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Tales

Warning Manma – this is a short novel but we thought you would enjoy. For everyone else, no hard feelings if you can’t be bothered reading – scroll to the end for the photo though.

Well, we planned to spend three days in Uganda and I am here typing this email to you on our 12th. Our fearless leader, Chris, (who has turned out to be an absolute god sent) picked us up from the airport nearly two weeks ago and dropped us straight to our first activity, a Boda Boda (motorbike) tour of Uganda. Mum was initially hesitant but was assured that the motorbike stuck to a ‘safe’ speed and when offered a hairnet to stick under the helmet was sold. The tour took us to various historical locations including a mosque where Mum and I donned khimar’s for the first time and clambered up 200 odd stairs to see a beautiful lookout over Kampala, with the 12pm prayer being broadcast at deafening decibels from the bell tower #gettingabitcultyyy.  The next morning we set off to go Gorilla trekking and the day of driving to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest saw us really bond with Chris as he relayed tour guide horror stories to us. 

Getting ready for gorilla trekking the following day, Mum asked me in complete ernest “what earrings should I wear for the gorillas?”. Fortunately she was thinking about the important things so I could focus on whether we had enough water. Penetrating the fringes of the impenetrable forest to find gorillas was amazing, granted challenging – particularly when we chased the gorillas through the rainforest as they descended to the bottom of the canopy to feed. Gazing into their eyes and watching them interact makes you want to reach out to touch hands Tarzan style, but the rumbling of the Silverback reminds you that you are a weak little human and to keep your distance if you value your life. The hour we had with them was short but so amazing and we left wishing we had longer with the great apes. 

Needing some rest and respite, we headed for Lake Bunyonyi where we visited Punishment Island – a tiny isle made of reeds where girls who became pregnant with illegitimate children were dropped to drown or starve (whichever came first). Our accomodation was ace, at the top of the mountain with cascading views into the valley, Punishment Island ominously leering in the distance :/. Next we went to Kibale National Park to visit our Chimpanzee brethren, who we share 98% of our genepool with. Before you ask, yes, Mum managed to decide on a pair of earrings adequate for the occasion and I was able to source sufficient water. 

Unfortunately the hairy buggers stayed in the treetops for our visit but the zoom on my camera turned out to be the MVP, offering a clearer view than the naked eye. This also led to a gathering of trekkers staring at the screen of my camera to watch the chimps, be, chimps. In need of a massage from craning our necks to watch the canopy bound chimps, we self-medicated with shaking our heads at fellow trekkers. Most notable trekkers include:

  • The Spanish girl who turned down an email with photos, instead preferring to take a picture of a picture on my camera screen.

  • The American lady who bossily said “the chimps really should have tp come down now” – I pointed out that the chimps, being wild, really shouldn’t have to do anything.

  • A group of American’s with ridiculously extravagant ‘hobby’ cameras whose lenses outsized the chimps they were photraphing. They had come on a “photographari’ complete with a ‘professional photographer’ in tow to help them ‘get the shot’. A few members of the group asked if I could email them some of the photos I took on my lil point n shoot.

Our travels also saw us tasting banana beer & banana gin (moonshine) which we later learned had been made using the foot mashing technique. I think they call it ‘Brew de Tinea’; and visiting the village medicine man who told us about a remedy to get rid of problem neighbours – you take a bit of a skull of a chimpanzee and some ‘erbs, bury it under their doorstep in the dead of night, wait a few days and voila! The irksome neighbour will have left, never to stay somewhere for more than one night ever ever ever again – the chimp skull is necessary for the remedy as chimps make a new nest for themselves every evening, hence the perpetual displacement of bewitched irksome neighbour. The big day of activities finished with a swamp walk (more of a slip and slide) which Mum made halfway before putting her gumboot down, splattering mud onto the pale pink yoga pants she had chosen for the occasion, demanding we head back, back the halfway we had come. We also went and saw the various crater lakes left behind by erupting volcanoes hundreds of years ago. Despite being told that the remnants of volcanic ash cleanses the water we opted not to swim… the water was a funky green colour that didn’t exactly inspire the confidence to plunge. 

