(R)Wandarer Diaries: 5 must-see places in Musanze (North)

Hello!

Let the journey continue. To the North we go!

Musanze is a cosy agricultural town in the Northern part of Rwanda. Compared to Kigali, life is more relaxed and the inhabitants of the town are friendly and accommodating. Things are cheaper, especially food and one can tour the town, even on a small budget. The best forms of transport which are all affordable are motorcycles, minivans and bicycles, which are fun to take, especially if you’re in a group. The weather can get chillingly cold at night, though, and it is advisable to travel with a couple of heavy jumpers or sweaters.

Out of the several scenic places to visit within the town and its outskirts, these are the 5 must-see places:

  1. Lake Kivu

You haven’t seen Rwanda if you haven’t gone to Lake Kivu. From Musanze, you must take a 1 hour bus ride to Rubavu City for about 1500RWF. The public beach is easily accessible in Serena Hotel, Lake Kivu Beach where entry is free. The view of the Lake is best seen at sunset or sunrise but one can go at any time. Boat rides are also available for a reasonable price (about 1500RWF). On the Lake, you will get to see small islands that litter the lake. Also, if you don’t have a camera or want a professional one taken, there are photographers who can take you pictures and even print them for you for about 800RWF per picture. The sea breeze is relaxing and if you can find a quiet spot to rest along the beach, it can prove to be an emotionally stimulating experience.

lake-kivu-at-dusk-rubavu-photo-credits-soila
Lake Kivu at dusk, Rubavu City. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. Congo Border

This is also in Rubavu City and can be seen on the same day you go to the lake. The bustling border is flowing under a constant stream of Congolese crossing over to Rwanda. The difference between the Congolese and Rwandese is distinct, mostly in their dressing style, destroying the notion that Africans all have basically the same cultures. When allowed through to go see the border itself (it is advised to go with a Rwandese who knows the area), you can see the gate that separates Congo from Rwanda and stand in the no-man’s-land between the two countries. It’s quite a sobering experience to see how different the two countries are, even at their borders. The border security is tight, though and you might not be allowed to take pictures.

15776760_1188827327837644_5960602508396332119_o
Suzan Kinyanjui in front of the Congo Border. Photo Credits: Alvin Ngugi
  1. Rubindi River

This is a great chance to witness the domestic life in Musanze. It is located in Byangabo Centre and is a short walk off the main road. One can see the locals as they plant various agricultural products such as sorghum and dry them in the sun. The river snakes through various settlements where the farmers take full advantage of it. The area is rocky, making it necessary for them to gather the volcanic soil form surrounding areas and pack it onto rocks so they can plant. There is also a natural spring that bubbles up from the ground and is used as drinking water. The river ends in an unseen underground waterfall that can be heard if you stand near it. Lots of legends and myths surround this wonderful phenomenon.

 

 

rubindi-river-musanze-photo-credits-soila
River Rubindi. Photo Credits: Soila Kenya
natural-spring-near-rubindi-river-musanze-photo-credits-soila
Natural Spring near Rubindi River. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. Caves

For those more daring, visiting the various caves available at these caves are a great delight as you enter the pitch blackness with torches and find your way among the slippery muck to the other side. Children in the area are willing to guide you for a small fee (about 100RWF depending on how many help you). The cave varies between wide echoing caverns to narrow barely-there spaces that you have to squeeze through. It takes about 10 minutes to traverse the whole cave and the pictures you can take are well-worth the trip.

inside-the-caves-musanze-photo-credits-soila
A couple of friends in one of the caves. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. Hot Springs Massage

These are located near Lake Kivu (but in a different section from the beach). It costs 500RWF for East African members to enter. The natural hot spring bubbles up near the lake and the masseuses use it to give customers an herbal massage for 1500RWF. It lasts about 15mins and by the time they’re through with you, your legs and feet feel amazingly refreshed. Also included in the treatment is a foot mud bath where they encase your feet in hot mud for 5mins. It’s great fun, especially with friends.

There are lots more places to visit in Musanze such as the volcanoes etc, and if you have time you can explore more places.

foot-mud-bath-at-hot-springs-near-lake-kivu-rubavu-photo-credits-soila
Daphne Bochaberi enjoying a foot mud bath at the side of Lake Kivu. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
hot-spring-massage-near-lake-kivu-rubavu-photo-credits-soila
Suzan Kinyanjui at the hot springs

Join me next week for a trip to the West!

