Rwanda road trip (summer 2023)

Aug 5, 2023

After we got the Summer mission team (including my wife) to the airport and made sure they were all checked in, my friend Emmy and I hit the road. We had a long journey if we were going to make our stops on the way to Rwanda.

Of course no road trip is complete without proper tunes. We started off the journey with a little late 90s tunes. Thankfully Emmy has a car with bluetooth and a great sound system. Also, the main roads out of Uganda are well maintained, so after 2 weeks of bumping around on dirt roads, it nice great to not have any pot holes to put up with.

This was the first trip Emmy and I were able to take together. We’ve been friends for over 7 years, but often get very little time together.

Along the way, we saw school kids hanging out of a truck going way too fast down the road. They loved posing for the white guy. Also we stopped for a quick photo at the equator.

We drove several hours until after dark. We stayed the night in Mbarara, Uganda. It’s a town in southern Uganda. Emmy had a friend who was visiting there that night so we got to hang out with him for a bit after we arrived.

The next morning we hit the road as we still had a long drive ahead of us. I had my international driving permit, so I got to weave in and out of cars for a couple hours on the open roads. Driving on the other side of the road in a car where the steering wheel is also on a different side took some getting used to, but was overall a lot of fun.

Crossing the border into Rwanda was an experience. People run up to your car offering you what they think you’ll need, exchanging money, insurance to take your car across the border, whatever. We ended up going to a nearby office for some paperwork and the little office had over 30 little wasp nests on the ceiling with wasps flying around. Nobody seemed bothered by it for some reason. Later we saw a kid posing for his photo in front of our car.

Once we arrived in Rwanda we navigated the windy, mountainous roads. The country side was beautiful. Here they are growing tea.

We stopped a few times along the way. We flew the drone through this town, and some people were legitimately scared of it. I actually had to take it out of the sky because a swarm of large birds were trying to attack it.

We arrived at the capital city of Kigali after a couple more hours of driving. The first thing you notice is how clean the city is. Also, in contrast to Uganda is that the roads are in great condition. They take the time to cover the sides of the street so there is no open sewage. Also in contrast to Uganda is the way people drive. It is much more “organized” than Uganda and the roads are closer to what it’s like driving here in the USA.

This is Danny, a good childhood friend of Emmy. He’s a Rwandan who grew up in Uganda because of the genocides taking place in the 1990s. He moved back to Rwanda about 5 years ago to connect with his home country.

When most people think of Rwanda, they think of the genocide and that movie called “Hotel Rwanda”. The original hotel from the movie is pictured above right. Well, a lot has changed in the 29 years since the genocide, including incredible economic growth and peace. And while there are still pockets of lingering hatred and prejudice, the country has become a model for facilitating healing and reconciliation after such a dark part of their history. They have a fantastic memorial dedicated to remembering the conflict.

Each day the 3 of us did a good job of starting our day off right with some Java House for breakfast and coffee. One of the days we ended up going to do some horse back riding, archery and zip lining. Emmy took some proper shaming before deciding he was going to actually get on the horse. But eventually he did.

We went to the markets in the older part of town. This experience was like nothing else I’ve ever encountered. The most tightly packed and aggressive vendors you could image. At any given time you might have 3-5 people actively talking to you trying to pull you into their shop. About an hour was all we could take.

During our trip we made a few friends. This is a few of us at lunch eating an authentic Uganda “local food” restaurant. I love this picture because Danny wouldn’t stop eating long enough to take the photo and everyone was getting annoyed with him. Note the death glare from our friend Denise.

Rwanda was a very beautiful country, like Uganda but also very different. The capital city of Kigali is called, “the city of 1000 hills” and it’s true. Also, they grow a lot of rice and very large bamboo plants.

This photo is Emmy sitting in a creepy chair made out of fake monkeys. It was bizarre. Also, we hang out a lot in the evenings in the downtown near a convention center and shopping mall. Our original plan was to drive up to North-West to visit Lake Rohundo, but after making some friends in the city we decided to stick around instead.

On our drive home we bought some fish from an Ugandan Rastafarian, and did a photo shoot with some Ugandan police who came to check on us while we were illegally parked in the center divider. I paid them each a $1 for their photos and they were overjoyed.

After we got home we had a day in Kampala running errands. We got to have a last dinner together to celebrate our successful journey, then early the next morning Emmy dropped me off at Entebbe airport.