We quickly drive to the Rwandese border and walk to the other side, where two cars are waiting for us. We immediately start our three-hour drive from the Rwandese border town of Gisenyi to the capital Kigali. It is an incredibly pleasant drive and I already feel my tense back-muscles relax. Though we only drive for three hours, we cover a distance of 250 km, more than half of the country’s width. I chuckle recalling my trips in the DRC where we cover 250km in 8 hours at best (two days during the rainy season). Rwanda has splendid roads that meander and twist around hills.
The country is essentially made of large hills, one rising up after the other. It is called “Le pays des Mille Collines” (“the land of the thousand hills”). Due to overcrowding, almost every square inch of land is cultivated. It resembles Peru or even Madagascar, with its stratified agricultural beds. The richer soils reside in the valley while the nutrient poor ones are on top of the hills. The water often washes crops away and strips the top soil of nutrients essential for growing crops. The poorer families own the lands on top of the hill. In addition to having to hike up the hills everyday to harvest their land, they also have poorer soil to work with.
I see loads of vibrantly orange carrots, neat cabbage mounds and bean sprouts attached to man-made tripods. There are cows in pastures! I feel like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music, when she rushes up those green hills, twirling and breathing the fresh mountain air. Except in my fantasy, I sing off-key. I spend the first few days asking the hotel staff if this is really Rwandese-made cheddar, goat cheese, milk, strawberry/passion fruit and mango fruit juices and get strange looks from the vendors (side note: I stay in the famous Hotel des Milles Collines, otherwise known as Hotel Rwanda).
They say the Rwandese are cold, but I find them rather reserved and shy. It's pleasant not to have to make conversation for a change.