Mention travel to me, and this is my typical response: a cheesy grin and an eagerness to discuss it. But I contracted a bad travel attitude when I arrived in Kigali. Luckily the symptoms were only temporary, but they were tough to shake.
I arrived in Kigali, and luckily, I met some really nice Kenyans and a Congolese on my bus ride who offered to have their taxi drop me off in town. I went to the ATM and then lugged my stuff to Rwanda’s Tourism office, known as ORTPN. The guidebook didn’t list any sort of hostel or backpacker place but I was certain there must be one. When I inquired in the tourism office (by the way the employees are really helpful there), they informed me that there wasn’t anything of the sort in Kigali. So I went to the cheapest hotel in the Lonely Planet which said a single was $10. When I got there it was double the price. I expect an increase in price from the publish date but that was quite a bit! I have since discovered that the Bradt guide lists much better options for budget accommodations in Africa, but I didn’t find that out until five days later. Since I was stuck in Kigali for about a week, I was certain I could bargain, but they wouldn’t budge. I hauled my stuff back uphill to another hotel I had seen and they wanted 15000 Rwf. With my tail between my legs I walked back to the first hotel and booked a room.
Since I had time to kill for a few days, I started to plan my next stops through Southern Africa. I had been collaborating with a tour company, as many parks and cool spots in Southern Africa aren’t accessible (or at least easily) with public transport. When I thought we had worked out a plan, the agent quit, and the short story is that it didn’t work out. Since I wanted to head to Malawi or Zambia next, I knew I needed to either cut through Burundi and Tanzania or just through Tanzania. The problem? I would have to string together a series of 8 or so buses and need a full week to do so. A week on public transport in Africa sounded rough, and I feel like it’s 10 times more painful to wing things like that when you’re by yourself. Not to mention that it was cutting into a week of sightseeing for me. I was starting to get frustrated.
I could look into booking other tours, but I’m not sure I could afford them. I started to show my frustrations outwardly. A boy yelled ‘mzungu’ (white person) at me on the street, and let’s just say if looks could kill…. well, that poor boy. That’s when it hit me that I had a travel ‘tude, and I needed to get over it. I’ve wanted to go to Namibia for quite some time now. The other stops in Southern Africa are important to me but Namibia is by far the most intriguing for me. I would have to do what I could and make the most of it, even if it meant forking over some cash.
On Sunday May 23, I was to participate in the Kigali International Peace Half-Marathon. While I was terribly out of running shape and knew the high altitude would be a killer, I wasn’t too worried. Yes it might suck but mentally I would drag my way through it. Oh how wrong I was. It started an hour late, and by 9am it was hot. It was steady hills for the most part, and the high altitude left me gasping for air. I had run a total of 3 times in the past 6 weeks due to the rains in Kenya (how terrible is that!) and my last race was to the lowest point on Earth (i.e. low altitude). None of those things were what did me in though; the final straw was that I never got any water. By the third station I was told they ‘ran out’. It’s a 6.5 mile loop, meaning you have to run it twice for the half and four times for the full. What were they thinking?!! I finished my first loop and pathetically called it quits. I could have gone a little further, but with the heat there’s no way I would have made it the whole way without any water. I was angry at the organizers and simultaneously just disappointed with myself. I realized that regardless of the water situation, I had to get back into a training routine again. I later emailed the director of the race since they have run out of water in the past, you would think they would have learned by now. He simply blamed the people that work for him and took no responsibility. I don’t suggest the Kigali Marathon to anyone.
Long-term travel presents ups and downs for everyone (at least I assume so). However, the bad attitude I brought on myself, and if you can’t shake it, you will end up like me- giving deadly looks to some poor boy on the street. I’ve realized that even though I’m practically bleeding money in Rwanda and my next destination is largely uncertain, it will all work out. Why am I so confident? Well kids, it just has to. I can’t afford to stay in Rwanda much longer, so one way or another I will find onward transport and enjoy the ride!
Three days ago, I booked a flight from Kigali to Malawi for June 3rd. While my wallet is taking a hard hit, and I wanted so badly to go overland through Africa, I think it would be stupid of me to cut into my limited time in Southern Africa for the sake of overlanding. From Malawi I will continue overland to Cape Town. Part of the reason I am limited on time is because my initial plan was to go straight to Zambia. However, after meeting people who had gone to Malawi and reading about it, I couldn’t resist its description as ‘the warm heart of Africa.’ Everyone raves about how friendly the people are, and I’m looking forward to staying by the lake for a few days and hopefully diving into some volunteer work!