleared. As we waved our way through trucks, cars, matatus and busses, things got a bit hairy when rocks and dirt started tumbling down onto the road beside us again. The horn got more of a work out, and a few passengers who had got off to stretch with barraged with shouts of “Allons sie” as we squeezed our way out of the dodgy area.