Well the conference has officially ended and a good time was had by all. I don’t know that it achieved all that it set out to achieve but I certainly found it very informative and I think most appreciated the opportunity to network with an interesting group of people.

On Friday about  10 of us went to nearby Akagera National Park. It wasn’t as spectacular as Murchison Falls – apparently we were very lucky to see lions -a Ugandan girl next to me on the bus says she has been to many national parks but has never seen a lion in Uganda – but there were plenty of zebras and the elephants were much closer.  A big bull elephant was walking down the road directly towards our parked car, apparently doing his duty of defending the nearby females from potential agressors. After we reversed away from him a couple of times he left us alone.

On the way back one of our two hire cars broke an exhaust pipe. We stopped a small village to mend it with barb wire, and again were greeted by a group of children.

Jyotiman (Nepal) with boy

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve found myself thinking I can’t believe I’m here and this is all happening. Friday night 12 of us went out to a fantastic restaurant (actually we had the entire restaurant to ourselves) owned by a guy from Nepal. I have no idea what my meal was called, but it included cashews, cottage cheese and grapes (on a bed of sliced tomatoes). In contrast to much of our past experience in Kigali, service as polished as you could ever wish to find anywhere.  With such a large group and such variety in the menu there was also a fair amount of sampling one another’s orders and some community ordered nan and rice (the menu included local food and western food as well as Indian food – though sometimes the spelling was a little odd – humburger). The bill came to 7000 rwandian francs each – around $12. After the meal we walked about 200 metres to find a place to catch a taxi – from in front of Hotel des Mille Collines (the hotel that the movie Hotel Rwanda was based on – though the actual movie was apparently filmed in South Africa )

On Saturday morning a group of us headed off to get some cash from the ATM (the hotel doesn’t take visa, it needed to be paid in cash), and visit the local market.The ATM didn’t work because it had run out of money, and the staff were busy hand counting he money to refill it.  Opposite the ATM it seemed that a cement floor of a building was being poured. By poured, I mean men and women climbed up a ladder carrying buckets of cement, unloaded and went back for another one.

Next stop was the market with the usual market assortment of everything from live chickens to plastic buckets. I was intrigued to find that the clothes are made on site using treadle sewing machines ie no power) and ironed using  the old style iron that gets its heat from the hot coals inside.

Back to the ATM – now working but limited to maximum withdrawals of $50 at a time, dispensing only the smallest demonination note – equivalent to $1.50. It would have been a horrendously large bundle of bills to carry around, so it was a trip into the main centre of Kigali and a bigger bank with 3 ATM’s – except that they didn’t work either. They were supposed to be fixed in twenty minutes time, but when the bank closed at around 5pm they still didn’t work – each one had an “out of order message” in spanish(????!!!!) It was starting to look as though I was going to have to hang around until Monday to withdraw money, but eventually we found a bank that worked.

Mobile phone recharging station at the bus depot

The bus trip back to Kampara was relatively uneventful – the TV worked,  and every person was allocated a numbered seat, although the windows leaked when it rained (fortunately not often) and rest stops consisted of roadside stops beside the road in the middle of nowhere alongside clumps of strategic bushes. Being already conspicous as the only white person on board I didn’t feel like drawing attention to myself further by joining those dashing for the bushes.

Once in Kampala I was picked up from the bus station by my local contact and host, Herman, and driven to his house, where it turns out that there is another volunteer my age – a retired nurse from UK. The house is spacious and comfortable, we share a large bedroom with a generously sized ensuite with a $400 fancy shower fitting and no hot water. Apparently the landlord won’t agree to fix it. If you ever feel the need to learn to take things as they come then may I suggest that a trip to Africa might do the trick!


  1. Sue says:

    Hi brave Margaret, I’m feeling rather relieved that your time there seems to be going quite quickly. Even though the conference had its let downs it will have all been an experience of a lifetime. I’m glad you were able to resist needing the undergrowth on the bus trip – goodness knows what might have bitten you while bending down. How incredible that finding an ATM was so time consuming (they may have kept you for ransom if you couldn’t pay) and we whinge if the first ATM we locate while shopping is out of order – taking things as they are is certainly a true lesson in life. Enjoy the rest of the travels in Africa and keep up the great travel diary. XX

  2. Marg says:

    Hmmm – bitie things never even occurred to me. Actually I haven’t seen many creepie crawlies on the trip so far, other than some very big ants, and the odd fly (the ones that bite are located in small areas and easily avoided – just as well as apparently the bite is quite nasty and they can carry sleeping sickness. As for the dreaded mosquito – probably there are more at home, though I’m not taking any chances with these ones given their unfriendly reputation.

    Time is going very quickly. Just as well – at this present pace relaxing back at home again will be quite welcome. I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone.

  3. Peter Wilkinson says:

    It’s sounding like an amazing trip. Certainly a big change up from life on the sunny coast!

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