Posted on 07 April 2012.
Kirsty at the Sorwathe Tea Plantation
TraveLinkSites presents Kirsty of NerdyNomad.com. This lady tells us that there’s more to Rwanda than gorillas!
1. Could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and your experience travelling in Africa?
My name is Kirsty, I’m Canadian but haven’t lived there since 2001. I’ve been travelling around and working in various places since then and finally made my first foray into Africa (not including a trip to Egypt in 2005…) in July 2010 for the World Cup in South Africa. I decided to continued travelling around a bit and am still here, 2 years later.
2. Could you choose one country and tell us what were your first impressions?
Rwanda is a country I’d read a lot about and was really looking forward to getting to but I really didn’t know anything about its recent history or the current situation when I arrived in July 2010. My first impression was how great the roads are (after crossing over by bus from horrible Tanzania), and how beautiful the scenery in not only in the countryside but also as we drove into Kigali, the capital city. In my experiences, there are very few capital cities in the world that would be considered beautiful on the approach! It gave me a great feeling for the place that has stuck.
Awesome view of Kigali
3. How much money can someone travel around Rwanda for? What are the greatest expenses? What things are relatively cheap?
How much you spend will depend on what you spend on accommodation. While hostels aren’t common here, there are some budget options for under $20/night but for hotel rooms you’ll be looking at $40+ per night. Bus travel between cities is cheap and organised but you’ll have to cnonstantly double-back through Kigali to criss-cross the country. Fortunately it’s small!
4. What is the local cuisine like? Did you find yourself trying new things or pining for the familiars of home?
Rwanda doesn’t have a huge and inspiring local cuisine. At least not one that I’ve found! But they do have goat and that’s enough for me! A popular meal here (you’ll often order it in local bars with grilled potatoes and beer) is brochettes which is basically hunks of meat on a stick. Goat is the most common and popular (and the best!) but you can also find beef, chicken and fish. Nyama choma (roasted goat legs) is popular and delicious with the sauces and kachambari (a local tomato salsa). Aka benz (pork) is also popular and delicious. As you can tell… there’s not much in the way of vegetable dishes but Rwanda is a very fertile country with plenty of fresh fruit and veggies if that’s more your thing.
5. What cultural activities and events would you suggest everyone seeing or taking part in while travelling in Rwanda and why?
I’m not sure if it’s considered a cultural activity but the Genocide Memorial in Kigali is probably the one thing in the city that tourists come for and it’s a moving place and shouldn’t be missed. Rwanda isn’t really set up for tourists in the same way as neighbouring countries so you’re not going to find yourself going to some traditional dance and dinner show.
Akegera National Park
6. What is your favourite thing about travelling this country? What is your least favourite thing?
Rwanda’s beautiful rolling hills and perfect (to me) weather combine to make it a wonderful place to live and travel. My least favourite thing is the feeling paranoia and not being able to talk opening about certain topics relating to the Genocide. I want to elaborate on this point but given that this post will link back to my blog and that I like living here, I’ll leave it at that.
7. What things do you focus on most when you blog about this country? Why do you choose these things?
I focus on my daily life in Rwanda and blog about things like working from here, doing business in Rwanda, enjoying the amazing weather and scenery and just living life here. I feel like when people think of Rwanda (and many African countries in general) there’s a bit of a pity party and an attitude of ‘I want to help!’ While helping countries in need is a great thing, Rwanda has made crazy leaps and bounds towards development since the Genocide in 1994 and it has grown into a wonderful place to live that can hold its own.
I want to show people that there’s more to Rwanda than Genocide and gorillas… it’s a vibrant, wonderful place to live with amazing people. It’s one of the safest and cleanest countries I’ve ever been to and it’s a very exciting time to be here as they continue to push forward and grow. I’m hoping to show people a different and unexpected side to Rwanda that will surprise them. I know that my expectations of this place have been blown out of the water and I want to share this with my readers.
And there they are, those gorgeous gorillas
8. What’s one thing you can’t travel around Rwanda without?
Patience! While the country is pretty efficient (buses run on time), customer service still isn’t really on most people’s radars. So expect to wait a long time for your meals, to be met with the answer ‘it is impossible’ for any special requests for food or anything else, for waiters to scowl at you if you dare point out a mistake in the order, to be called back to walk through a metal detector that will beep but have nothing done about it etc etc. If you’re patient and go there expecting bad to average customer service then you’ll be fine but if you’re picky and uptight, you’ll probably be frustrated a lot.
9. What kind of response have you had to your blogs about Rwanda? What post had the most interest?
Most people who read about Rwanda on my blog and who I speak to in person are surprised at what I describe. People tend to perceive Africa (it’s usually lumped into and spoken about as one continent rather than as individual countries) as a scary place of misery in need of saving.
I have to admit that before I arrives in South Africa and travelled onwards, I really knew nothing about the current state of any of the countries I visited. The media only focuses on famine and war when it talks about Africa so that, I guess, was what I was expecting myself. So when I talk about how much I love Rwanda and how great a place it is to live, people tend to react with surprise and I can’t blame them.
10. If you could think of one thing you wished someone told you before you started travelling in Rwanda what would it be?
I can’t think of anything. I like that I came to Rwanda without any idea of what was in store for me. Besides reading some books about the Genocide, I really had no idea about the current state of the country beyond that it was safe. I feel like, with most countries, we go in with a pretty good idea of what to expect, where to eat, where to stay etc. I arrived in Rwanda without any information besides where to meet a friend of mine and it’s been really fun working everything out as I’ve gone along. The lack of simple information has been frustrating at times so I’ve started a Kigali website aimed at other expats (http://www.livinginkigali.com) but overall I’ve really liked coming in pretty blind. Having done a lot of travelling in the past, it was a refreshing experience!