 

(R)Wanderer Diaries: 8 things to do in Huye (South)

Guess who visited the land of 1000 hills? img_20170105_114834

I did!!

Through AIESEC. I was there for 5 weeks and I had an amazing experience I would like to share with you all in a series of blog posts. I was doing a project called Explore Rwanda which included traveling around the country and documenting the beauty of Rwanda through articles, videos and pictures. So because of that, the format of the posts will be more like a guide for people interested in traveling to the country who’d like to tour. I try give prices and locations of the places I talk about in the hopes it will be beneficial to you all.

We start off with a trip to the South!

8 things to do in Huye (South)

Huye is a town located in the southern part of Rwanda and is a traveler’s paradise. It has lots of tourist attractions, both conventional and unconventional. Most of them can be seen within 3-4 days and most of them are located within the town itself. The weather is moderately hot, but perfect for traveling around.

  1. Ethnographic Museum

The museum, located near the Huye bus park, contains the culture of Rwanda from the pre-colonial era to the current age. For a fee of 1000RWF for East African Students or 3000RWF for East African residents, you are provided with a guide to take you through the museum, however, pictures are not allowed.

You get to see Rwandese musical instruments, weaponry, alcohol brewery, basketry and much more. There are several replicas of ancient tools used such as umbrellas, boats and smoking pipes. There is also a room with a replica of a traditional Rwandese hut that you are allowed to enter. The entire tour takes about one hour and is well worth your time, especially for any history buffs.

ethnographic-museum-huye-photo-credits-soila-2
Outside the Ethnographic Museum. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. Huye Stadium

The stadium is located very near the museum. If you are lucky to get inside, you can take pictures on the track and of the stands. It’s especially fun to do with friends. The best time would be to get them when a game is ongoing.

huye-stadium-on-the-tracks-huye-photo-credits-soila
On the tracks at the Huye Stadium. Photo credits: Minnie Gitonga
  1. University of Rwanda Arboretum

The university is located in the centre of town and requires an ID to enter. From the main entrance, the arboretum is a stone’s throw away. You can take a leisurely walk through the forest.

university-of-rwanda-arboretum-huye-photo-credits-daphne-b
My friends and I inside the arboretum. Photo credits: Daphne Bochaberi
  1. Cathedral

The cathedral is the oldest one in Rwanda and still hosts church services. It is an awesome site for photographers as the numerous towers majestically jut into the sky. It’s best visited at dusk or dawn for the added dramatic effect of the sun’s rays.

cathedral-huye-huye-photo-credits-soila
Cathedral Huye at dusk. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. Huye Mountain Coffee

Among all these touristic locations, this is the most fun – but it involves hiking. The tour consists of a walk up Tale hill where there are large plantations of Arabica coffee. You get the full history of coffee, first in the world, and then in Rwanda. Actually, at the end of it all, you may consider yourself a sort of rookie coffee expert. The steep hill might prove tiresome but is worth it in the end. Once on top, you can roast your own coffee beans that will be ground and packed for you to take home. The friendly guide, nicknamed ‘Mr.Coffee’ makes the whole experience ten times better with his friendly personality. When you get back down the hill, you are served with the freshest blend of coffee that you can drink to your fill. The whole tour costs 8000RWF for East African students.

roasting-coffee-beans-atop-tale-hill-huye-photo-credits-soila
Roasting coffee with ‘Mr. Coffee’ on Tale Hill. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. King’s Palace Museum

This is one of the collection of museums found in Rwanda, located in Nyanza, a 45-minute bus ride from Huye. It focuses on the history of Rwandese royalty, from their dress to their dwellings and to the traditions surrounding their existence. The tour consists of first seeing the traditional abode of a King – the museum has a replica of this traditional hut. You get to see the interior whilst being given an explanation of the King’s courtly duties and how he was treated by the community. The next part of the tour is another walk round a replica of the modern house that the last King of Rwanda lived in before Belgium occupation of the country. The whole tour costs 1000RWF for East African students and 2000RWF to take pictures.

