Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rwanda, in the heart of Africa

I pitch my tent in the track trailer, made dinner and slept. I was able to work up early in the next day after breakfast I left the town. The morning view of sky cover with morning mist, dump air and lush green on the rolling hills over and over to the four side horizons was worm welcome to the very heart of Africa I cycled in the road which goes along side Kagera National Park. Several tourist vehicles pass taking people who traveled from different angle of the world. Venture to this remote country to experience the magnificent animals’ n their native environment. I just though most of them perhaps all ready watch film such “Gorillas In The Mist” about late Dian Fossey’s pioneering work. Here it manifest itself that watching these fascinating creatures on the television is exciting enough but nothing in comparison to the thrill of visiting them firsthand. In the flat terrain with gently hills, the landscape characterized mountains hence the name “The County of a Thousand Hills”, valleys, marshes, several rivers and cultivated fields; conclude “The country of Perpetual Spring”. In the town people were rushing to their work places in the farms people were busy as well. There were lot of self-contained compounds and work a sign of life quality.

I stopped at Gabiro town after 34kms. I chart with locals as I was drinking my cold drink. The conversations start with curious young but lost for short give the chance for couple farmer. I narrated m stories to Hutu farmers while they were patiently listen. I turned to them with my questions about genocide and current status. They were nearly turned me down clamed that my questions were to political so I better find a politician, but kept on with conversation after convinced them I am just what to learn and there were nothing else on my intention. I sensed that perhaps they were felt guilt. Since I am interested with cause these were potential people to portray very history of this densely populated small country.
So there we emerged deep cause one of the century’s great tragedies, in a small country (26,336km square) with 8 million people (before genocide) ranked early1994, most densely populated state. The story had to part completely different, there are some account said that, the Tutsi arrived as northerners Nilotic conquers perhaps early 15th century. While others believe that the two groups have always been defined by class or castle rather than by ethnicity. This myth like account kept on say that the godlike ruler Kigwa fashioned a test to choose his successor. He gave each of his sons a bowl of milk to guard during the night. His son Gatwa drank the milk, Yahutu slept and spilled the milk. Only Gatusi guarded it well. This justifies Rwanda’s social order, in which the Twa (pygmies) were the outcasts, the Hutu servants, and Tutsi aristocrats. Historically, Hutu serf herded cattle and performed various other services for their Tutsi “protectors”. At the top of the hierarchy.

I resume my cycling, my mind occupied with what I wasn’t conscious want to think about. The country side was extraordinary beauty but failed to turn mind. Lastly I came up with clue Tutsi has high chance of being Nilots but due to the cause and conditions which made them to intermarriage result even speak one language “Kinyarwanda”. Looked the same physically, notwithstanding the stereotyped of the Tutsi being exceptionally tall, It is almost impossible for outside to differentiate between the two groups. I kept on convince myself that as the process of intermingle this group was took the place as any where in the world the outside arrived with their interest. Though that the colonialists’ ideal such as encouraging predominant Hutu (86%) to grow cashcrops especial coffee, and other ideal relate with divide and rule wide the distinction between these two groups which since then was under one rule “Mwami”. These very kind of things with ever-increase pressure of people and herds, greed and authoritarianism characterized countries political hence civil war and genocide.
After won my mind battle I was able to continue energetically cycling and absorbed the beauty of these Hart Of Africa which despite of the harsh past story the nature still manifest its beauty. There were several courage words and waves from the people in the farms, shops, vehicles, etc. These were the signs of welcomed and friendly people. Some other youth joined me for few kilometers showed me how good they are while in French/Kiswahili tell me how they were proud to see black man on bicycle tour.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I left Arusha 15th Nov planned to undertake the second pedal of cycling around Africa. After successful first pedal in southern Africa, I got back in Arusha gather energy and try to raise fund for the second part. This part has been challenge enough. Finally I decide to set with little fund I managed to raise from friends who participated in my representation prepared by CRC (Conservation Resource Centre). The lecture/talking about my trip wasn’t real my ideal although I could do if asked. That is what happened it was in the lunch break with CRC members and office manager at the office, the office manager Miss Dassa Nkini suggested that I should present my bicycle trip. This cleave woman to whom I owe her respect said that “You done something which I think it is unusual in our community so it is good ideal to share your experience with others. Think this together with your biography may act as a catalyst to influence and encourage others to find their potential.” From her ideal is where I got an insight of write this book despite the fact that there are so many adventure books and thousands describe Africa. I am personally believe that there is no excess knowledge so no matter how many books in the shelves describe our mother continent non can optimize another.
About 25 people turn up in the small office room all of them support me when I announce that I am leaving for second pedal. In particular I thank Howard and Benoit for their immeasurable fast support. The plan was to cycle until when I see financial green light. In this part budget has to hike up due to Ethiopia visa (100US$), Sudan visa (100US$), Egypt visa (100US$), food and camping for one month (200 US$). The fund I have up to the moment can sustain me for East Africa counters.