From here we headed to Murchison Falls for a safari and to see the falls lauded as the most powerful in all the lands. Murchison Falls was very different from the Maasai Mara with long grass sweeping the savannah, hiding all the lions and leopards we were eagerly looking out for and spectacularly missing. In saying that, we saw a family of four lions (Mum, Dad & 2 cubs) stalking through the grass on the horizon and a caught a leopard red-handed (literally, bloodied paws) maxin’ relaxin’ in a tree after its morning kill.  The falls themselves were magnificent, although the boat ride there felt a bit like god’s waiting room – Mum & I brought the average age down by about 10 years. 

We hotfooted it out of the savannah the next day to catch the 8am ferry and were serenaded by locals sporting t-shirts stating ‘conservations for generations’ using home-made instruments. Neither mum nor I wanted to join the other mizungo’s (foreigners) trying to best the African mama’s dancing to the music, resolving to leave it to the experts.  Chris surprised us on the way to Jinja, the source of the river Nile, with a visit to a Rhino sanctuary – by 1994 Rhino’s had been eradicated from Uganda thanks to the best efforts of poachers to feed the rhino horn market. The original 4 brought from other locations in Africa are now 30 and soon they are looking at moving half to assist with the conservation and expansion program. We watched a calf feeding from its mother and it struck us how brutishly prehistoric or “chunky but funky” Rhino’s are. After a full day of driving, aside from our rhino respite, Mum was horrendously grumpy when we arrived at our accommodation that evening. She told Chris and I to head out for dinner and leave her behind. I asked if she was going to go from sitting in the car to lying in bed and within 30 minutes we were all off for Indian. 

The last full day of our tour saw the adrenaline pumping and by mum’s own admission, no one considering her age, when Chris sent us off white water rafting!!! The day was off to a cracking start after Mum became trapped under a flipped raft – she burst out from underneath gasping for air, her blue eyes wild with panic. Fast forward a few hours and Mum proved what a quick learner and fearless rafter she is, boogie boarding down the final rapid like a proper adventure queen. 

The next morning we returned to Kampala for the final leg of our trip. The roads were hot and dusty, the traffic a clustered and chaotic mess, horns blaring and expletives flaring. A Boda Boda driver proceeded in front of our car as we nosed our way through a blocked intersection. The driver and Chris locked eyes in a mexican stand-off and the fight was on. Within 2 seconds a mob of 40 had descended, a large tyre had been rolled in front of our car to stop us going anywhere, people from the other side of the road were getting out of their running cars and coming over to be involved in the altercation. Chris was effectively dragged out of his car (not physically) to plead his case that he had right of way, the Boda Boda driver attesting that he was a human and fighting for respect. A plain clothed police man showed up and after ten minutes of arguing at the intersection (resulting in a buildup of standstill traffic) the mob decided to take the negotiation to the side of the road. It was one of those situations where Mum and I were confined hopelessly to the car, watching the chaos unfold before us. We got the distinct impression that it was a slow Sunday and so anyone who could join the mob and put their ten cents in was relishing in the afternoon thrill. After 30 minutes I had to leave the car to find a loo and by the time I came back we were ready to go. Ten minutes after driving away, leaving the satiated thrill-seeking mobsters behind, Chris got a call from the Boda-Boda driver saying that he had seen me leave the car and was hoping I hadn’t been scared and run away… I guess at the end of the day they are caring thrill-seeking mobsters. 

On our last day in Kampala we visited the chaotic Owina market (where I got sucked into the bartering circus and paid at least 30% too much for a pair of second hand runners) to get essentials for our next adventure. We spent our last evening in Uganda being treated to an outstanding display of jazz music by The. Jazz. Freak. Band. and ors at a free concert at the national theatre.  