kings-traditional-hut-kings-palace-museum-nyanza-photo-credits-soila
My friends and I in front of a traditional King’s hut in the King’s Palace Museum. Photo credits: Tour guide
  1. Murambi Memorial

This is one of the more graphic genocide memorials in the country. It is located in Nyamagabe, which is about 30 minutes from Huye. It is located in a compound that was meant to become a technical college, and was still under construction. However, what happened instead was a dark and haunting tale. 50,000 unsuspecting Rwandese were rounded up there under pretense of protection but were instead brutally slaughtered en masse and buried in the compound in mass graves where volley ball fields were built on to try and cover up the atrocities that took place there. Bodies preserved in lime are put on display in some of the would-be class rooms as physical evidence of the lives lost on that fateful night. Visitors are allowed to leave messages on a board in the museum in condolence with the victims and their families. The whole experience is jarring and brings the genocide into stark relief, especially for outsiders, but is not for the faint-hearted.

murambi-memorial-nyamagabe-photo-credits-soila
Front view of Murambi Memorial. Photo credits: Soila Kenya
  1. Inzozi Nziza

The name means ‘Sweet Dreams’ in Kinyarwanda. This is an ice cream parlour located within Huye town, a stone’s throw away from the university. At affordable rates one can be served a variety of ice creams with different toppings. They also have other beverages and munchies, all served with extremely friendly service. It proved a nice way to wind down after a full day of touring.

inzozi-nziza-ice-cream-huye-photo-credits-soila
Ice cream at Inzozi Nziza. Photo credits: Soila Kenya

That’s it for this post. Please look forward to the next installment next week where we’ll be going up North!

 

Tangier, Almost-Spain, Swahilian and Long train rides

The six values of AIESEC are:

  1. Striving for excellence
  2. Acting sustainably
  3. Living diversity
  4. Activating leadership
  5. Demonstrating integrity
  6. Enjoying participation

Note how I have emboldened number 3. That’s because this past weekend I really experienced LIVING DIVERSITY.

Another week, another adventure, and this time I was off to Tangier, a city in the North of Morocco, the nearest point of Africa to Europe at the Strait of Gibraltar.

IMG_1008
Found this at a cafe we visited on Saturday evening

More interns have come and now we’re so many. It’s like a hodge podge of…well people from all sorts of countries, nationalities, cultures and mentalities.

According to the ever-helpful AIESEC INTERNATIONAL website,

Living Diversity

We seek to learn from the different ways of life and opinions represented in our multicultural environment. We respect and actively encourage the contribution of every individual.

…and the visit to Tanger was made all the more sweeter because of this.

IMG_0335 IMG_0529 IMG_0672 IMG_0898The trip took like 7 hours on the train and we traveled all night. But lucky for me I actually like long trips 🙂

Tangier is a city like any other in Morocco but yet it is so different. It has the added flavour of Spain’s influence and in this city you can buy things with Euros. A good number of locals speak Spanish and as compared to the rest of Morocco I have seen, they speak more English too. I guess it’s because it’s a very touristic city and they survive on selling their merchandise to tourists who speak English.

We trekked in the city’s medina of course…

IMG_0532

and went to the beach (again)…

IMG_1365

The only problem with traveling with such a huge number of people is that it’s hard to coordinate everyone. So obviously there was a lot of waiting and I was the cause of the waiting at some point hehe oops…

Anyway….I kinda feel this weekend was a waste cause we only went to one city so I’ll talk about my work here in Morocco.

I’m teaching English in a library where kids of all ages go for extra French and English lessons. It’s interesting work cause I get to use all the knowledge I learned throughout high school about tenses and what-not. At the time I just thought, “As long as I know how to speak and write English, I’m Ok. What’s the need for all the intense Grammar lessons?” But all those ‘intense grammar lessons are starting to pay off. My ‘students’ (feels so weird to say that) are around my age actually and just need to polish up their English. They aren’t at complete zero so it’s a lot easier. So far so good.

As my time here comes to an end (2 and a half weeks left) I’m already starting to feel nostalgic. Missing the people I’ve met even though I’m not back home yet. It’s a strange feeling, when I know I’ll see them tomorrow or the day after. But just the thought that at some point they won’t be that accessible to me…*le sigh* I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

That’s all for now. Look forward to more adventure tales next week 🙂

PS: Swahilian is Swahili+Romanian and it’s a language/culture/country that’s going to rock the world. We’ll buy an island and establish our empire. Now you know.