I left Arusha with Stive Mtui and Jacob who voluntary decide to buy food supply which can support us for 600km. The retired Danish professionally cyclist, Bent who cycled across Africa in 2008 with Tour D’ Afrique accompany us for 85km (one day). Thank you Bent for such support and courage. We left Arusha clock tower 10:30am in the group of nine cyclists. We cycled towards west side of town through main road to Tanzania popular tourists destinations such Ngorongoro crater, Serengeti National Park, et cetera. We stopped at Meserani Snake Park for cold drink; other friends turn back from here. After half an hour break we continue in the group of for people. The cycling was enthusiastic as every body seems to enjoy it with occasional chatting and have enough energy except for me when I failed to keep up with the group pace in the rolling hills near Makuyuni junction, This was due to my heavy loaded bicycle compare to others. We arrived at Makuyuni a dry flat town but this time was patched with green cause of the recent rain. We camp at the local guest house compound for free. We had offer from Bent who bought us dinner while a friend who I met when I was cycled to central Tanzania December 2008 bought us drinks.

Crossing Rift Valley, Ngorongoro highlands and Serengeti plains.
In the following morning we left Makuyuni 7:30am, Bent cycled back to Arusha town while three of us embarked the flat terrains of Great Rift Valley floor, cycled towards north east. In the cool morning with gentile breeze from Ngorongoro highland, beautiful birds’ calls, lush green, long acacia and shrubs landscape stretch up to the horizon of wall of Greet Rift Valley. This flat terrains stretch in both side of the road; In left side of the road the depression caused alkaline Lake Manyara while far north between volcanic peaks (3000m)lie another alkaline Lake Natron.
Along side the road we could see poor health maasai cattle cause of recently last long drought which cut off significant numbers of maasai livestock. The scatted Maasai huts, Maasai elders wore visible red shuka stand out side one long stick in one hand other short one merely watching us while young, enthusiastic, wave towards us and shout Mzungu! Mzungu! All these together made 30km through flat terrain become short. After one hour and half of riding we stopped at small but lively, Mto Wambu town (mosquito Creek). Here we rueful our bottle and have banana snacks before embarking on the Great Rift Valley escarpment 7km step. Even after finishing escarpment the cycling was still challenge as we cycled towards Ngorongoro highlands. The sun which rises gravely hot hence too much sweating, made us took a nap at lunch break before Karatu town. We resume our cycling which was characterized with long up hill cycling till Lodware gate, Ngorongoro entrance. We reached at the gate which situated within 1800-2000m.a.s.l at 08pm. We camped at village leader compound just outside the Ngorongoro entrance.

We work up 5:00am in the next day, had cup of coffee and mixed grains porridge. We dismantle our tent and parked our belongs within 5minutis as one of the range we met last night called me said there is a track crossing both reserve Serengeti and Ngorongoro. Last night he said it is impossible for us to cross two overlapping conserved areas with our bicycle. I didn’t agree with this view point since we were locals and in fact inside the reserve there are walking safaris as well as ordinary folk’s homes. It was rather time wasting to discuses this with narrow minded Ranger who couldn’t even let us met senior conservator because he strongly believe he will gave the same answer. The track drive demand 35,000Tsh for each. We failed to pay such high sum and let him go. After long wait the empty tourist land cruse arrive. The drive said he is going to receive client at Lobo northern part of Serengeti National Park. He demands 15,000Tsh per each up to Seronera. I had to owe Jacob as I had no cash in that moment. In Naabi hill gate, the entrance to Serengeti National Park. Rangers on duty refused to let us dropped at Seronera as it was still inside of the park. The drive demand 5,000Tsh addition to take us out of the park in Ikoma gate.
The treatment we received from these trained servants for both protection and management of remain natural areas was rather hash. They merely consider these places as sacred place for you who do not have money. I realized that as it was Ice ages this is money $ ages. In deep down in the mind there is still skin color arrogance but I guess for any poor cyclist my face the same challenge.
We arrived Ikoma gate 05pm from here we parked our bicycle again and cycled through mad road with worn from rage on due to watch out wild animals especial elephants and lions. I wonder what was the hell to cross that merely potion of land with car while we was still have to cycle in such risk areas. We pushed our bicycle after failed to cycle in the black cotton soil sticking like glue made impossible for the tire to rotate. We arrived at Ikoma village one hour late. We overnight at policeman house. We left the village next morning cycled through Ikorongo and Gurumeti game reserves a part of Serengeti ecosystem where wild animals move freely since there is no physical boundary. We had to stop several times observing wild animals such as Impala rums, zebras, buffaloes, topi herds, giraffes and several birds. About 15minuts cycling from reserves headquarter we found large herds of elephants feeding cross the main track. We waited for almost 2hrs on different wind direction avoiding to be detected with these huge creatures on the earth surface poor in sight but keen on smell and marvelous on sounds. Late we took the risk when small track was driving across. The fun moment was when other elephant cross road the distance of 50 miters I was nearly to hold breaks but subconsciously I kept on pedaling which made the elephant run as well. Somewhere in the road we find the fresh lion’s foot prints. As we was finished the reserves we met solitary buffalo’s males. They were not pleased with our intervention so charged and try to chase us without success. We stopped bit after reserves at 01pm for lunch. From there we cycled for 3hrs with rain. We stopped at Mgeta village and overnight in police house by surrender our IDs. We pass the evening with police officers who narrated the challenge of their work in this remote area with little civilization. The local, Kuria people are known for their ruddness.