We would have been tremendously sad to leave our fearless leader Chris except we have another week with him!!! He is accompanying us into Rwanda but this time not as a guide, as our friend! He seriously is an a-grade legend. 

Yours in adventure until Chapter 4!

Howdy folks – here is Chapter 4, the final instalment from the mother daughter trip. Mum is now safely back on home soil and we can safely say that the trip was a great success. 

Manma, again arm yourself with a tea because there is a bit to read. Everyone else,  a beer or a wine if you find the time to read at all.

————

Chris, Mum and I headed for Rwanda to relax for a day in Gisenyi (a lakeside town) and then travel to the Congo to climb Mt Nyiragongo, an active volcano. Once across the border it was metres before humans, animals and banana laiden bikes spilled onto the road with no concern for cars. We were told that there is a Rwandan mentality that “man made car so car should respect man”. Sydney get on board.

Over the past two weeks, Chris had tantalised us with photos of magma oozing out of Nyiragongo’s firey hearth and we were disappointed when he told us that Will (the punter who was organizing our hike – hereonin called “Will the Capricious”) had delayed our hike for another four days due to issues with our visas. Not to worry, we were in beautiful Gisenyi and there was plenty to do to a) keep us busy and b) keep our fitness levels up in anticipation of our ascent. We met with Will (a different Will, heronin called “Will”) to take us on a hike and show us around the town. The hike was a bit pathetic, offering nice views of Gisenyi but no aerobic benefit. Luckily our hearts got pumping when Will decided to take us on a joy ride to the Rwanda/Congo border  – the police stopped us, thinking we had just illegally crossed from the Congo mad all the worse by the fact that Mum and I didn’t have our passports on us… After a few tense minutes, Will was ousted from the safe confines of the car and the police served him a new one before letting us go. We spent the day with Will and heard all about his girl problems (one in Uganda, one in Rwanda) however it became clear we would leave it at that after Mum, not for the first time that day, asked ‘what’s next’ and he told Mum in no uncertain terms “It’s ok to just sit”. 

In Gisenyi we stayed at Inzu Lodge, a beautiful tented camp perched on a hill with cascading views across Lake Kivu where you had either power or running water and often neither but never both, needless to say we mastered the art of a bucket bath. In the mornings you could hear the singing of the fisherman, travelling in fleets of three, as they returned with the haul from their night of fishing. Will told us that they sell the fish throughout the day and head out every night – never sleeping.. skeptical Will, skeptical. 

The Congo-Nile Trail is a 270 km track transversing along the shores of Lake Kivu and is popular amongst hikers and bikers. We decided to conduct our own biking expedition over two days knowing that Rwanda’s pet name is the land of a thousand hills – but clearly not grasping quite what this meant. We definitely do now. Setting off at 10am, the sun beat down on us relentlessly as Chris, Mum and I struggled for five unforgiving hours to cycle 20 kilometres. The hills were just shy of sheer and Mum dismounted her bike on every ascent, having figured out that the village children would eagerly jump at the change to help a mizungu (foreigner) push her bike up the hill. Chris and I on the other hand tried to power up the hills on the bikes, slipping on loose rocks as onlooking children yelled “Good morning mizungu, give me money”. We had the option of continuing to Kinunu (15 km of hills away) or stopping at Cymbiri overnight. Chris put his foot down and demanded we stay at Cymbiri Camp so as to not compromise our legs for Mt. Nyiragongo.  We whiled the afternoon away swimming and playing cards and discovered a ferocious card shark simmering under Chris’s pleasant happy-go-lucky facade. 

As it turns out, Chris needn’t have worried about anyone’s getaway sticks. Will the Capricious, true to form, dealt the second blow to our Nyiragongo summit – delaying our hike day yet again. Will the Capricious’s communication style can be best described ‘Congolese Scammer’ – radio silence, picks up your call, broken line, poor english, ends with either lie a) ‘I will call you back’ or b) ‘I will text you’ – both of which never eventuate. In fairness, he did openly admit to us that his bribery attempts to the visa office had not been fruitful and hence the delay in obtaining our visas. For those at home playing “How to Spot a Scammer” read above for a 101 guide however they may not always openly admit to their bribery. 