IMG_0479Big Love!

-bigshort

The Valley of Hell and other Inter-realm expeditions

This weekend is probably going to be one of the highlights of my trip to Morocco. Mainly because of the people I traveled with 🙂

IMG_9030As I said in my last post, I visited Paradise Valley and Agadir.

We travelled throughout Friday night as it takes about 7 hours to get to Agadir from Casa but I love long bus rides so I was totally Ok with it. Plus I had my trusty e-reader to keep me occupied. But mostly we slept. We arrived next morning at like 7 o’ clock and went to the apartments we were staying in and slept till 11 o’clock cause yeah we were tired. Sleeping on a bus is obviously not that comfortable.

First order of business was a day at the beach. Which was really fun of course. With such a large group of people the silliness was never-ending.

IMG_9268After attempting to build a sandcastle (which failed terribly)…

IMG_9089

…and trying to bury one of us (well it kinda worked out halfway-ish) (lol sorry Jenn please don’t kill me)

IMG_9087

…and doing a lot of other beach thingies like swimming lol…

IMG_9115…we called it a day and headed back to the apartment. Since we were all technically fasting, we decided to cook Iftar (the time fast is broken during Ramadan) meal for ourselves. And staying true to my nature, I walked around taking pictures of people cooking instead of helping out 🙂

IMG_9442 IMG_9445 IMG_9448 IMG_9485Ok, anyway, fast forward to a few hours later (after we ate of course)…

IMG_9511

and we were at a bonfire at the beach were we played games (or tried to) and danced to AIESEC roll calls (again, or tried to). It was really fun pretending we were actually doing normal campfire things but the sea at night was beautiful. Unfortunately my camera couldn’t capture it without flash and of course flash ruined everything. There was a gibbous moon and it was eerily bright. It was able to illuminate the waves in the sea and…it was just awesome. I kept feeling if I had been alone there without the fire, it would have been an excellent scene for a story. Hmmm, maybe I’ll try once I’m back home.

Somehow, I feel like this isn’t the first time I’m saying that. It seems like I’ll have a lot to do once I’m back. That’s if I even remember…*le sigh*

Anywaaaay…

Next day (Sunday), we were off to Paradise Valley. Now don’t get me wrong. The place is beautiful once we GOT there, but the going was rough. We were driven to a pint were we had to hike, which is no problem for me. I love hiking but it was like 1000 degrees and we didn’t seem to be getting to the place. To make things worse, we had been told it would only take us 20 minutes to get there. I think in the end we took at least 1 hour…or maybe more. There was a lot of rock climbing going on, in a sense, and being AIESECers, we kept saying it was ‘team building’ but there were a few moments I thought I was going to fall and crack my head. Ok, a LOT of moments.

As we kept walking and walking and seemingly not reaching our destination, we started singing “We’re on the highway to hell…” hence the title of this blog post. Instead of the Paradise we were promised, we got the boiling temperatures and treacherous terrain of the seventh circle of hell…well that sounded dramatic, but still…

Good news though, we finally got there.

IMG_9967

Our taxi driver graciously invited us to have Iftar with him and his family, but I can’t find the picture unfortunately. I think I deleted some by mistake. Oops.

We headed back to Casa Monday morning and got back some time in the evening.

So there you have it my weekend was spent with some amazing individuals which made it all the more special. I hope to have more memories like these 🙂

Fes, Roman ruins, Wanderlust and AIESEC Conferences

Hello!!!

I’m back with more Adventure-time tales 🙂

This is coming late though. It’s for last weekend but one. I didn’t have Wi-Fi so…yeah. I’ll post the one for this last weekend within the next few days.I had written this a while back. Enjoy!!

This weekend was another epic experience which started out in Ifran, the second cleanest city in the world, or so I found out when I was leaving. I was there for AIESEC MOROCCO’s National Conference better known as NatCo. It was held in the most prestigious Moroccan university, Al Akhawayn University and the place is BEAUTIFUL!!