In the next morning we left Mgeta village and cycled through rolling hills with the peak of (1784m) Chamliko. We stopped at Ikizu junction, here I was amazed after seen the vehicles selling the remaining fish after being chopped the entire meet. Locals told me these remains are from fish industry at Musoma in the shore of Lake Victoria where they process fish for export. We cycled to Butiama village where the fist president of Tanzania was born. We refused to camp on the museum compound which s on the 24 hours solder guards. We cycled down to main road from Musoma –Kenya, camped out side guest house compound after fist camp in side and told to move outside if we can’t pay. In fact there was nothing to pay for, my tent was better than rooms.

In the next day we cycled for 30km and reach Bunda town. We left Bunda and cycled for another 60km and stopped at Bumbala village. Here we made a late superghetten lunch. We ate in the middle of village crowd who come to see what they claim to be magic. They don’t what is the gas stove nether supergatte which the call worms. There were other widespread “ Once I went to town I saw people eat those worms while here is a food of chickens”, while children told us what was their favorites food rice ranck number one. Unfortunately, we were too hungry so there were nothing to share with audiences. I was one to announce the ideal to sleep on this interesting village. One of the spectator invite us to camp on his back yard. We spent evening on the Lake Victoria where we had shower and long chart with fisherman and herders who brought their huge horns ankole cattle to drink water.
In the next morning I work up early when this part of world was still calm in the middle of transformation between dark and light. The full moon which dominated the dark was slowly swallowed with the bright golden violet color from far East. Birds such as Robin chats, sparrows, doves, hornbill, etc were enthusiastic celebrate this ritual. I too, absorbed with the rhythm and surrounding gases, I found in myself celebrating this short leaved world. As I was standing in the middle of the road with a cup of coffee, I turn back to the normal world when I was interrupted with group of the people who I saw from far just only images in the line. When they reach closed we was wonder after each, I observed them every body from young to adults carried hoe in the shoulder and water in the hand. It was time to go to the farms, about hour late almost the entire village was deserted except the house we camp who said they were Baptist so they do not work on Saturday. We cycled for 80km alongside the lake shore, had a break at the village where we found people made Dhow and boats. It was amazing discovery to see how they skillful band particular timber until to form certain form. The thing I grasps from these people is their patience accumulated for long time. We arrive at ferry to Ukerewe Island in the late afternoon, made our lunch of rice and boiled ever cheep fish on the shower as we waited for ferry.
We cross the lake with ferry which took half an hour to reach the largest Island in the Lake Victoria, Ukerewe Island. We cycled for 15km to Nansio town and sort free camped at Monarch beach hotel.
We pitch our tents on the sand beach, made dinner and slept as we was real exhausted. I the morning I was the first to emerge out of the tent as usually. I was stoked with the stunning beauty in front of my eyes; it was a breath taking scene. The golden ball emerged from horizon it bright color shines all the sky while the fresh water lake reflects it. As the low of nature birds were there communicate with each other to welcome the new day. The cup of coffee, cool breeze from lake, rhythm of lave waves birds’ calls and wind brought unforgettable sentient. My heart was thrill with joy while impulses wish to stop this fast moving transformation. The full light emerge Jesus! The moving object I saw previous on the lake and thought was mangrove were people came for early shower and the place we camp was the place for woman, man were about 500 miters further on the shore. It was the same time when human started to praise high power by calling; Allah Akhbar! Allah Akhibar! (Allah is great! Lord is great!) For the entire days we stayed there we I was worry that we threaten the private of those woman come to have shower in the morning and evening.
We had offer from fisherman to take us to the near island but we was obliged to pedal as well he just help with navigation. Lake waves were so strong made me felt like we water will get into the boat then I will die since I can’t swim in such deep water. After came back from boat ride we left the camp and cycled towards north-east of the island. We passed at Bukindo the castle like house, the home of great chief of Wa-Kerewe. Wa-kerewe, the predominant ethnic on this island who their language is evidence that they are from west off shore Bukoba, Haya people. These group of south Uganda and north west of Tanzania as you move further west to Rwanda and Congo share muchin common. One of the grinding machine we found at Bukindo said it was present from Buganda King to Wa-kerewe chief. The island is characterized by rolling hills and rocks outcrop with fertile land together with fishing attract high number of immigrant from mainland. In the north shore we left our bicycle on the certain house and visit the tomb of Wa-krewe chief on the rock. In our way back we were invited to dinner with family of young couple (27 years old) with five children goes like steers. This was amazing thing in this island where it is just ease to find young couples with 6 to 9 children. After corn mixed with cassava Ugali and big fish fresh from the lake we left cycled to west shore. We visited Andebezyo rock caves here there are two rocks named Aluego and Andebezyo. Aluego or Luego means two overhanging roacks used by local to dried cassava floor away from said extinct wild animals. Andebezyo was ladle used to climb on the top of the rocks.
Despite the fact that the island now is a home of several other immigrant ethnics such neighbor Wa-Sukuma from main land, Wa-Gita, Wa-Jaluo, Wa-Haya, et cetera the culture and customs which bound these people together still exist. Almost 90% of inhabitants are substance farmer which young engaged on the fishing industry. People had lot of relaxing/slack time as fishing is early morning rare night and late evening same to farm works which tend to be morning than evening.
We spent three nights in the island and left to Mwanza town in the mainland by boat which took 3hrs. In Mwanza town “Rock city” we had accommodation in Jacob’s uncle guest house. I left the group in Mwanza town after three days of bicycle repair.
I cycled for two days to reach Nkome, Rubondo National Park entrance. The park fees were affordable but I failed to enter in the park after because of high price of boat to the island. I camped at the base compound despite the fact that management refused me to camp there if I can’t pay 20US$ per night without any important services. The range on duty Joctan who become a friend, he told me is better for him to risk his job for let me camp there instead of let me go. He add that he don’t see any point on why shouldn’t camp there. I have a big dinner of rice and huge fish and breakfast of cooked banana and fish soup. It was amazing kindness.