By the time we returned to Gisenyi we had decided to end the game of silly buggers Will the Capricious was trying to play with us (even though he had $1000 USD of ours) and set up a meeting with “Rock Lee Sicka” to see if our dreams of summiting Mt Nyiragongo could be revived. Rock Lee Sicka came from Congo to meet us and we shelled out another hefty deposit after measuring him up for no more than 20 mins (he also came personally recommended (as had Will the Capricious), had a stellar trip advisor and many a volcano selfie on his Facebook). Spirits were very high when Rock Lee Sicka told us we could hike in a few days time. This also meant we could travel to Kigali (the capital of Rwanda) to hustle Will the Capricious for our deposit and visit the Genocide Museum to learn about the merciless discrimination and killing of Tutsi’s by the Hutus which ravaged Rwanda in the early 1990’s.  

The next morning we left for Kigali, but not before Mum and I had a shouting match – her standing in reception and me standing 40 meters away in the breakfast area – because it was a 9am on a Sunday and we. had. to. get. going. We didn’t, we had no schedule, no time due in Kigali, but Mum was ready to get on the road. Nearly three weeks of travelling together and our first spat – not too bad. Going around Kigali proved to be an exercise of the blind leading the blind. At one point I was trying to explain to 7 motorbike taxi drivers that we were trying to go to Mount Kigali for sunset but the message was not computing. I tried every variation I could think of “Mount Kigali”, “Mountain Kigali”. “Mt, fullstop, Kigali”, “Top of the mountain of Kigali”. I had to enlist the help of our waiter to explain where we were going – “oh no, you are saying it wrong, you need to say it in French – ‘Mont’ Kigali”… sacrè bleu! We didn’t end up making it to “Mont Kigali” although we were treated to the finest display of our drivers’ Grand Prix skills, ducking and weaving in and out of each other, racing from traffic light to traffic light and even through a few. We may have been impressed if we hadn’t been dropped on a random street. Much confusion and shouting ensued; the drivers demanding to be paid, Mum and Chris demanding to be taken to our destination, an ever growing peanut gallery of curious civilians. I was trying my best to help resolve the situation however a street vendor selling The Economist caught my eye and I asked for a temporary ceasefire so I could negotiate with the hawker. My timing may not have been great but alls well ends well – the mototaxi drivers were paid, I had a two-week old edition of the Economist and we found a watering hole on foot. 

Our visit to the genocide museum proved unsurprisingly to be a very sobering and humanity questioning experience. It is unfathomable how the entire international community turned a blind eye to anti-Tutsi propaganda which raged in the years leading up to the genocide in 1994, which saw one million people killed in 100 days and an entire country traumatised. 

Our meeting with Will the Capricious didn’t yield the result we had hoped. He arrived without the deposit he was supposed to bring but with a promise to transfer it the following day. What better way to immerse yourself into a culture than to sit across from your scammer as he blunders through a million excuses in broken english. Mum and Chris played good cop and I slipped into bad cop, threatening to write a heinous trip advisor review (pulled the big guns out…). Walking back to our Airbnb, mum stopped to clip her fusia pink toenails (having just purchased the clippers from a street vendor) while Chris and I looked for playing cards in a shop next door – we came out of the shop to see a young man filing Mums toes and assisting with the trim, proving that Rwandans are as helpful as they are dextrous. 