IMG_7347 IMG_7348 IMG_7353 IMG_7420The conference itself was super amazing and I’m glad I got a chance to go for it. It’s Ramadan and at that time I was fasting too so it was an interesting experience going for an AIESEC conference without eating during the day. Those who are AIESECers can imagine. But we survived and the energy levels were still really good. And we got to eat twice in the evening so it was fine. Oh but it was cool because in the morning we got to sleep in till 10.30 which was a new experience for me in an AIESEC conference. I’m used to getting up at like 7 am with (if I’m lucky) 3 hours of sleep or so.

I met lots of awesome people at this conference too 🙂 which was the highlight for me. Even when I go back to Kenya, I’ll never forget those moments.

After the conference some other interns and I decided to tour the nearby cities of Fes, Meknes, Volubilis and Moulay Idriss.

Fes is the oldest city in Morocco I think. We got to walk in its old Medina which is the largest area with no cars. And it’s understandable considering the small streets with people swarming all around. Only bicycles and scooters can manage. But even then, it’s a struggle.

IMG_8443We also got to see one of the gates of the oldest university in the world, which was still in the Old Medina.

IMG_8341We couldn’t get in though as we aren’t Muslims and it was the hour of prayer. It was still cool though being at the place where the first university in the WORLD was built. It has many many doors to enter it apparently and we only saw the one, but that was enough.

Next we saw the city of Volubilis which has some Roman ruins.

IMG_8670

And then there was the prison right in Meknes that apparently no one has ever escaped from. It’s not in use anymore and is simply a tourist site but the feeling when we descended those stairs was…interesting.

IMG_8867

Some of us were scared but I wasn’t not really. I mean, I knew there wasn’t really anything to be afraid of. Or I hoped that anyway. The air down there is sort of damp and stale and the minimal lighting just gives off a creepy feeling. The place is just a big space with very many arcs running throughout giving the impression of numerous tunnels or entrances and that’s probably why no one was ever able to escape when t was in use. Everywhere looks the same and I kind of got the impression I was walking in circles.
To make things worse, almost every space on the walls was scribbled over with messages probably from the long ago prisoners and and some from more recent times.

 

IMG_8854

And it was impossible not to think about the stories that seemingly echoed through the prison begging to be heard. Love, death, misery…Hmmm, I should write a short story about something centered on that. But anyway, the point is it was a very strange and freaky moment but worth the 10 Dhs I paid to go down there.
At the end of Tuesday some of us came back to Casa while the rest continued on their travels since their project has to do with traveling.
In Casa we got to go out with an AIESECer to the Morocco Mall at around 11pm and the city was still very alive and buzzing because of Ramadan.

IMG_8988
All in all it was a very good long weekend and I hope for another good story to tell as I head off to Agadir and Paradise Valley this weekend 😉

Atlas Mountains, Backpacking and Life Philosophies

IMG_6846This weekend has been phenomenal!! I finally took my first tourist-y trip to 4 small villages nestled in the Atlas mountains.

On Friday night 3 other interns and I took a 3 hour bus ride to a small village-town called Beni Mellal and spent the next days touring small towns next to it.

IMG_6791 IMG_6880 IMG_6936 These are just a few pictures from the amazing places we visited.

It was wonderful going through the mountains and stopping at these small towns. We literally wound through the mountain as we were traveling through them. The highlight for me was the Lake in Ben el Ouidane. It’s the picture right above. It’s so magnificent especially at around midday.

We took a boat ride on it for about an hour and it was great!! The sun was just setting behind the mountain and the orange rays made the lake look like it was golden. Wow that sounds pretty poetic but it was truly magical. It was like a lake out of a fairy tale or something. The pictures we took don’t even cover the exact images we saw. Maybe with better cameras but just looking at them and remembering what I saw…it’s almost like two different images.

The whole experience felt a little like backpacking around cause we’d spend each night at a new location so were living out of our bags and we hadn’t carried much anyway. It just made me realize that as human beings we don’t really need that much to survive. Most of the things we have are just excesses. Food for thought…

It should be noted that we were basically strangers going on a 4 day trip together and that, more than anything, was an interesting experience. I learned that we learn a lot from people when we travel in not-so-lavish conditions with them. The strain brings out some unpleasant characteristics in some of us that would otherwise not have shown themselves if you hadn’t traveled together.