I crossed the lake with local boat where I had lift. The boat took 5hrs to reach Mganza village via several small islands. In the next day I left Muganza and cycled to Muleba through Biharamulo game reserve. The cycling was deadly challenge. After 94km I reached Muleba town and went to the police station asked if I can camp in the compound the gentleman who was main speaker seemed that he was high rank office allow me to camp there. I was busy pitch my tent made coffee and dinner I explained and showed how I survived to the curious policeman and women as well. Around 09:30pm as I was having my dinner other two police man one in the uniform and other just dress casual come to me and bombed with couples of nonsense questions. They seem to be drunken. The one without uniform told me to remove my tent and find somewhere else to camp. He said he is the commanding office and add that the one who let me camp there he is not familiar with laws, regulations and rules. I did so cycled for 10minuts and camp at the filling station where I found a young man. I just told him I want to camp in the corner, he sad no problem. He insured me that my bicycle was in safe since there was guard.

I left the town in the next morning, cycled for 56km. I reached Bukoba town at 01:30pm. I camped at the Lake view hotel where I pay 2000 Tshs about $2. I decide to have one day of rest. I met a family of my friend from Arusha, visited Bukoba museum which is predominated by Dickson Personii photos of wild life found around Bukoba. Cycled in the town outstreckt which ischaracterized with rock give an amazing aerial view of old town on the shore of Lake Victoria.
I set off from Bukoba town after two days rest, I cycled towards west. After finished up hills near Bukoba town the large distance up to Kyaka town was relative flat. I overnight at Kyaka township, it’s lay about 50kms from Bukoba town. The town sprawling both side of Kagera River. Here there are remain ruins for resistance the church built on the top of the rock hill, Kagera Bridge, living houses, etc all of them have been bombed by Idd Amin. Amin sized the area of about 60kms from where there is border post between Tanzania and Uganda and claimed to be part of Uganda. This caused 1976-79 “kagera war” between Tanzania and Uganda. Tanzania successes to fought Amin and over through him from the presidency then he sorts exile in Arabs countries.
I left the town next day, cycling towards south-west through flat terrain forest. I stopped in the mid day after 60kms. As I was having lunch of bread sandwich came the track which stopped few miters from where I was sating. The track drive told me that forest wasn’t safe. He said it was possibly to come across with unfriendly people. He gave me lift up to Kizuguru town in Rwanda. We arrived in the town 07:10pm, the town situated near Kagera National Park.