Zulaika, a friend of Chris’s, joined our lava chasing convoy and we all returned to Gisenyi where this time, we were heading to Goma (town in Congo) to begin the hike the next day. Rock Lee Sicka helped us through the border and guided us through all of the handwashing and temperature checking stations in place to prevent the spread of Ebola. Trying to establish comeraderie and rapport, I remarked to Will that as he crosses the border daily, the hand washing rigmarole must get very old –  he replied sternly “well no, it prevents the spread of Ebola”. Fair play. Once at our accommodation he gave us a briefing of what was in store the following day and Mum’s eyes were wild with the fear that the hike was too challenging for her. He also let us in on the fact that in Congo tour operator circles, Will the Capricious runs a very dodgy operation with his accomplice Barack, often changing the company name once customers have been burned. Where were you two weeks ago Rock Lee Sicka!! Our deposit was looking more irrevocably lost than ever, by this point he had promised to transfer the deposit on four different occasions and we were still $1000 US in the red. 

A dusk trapse around the streets of Goma for a pharmacy was unsuccessful however Chris was harrassed by a mildly drunk man heckling about his hair and the fact that he was walking with mizungos. Chris later said he was about to punch him in the face but we are all very glad he didn’t, especially mum who said “well you don’t know where his cronies may have been” – clearly confusing Goma for Gotham City.  

Chris, spurred on by Rock Lee Sicka’s inside intel, took charge of the big guns and called around to some of his friends who knew Will the Capricious and his accomplice, Barack. We were told not to contact the dodgy duo again and expect payment within 24 hours. All in a few hours work from Chris – thank you and good night. 

The big day!!

We had an early start even though we didn’t begin the hike till 10am. We had to wait for our Virunga National Park patrol – the park has only been reopened since February due to the kidnapping of British tourists in May 2018. Thus it came as no surprise that the park takes its visitors safety very seriously, not even letting cars without pre-approved number plates drive through. I must admit, our whole hike was carried out with military precision which is a tribute to both the national park and our guide Rock Lee Sicka. The ascent was surprisingly comfortable, no doubt thanks to the many breaks and snacks we had. It was only on the descent that we realised how steep the hike was and let fly a cacaphony of complaints about our knees, hips, feets etc etc. Interestingly, the hiking path was carved by the 2002 eruption and a large portion of the ascent was through volcanic rock. For any hopeful climbers, prepare to clamber as it is nigh impossible to find sure footing on volcanic rock. 

We reached the lip of the lava lake at around 3.30 pm in high spirits which surged into sheer delight when we saw an eruption unfolding in the lake. I looked at Rock Lee Sicka’s face as he summited and it was equal parts shock and amazement. He told us many times that night how lucky we were to see the explosion as it hadn’t happened since February 2016. Most hikers only see the crater lake, which is incredibly impressive in itself, but we were treated to the whole kit and kaboodle – crater lake, flowing lava river system and mini eruption. It was truly the most dramatic and imposing thing I have ever seen –  you feel so small and helpless watching the lava spurt into the air and your mind keeps circling back to how quickly you would incinerate if you tried to get within 200 metres. And how Frodo must have felt once he reached Mount Doom. We were 800 metres away and could still feel the heat radiating from the lava lake. This was very welcome as night time closed in and the temperature plummeted. Donning gloves, beanies and throwing on layer after layer we realised that Armani, our beautiful bald chef with the most jubilant grin and sewing machine hips, was using socks to keep his digits warm – Mum promised to bequeath her gloves and beanie to him the next day and he ended up wearing them the whole way down the mountain, pulling them off just before he went home to look at his hands which he decided were “so white now”. 

We all watched Mt Nyiragongo, the firey mama, blow off steam until the deep chill sunk into our bones and we could stand the unforgiving cold no more – naturally Mum was off to bed in ten minutes and Chris and I stood each other off in a battle of wits for another few hours, mesmerised by the eruption. I can say with upmost certainty that watching a lava lake is the foxtel+ of bush tv. Our sleeping bags provided little warmth and I asked Mum through chattering teeth to spoon – “No Lauren, it wouldn’t work through the sleeping bags”. It was a cold and lonely night for me, dreaming of the warm touch of a hot water bottle. 

