Last weekend Key and I were fortunate enough to go on a trip to Gisenyi (Rubavu) on Lake Kivu. Our friend Willy, who also brought us to Akagera, and his friend Maggie accompanied us. We chose this weekend strategically because there was a music festival and it was an umuganda weekend (The last Saturday of every month is called ‘umuganda’ and roads and stores are closed down so locals participate in community-building activities) so we were able to leave on the Friday afternoon. Many people from Kigali also ventured to Gisenyi that weekend for a music festival, which is usually one of the highlights of summer.
The first interesting thing I found about this trip was the drive. The journey took three hours and it was all on a single road that wound up and down hills. As we wove across the hilly terrain out of Kigali and into the Western Province, we saw the sun set over the hills and how the lights of remote villages were scattered in the darkness. Halfway there we stopped in Musanze for a stretch, some brochette, and roasted potatoes. The brochette there was just as amazing as Willy and Maggie promised. When we got to Gisenyi, we pulled up to the Havanna Hotel. We didn’t get to see the view on our first night because we arrived so late. I passed out as soon as we got in the room and didn’t even hear Willy knocking and asking us if we wanted to get food.
The next day, we got up bright and early to explore. We started off with our hotel. To me, this hotel should get 4 out of 5 stars mainly because only 4 of the 5 floors were finished being built. Our (mine and Key’s) room was on the 4th floor and when we went to explore the 5th, there wasn’t one… Besides the concrete floor foundation, there were no rooms, walls, or roof. Even though it looked dangerous, I didn’t mind so much and it didn’t bother me because our room was fine. The hotel had a nice view of Lake Kivu and the whole town of Gisenyi. We took a few pictures with the view and then went to reception for breakfast. They served us eggs, bread, fruit, and tea. It was funny because the dining table where breakfast was served was right beside someone’s room and he came walking out in a towel. He really did not care.
We headed to the Serena Hotel on Lake Kivu. Looking back, this day has been one of my favourite days in Rwanda. We chilled on the beach, played volleyball, Key and I rode on a Jetski for the first time (I drove), and met some really cool people from Kigali. Some people even asked Key and I to pose for a picture with a T-shirt that had their company branding on it. Locals of Rubavu stood on the sidewalk and stared at all of us on the beach the whole time. Willy explained that this happens a lot because locals are always interested in how people from the ‘big city’ act. We also drove past the music festival and saw the concert from afar but opted to stay on the beach and relax instead. We went to a buffet restaurant for lunch and when I walked past the dishes and made my plate, I saw a whole goat head in one. As a joke, I asked the waiter how much it was to buy it and he told me 2000rwf, which is about $3CAD so I told him to hook me up. He brought it to our table on a plate and Key, being the vegetarian she is, almost threw up. I am always excited to try new foods so I didn’t hesitate to dig my fork into it. With Willy and Maggie, I ate its cheek, tongue, and brain. Then Willy dared me to eat the eyeball… So I ate both. And he recorded it.
The first one was weird because I had to get used to the taste and texture. As I chewed, there were different layers that each felt and tasted different. I kept chewing as it popped and gushed and eventually, it tasted really good. I can now say that I’ve eaten goat eyes.
After our day spent the beach, we went back to the hotel to clean up and get ready before we went to a party. We checked out a few of the different parties that were happening across the town and met a lot of people our age. We ended up eating at the Serena hotel, which was expensive but good.
The rest of the weekend was very similar to the first but we knew more people and more about the area. We found cooler parties, better food, and many of the people we had met earlier. During one of these parties, we were at a restaurant on the beach when Willy, Maggie, Key, and I decided to play truth or dare. The stakes were kind of high and things got pretty interesting… We had a lot of fun and got to know a lot about each other. One of Willy’s friend’s, “The General”, came to play and he was quite the character; he travelled to the different parties with his posse in a safari bus.
Key and I decided to stay another day and so we had to take a bus back to Kigali. The bus was so long and Key slept on my shoulder for most of it. In Musanze, I had to get more of those brochettes and I almost missed the bus. All I saw was Key’s head out the window and her whisper-yelling for me to hurry up. I jumped on just in time and we continued on the long ride to Kigali. The bus pulled in to the station across town from our house, the Nyabugogo Bus Station. We struggled to find a taxi and when we finally did… We found a taxi that looked like it had been through quite a struggle itself. It had a broken windshield and when we pulled out of the lot, the door flew open. The driver didn’t even stop. He just reached over, one hand on the wheel, and pulled it closed. It was a bit of a nervous ride after that but we got home all right.
All in all, it was a great weekend trip. We got out of our house, out of the city, and off of our phones. This really sparked an interest in Key and I to travel more across Rwanda and maybe to more countries during our remaining time in East Africa.