The Cyangugu Experience




Last weekend my friend Katie and I decided to venture down to the far south of Rwanda to an area called Cyangugu. You can see on the handy map above that the town is very close to the Congo, and my site is in between Kigali and Gitarama. Katie lives in Kigali, since she is a 3rd year volunteer running the judges teaching program, so I spent the night at her house Thursday night. Friday we woke up nice and early to catch a bus to the bus station and we were welcomed with a rude surprise that the usual bus had been replaced with one of the awful big buses. Three seats on one side, the world’s most narrow aisle down the middle, and two on the other side. So many people on one bus. I knew it was going to make for a rough trip since the big buses take the curves just as fast as the smaller ones but with less stability. We left the bus station almost an hour late and the driving was crazy as usual, but the first three hours were not too bad. Once we got closer to the forest (where the road becomes a twisty vomit-inducing race on crumbling paved roads) people started getting sick. Over the noise of the blaring music videos you could hear people retching and vomiting into their tiny plastic bags.

We stopped at the “pea stop”, an area well known for their pea production, where men climb up the edges of the bus and thrust bags of peas in your face while fervently negotiating prices despite your annoyed silence and attempts to slap their hands away. It was at this break that perhaps the most horrifying event of the entire trip occurred. A man walking from the back of the bus to the front dropped his entire vomit bag on my feet. Yes, on my feet. It was so utterly disgusting that even now I feel a little ill writing about it. I am a person who has no problem changing diapers and cleaning up vomit when children are sick, but having a full grown man drop his bag of vomit on me was just so gross. I had to spend the rest of the break dumping my bottled water on my feet and picking vomit chunks out from between my toes. Memories in the making I tell you.

Once we started again things only got worse for the poor passengers on our bus. As we raced through the forest more and more people started throwing up, and the awful turns and pungent smell of vomit started to take its toll. Of course I didn’t bring a bag because I usually don’t get car sick so I had to refer to the Rwandan method of pulling out my piece of fabric that I use as a towel. I spent the rest of the trip with my head down trying my very best to not through up in my make-shift bag. I successfully arrived on the other side of the forest without vomiting and after another 40-minutes we arrived at the stop for Kari’s site. When Katie and I went to get off the bus we had to skate along a sea of vomit to get down the aisle and still managed to slip several times. It was such a relief to get off the bus that we just sat on the side of the road for a few minutes.

Kari’s site is a 30-minute motorcycle ride from the main road along a beautiful rural road and the fresh air was wonderful. We spent the night at Kari’s beautiful house next to the boarding school where she works. She is a teacher at a Catholic boarding school for girls and has a really nice house where we spent the night cooking and hanging out. The next day we caught a small bus from her site to the biggest town in the area, but before leaving we had to wait for the bus to fill up. There was a crazy man dressed in a blazer, with no shirt underneath, and a pair of dress pants rolled up to his mid-thigh, dancing around with an umbrella and coming to greet us every two minutes. He was always very cheerful so we pretty much ignored him until at one point he put his in the window and spit in my face. Another wonderfully disgusting experience. The locals on the bus were horrified and a couple of men chased down the guy and proceeded to confiscate his own umbrella and beat him for a while. When the bus finally filled up we took off and saw the man on the road and the driver chased him down until he ran off the road, screaming at the crazy guy how he was going to beat him. Always an adventure.

We spent the day at the lake and the Congo was so close it was hard to believe. In the picture below the left portion is Rwanda and the right side, across the blue bridge, is the Congo. Pretty cool experience. It was a nice time and even with all of the spit and vomit it was a wonderful trip and a beautiful area to explore!



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