It came as no surprise that we hadn’t received our deposit back from Will the Capricious so Chris put a call into said friends and before long $880 clams had been transferred to his account – apparently the difference was the admin and conversion fee… zebras truly don’t change their stripes.  We said a sad goodbye to Chris with an imparting promise to host him in Australia and return to Uganda soon (Jonny – saddle up). Zulaika and Chris drove off towards Uganda and only two days later would we learn that I left the now three week old Economist in Chris’s car – happy reading Chris and thanks for the best three weeks. 

Not long after Chris and Zulaika left, Mum and I hopped on two motortaxis who drag raced through the streets of Gisenyi to the bus station. A very fitting end to the trip. Mum climbed aboard the bus to Kigali and I stood awkwardly at her window as the 3.30 pm departure was pushed to 3.35, 3.40, 3.45 etc etc etc – there’s only so many kisses you can blow but apparently no limit on how desperate you can look. Mum, it was a proper adventure and I am beyond impressed at how you said no to nothing (except a swamp walk) and found something to laugh at in everything we did. It was simply the best travelling with you and I can’t wait to do it again. 

Love to all

Chapter 5: Lozzy the The Congo Nile Trail (CNT) has to be the hardest thing I have ever done – 223km of bloody hills has rendered me more distrustful of a downhill than pulling someone’s finger. The scenery was stunning, as we are on the equator everything is so green and lush with terraced mountains cascading down the hills and huts peeping out from banana trees. This made the downhills very pleasant – until the inevitable uphill came into sight. 

Day one and two (35 and 67 km respectively) were on a dirt track and days three and four (76 and 47 km respectively) were on a tar road. On my tar road days there were dirt trails which diverted from the main road however I was shit scared to add anymore kilometres so kept my head down and pedalled straight. I would love to see a photo of me as I pulled into my rest stop each afternoon around 3 or 4 – muddy, red faced and shattered. Or maybe I wouldn’t. To those out there who go on long term biking expeditions, I tip my helmet to you. 

While I did this ride without a guide or fellow cyclist, it definitely wasn’t solo. I can say without doubt that I wouldn’t have gone anymore than 100 metres over the whole journey without someone yelling “mizungu” or children shouting “give me money”. On one occasion, after the third straight kilometre of hill, I needed to collect myself and I had to hide in a ditch so people wouldn’t climb down from the trees/run to the road to see how pathetic I was.  

I must thank all the children who raced along side me while I went uphill, the curious bikists who would appoint themselves as pacers (often heavily laiden with bananas, beer bottles, onions, sugarcane, bricks etc etc) and the men and women would would encouragingly nod to me and gesture up the hill to say “keep going you are nearly there!” – not that I ever was. One particular kid, Jacques, helped me push my bike the whole way up a 8km dirt hill. As a believer in pacing oneself and hydration, I tried to stop him multiple times so I could catch my breath – sweetening the deal by offering him some water. Jacques was to have none of this, shaking his head and continuing to push. I nearly cried 3 to 4 times on this uphill and I would have cried at least 10 times if it weren’t for Jacques. At the top I shared my lunch with the little legend who had just put my fitness to shame. 