I love hiking and going different places so I don’t mind not having the usual comforts of home and the minimal avenues of maintaining hygiene but some people can’t handle it. I mean, it’s uncomfortable sure but the sacrifice is worth it. And for this trip we were literally waking up to these stunning views right outside our windows. I mean, helloooo enjoy the moment. But oh well, it was definitely a lovely trip and I’d love to do more.

In other news…

Slim the cat has started warming up to me 🙂

IMG_6960Though I’m not too sure what that face he’s making is all about…

Next post will hopefully be about a new adventure I’ve had here cause I’ve realized there’s lots to do here in Morocco.

Big Love!

-bigshort

 

Pusheen, Language non-barriers, Slim and Maroon 5

Image result for french

Bonjour!

That’s me trying to get into the whole French vibe. Here in Morocco, their main languages are French and Arabic and they use them interchangeably. Like in the middle of speaking Arabic, you suddenly here the distinct rolling sounds of the majestic French language. So for the sake of my typing fingers, let’s just call that mixture Frarabic, yes? Well that sounds so bad jeez. Ok Arabench? Ew, worse. Ok then Farabic? Yeah, that sounds a tad bit better. Farabic it is. (the auto correct function is going crazy right now with all these red lines. Ha) I hope to learn a little Arabic and improve my French though. This is the best opportunity so let’s see how that goes. Hope I’m not too lazy to put in the effort though.

Anyway, so yes, I’m here in the land of mystery magic and dreams come true…OK I just came up with that right now. But still, it really is a beautiful country. The mixture of cultures is amazing!!! Sometimes you feel like you’re walking on the cobbled stone pavements of Paris (Ha, I say that like like I’ve ever been there) with all the designer boutiques like Versace and what not  and other times it’s like you are thrust into Rome…and still other times it’s like you are in an Arab country. It’s cool. Every time you turn down a new street, you never know what to expect. Very awesome, very awesome indeed…

I haven’t started work yet though, even though I’ve been here for slightly more than a week. Apparently I’ll be working in a ‘village’ that’s a ways away from Casablanca which is where I currently am. Soooo…..yeah, I’ve just been bumming 🙂

However, I was staying in a flat before I moved to my host family yesterday. It was a flat I was sharing with other interns and some AIESEC MOROCCO members. One of them has a cat. Called Pusheen. A cat called Pusheen that literally samurai-d my phone charger in half. Like literally sliced and diced that thing like it was made of butter. I mean come on!! And I can’t believe it’s named after the Facebook cat. It isn’t really that fat anyway. Oh well. It’s not in the flat anymore though. Its owner left and took it with her. Good riddance, everyone was kinda getting pissed at it to be honest. Sorry all cat lovers!!

During the weekend I got a chance to go to the capital, Rabat. I was going for a Maroon 5 concert which was off the hook! Apparently earlier on in the week Avicii had performed along with Usher and Placebo but at least I caught the finishing act 🙂 While I was in Rabat I also got to go to the beach. Well there’s a beach here in Casablanca too cause they’re both cities next to the water but still. The one in Rabat was cool. It wasn’t really a beach though. It was more like a ‘place next to the sea’ cause it didn’t really have sand and all that jazz. I’m sure there’s a proper name for it in English but whatever man.

Moroccans are really generous and giving people. I admire that in them. Especially my host family. Only their daughter who is around my age can speak English but still everyone is nice. They basically just leave me to my own devices which is completely fine with me. I haven’t done so much since I’ve been here but I’m sure I’ll create some unforgettable memories. Plus the interns I’ve met so far are cool. It’s really interesting being in a room with an Indian, a Chinese and an Italian. Such different people and cultures but we can communicate with each other which is what counts, and share our experiences too.

Oh, one thing though, my host family also has a cat. Called Slim. A cat called Slim who has yet to get on my bad side so it seems felines have a chance to redeem themselves. And Slim is NOT slim at all! She (he? I’m not sure yet) is pretty fat. Ish. I seem to be having lots of interaction with cats though. More than I really care to have, but oh well. Maybe I’ll end up loving them so much that I’ll get one of my own when I get back home…or not.

Unfortunately none of the photos I’ve taken is able to load on here so no pictures for now. Maybe later on hopefully.

That’s it for now!

Big Love!

-bigshort