Packed in like sardines, four people across each of the eight rows and a few babies on laps. All aboard the Kivu Belt Express from Kamembe (the end of my bike ride) to Gisenyi (to return my bike). My bike had been dismantled and the seat, two wheels and frame were manouvered under the back seat. We had 8 mattresses (from all the school children who had just been sitting their exams and thus  sleeping at school), buckets of school books, a huge bag of onions, long stalks of sugarcane stretching down the bus and party sized thermosii on most riders laps hurtling around every corner at hair raising speeds. I had sore abs for two days after the ride from bracing myself for the 7 hour journey. I still can’t decide whether the driver was a haphazard maniac or fantastically skilled. Theme parks can spruke their thrill factor all they want but nothing makes the stomach lurch like overtaking around a corner on single lane roads in the pouring rain. We were stopped by the police and everyone clambered out for a bag search – one of the guys was caught trying to smuggle contraband jeans from Uganda and the police officer threw them all across the road. We boarded again and as we drove off two men carried a squealing pig tied to a stick by its fore and back legs across the road. Throughout the ride babies were passed around to the most cajoling rider (never me) until they started to cry and then passed promptly back to the owner.  The man in front of me would roll down the window every few minutes and hurl a gob of spit so big you would thing the dentist had just asked him to rinse. I cherished these three or so seconds because of thee air ventilation it provided to me in the back right seat. Whenever we slowed down (no, not stopped) to let people off/on, hawkers selling corn on the cob would come to the windows and the window seaters would buy a few, break them in halves or thirds and share them throughout the bus. Getting on and off the bus required clambering over all other passengers in your way as quick as you could so you could make it to the door before the bus sped back up again. I was very pleased that I was due to get off at the last stop however the rest of the bus must have been disappointed given the pong coming from the back right seat. When I finally got off, my bike was pulled from under the back seat and put on the road in four parts – two wheels, frame & seat. I could do nothing except laugh in my exhausted delirium – I had made it all the way along the Congo Nile Trail and back but the task of assembling a bike would be the undoing of me. I didn’t have long to laugh, within about thirty seconds moto drivers had circled around me and set to work assembling my bike. I paid the two men who put my bike back together but wasn’t as generous to the moto driver who asked for payment for shining his headlight (which was already on) onto the operation. 

After returning to Gisenyi to drop the bike back, I made my way back to Kigali (the capital) to meet up with a traveller I had met on the CNT, Hannah, to head into Tanzania with. It seems as if our meeting were fate – we are both flying to the UK on the same flight, want to do the same activities in Tanzania and Hannah has a two person tent! Match made in heaven. 

With Mum gone it was time to take my finances, or lack therof, by the horns and embrace the string budget lifestyle. I decided to couch surf. Manma, couch surfing is a website where you connect with people who have a spare room or couch that you can sleep on for free.

My first couch surfing experience was interesting. My host, Janviere, was lovely and it wasn’t before long that I realised the only reason why I had been accepted was because I was from Australia, like the Hillsong band – a famous Christian band. Janviere took me on a tour of Musanze (a town on the way to Kigali), most of which was walking through the shopping mall. That night I cooked dinner to Hillsong’s greatest hits while Janviere sat on the couch singing to her hearts content. All my attempts to encourage conversation over dinner were fruitless, the family clearly preferring to chew in silent unison when not belting out Hillsong. The toilet outside was a squat loo and the flip flops I had been given to walk around in were unfortunately not made for big hooves so I had to crunch my toes up real tight so they didn’t trapse over other people’s excrement – while I was squatting my foot cramped and I was essentially stuck mid squat in the dark until the cramp subsided. Just when I thought I was getting the hand of the whole squat loo thing. The next morning Janviere kindly boiled some water for me to have a bucket bath with and set it up in the far right corner of the living room and kitchen. I bathed in the corner of the living room while Janviere and her brother waited outside. 

That afternoon I boarded a bus to Kigali, a bit apprehensive about my next couch surfing experience. This place was entirely different to my first. Our host, Anand, is from India and works as a CFO at a bank however as his family is in India he uses the spare rooms in his house to host couch surfers. Not long after arriving, tea brewed with ginger, cardamom and lemongrass was brought out (it was amazing) and that night we were treated to a scrumptious Indian fare. The next morning breakfast was also served much to my delight, Hannah was quite cool about the whole affair which makes me think that she, as a seasoned couch sitter, has experienced such hospitality before. At the end of our stay, Anand dropped us to the bus station in the pouring rain and on the way told us a bit about how he grew up very poor but has a gift with numbers and so through hard work has worked his way to where he is despite never going to university.

Hannah and I currently sitting on a very cramped bus, having just started our three day bus journey into Tanzania (help us!!!).

Much love xx