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Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Sunday, 27 February 2011

February 27th: Rusumo in Southern Rwanda

On February 27th 1980 I was at Rusumo, where a river forms the border between Tanzania and Rwanda.  I had been informed I could get a Rwandan visa at the border, but no such luck.  I wrote this up there:
I'm actually in Rwanda even if they won't let me go beyond the village here.  The immigration people were quite friendly about it: their story is that the main chef d'immigration is in Kigali; normally he radios to Kigali if someone is at the border without a visa, but as he isn't here and the radio isn't here, the younger man in charge isn't prepared to lay his head on the line.  So Audrey has gone to Kigali with my passport to try to get me a visa, leaving me with a tin of corned beef.  However there's a shop selling things like biscuits and tinned mackerel, there's a cafe back on the Tanzanian side with chai and possibly other things, there's good sweet Rwanda beer for sixteen shillings for what must be a litre and a friendly Dutch couple working in Rulenge left me a loaf of Kigali sliced bread and an enormous carrot out of pity.  Besides this is a nice enough spot with the river and the waterfall and monkeys in the trees. 

We had taken a day and night bus from Mwanza to the town of Nzara, 16 kilometres short of the border, knowing we'd have to walk the rest of the way.  The bus journey was quite fun, the ferry at Busui, little settlements of rectangular huts mainly of wood and daub and with tin or thatch roofing and not much other than maize growing.  The bus was nearly always crowded to overflowing and nearly always friendly.  Towards evening the country began to change as we moved further from Lake Victoria, with larger hills and fewer people.  We stopped at Biharamulo in the dark and had beans and tea for supper and there was a long delay while one of the conductors sorted out a problem with the police.  Eventually we stopped for the night, at Rulenge I think, and I did manage some sleep, as the bus had more or less cleared its standing passengers.  In the morning  we crossed a big escarpment and then we walked across a new bridge while the bus took the ferry, which gave me a chance to stretch my legs.  We reached Nzara about nine, but there was little to keep us except a nice stone mission, so we had tea and andazi and began walking through pleasant rolling hills, with coffee and maize and bananas and little oblong houses and friendly people.  There were good views later on when the ever-threatening clouds pulled back a little.  But we were tired, so in the end we got a ride from a police Land-Rover carrying a Burundi refugee who had been kicked out of Rwanda two weeks previously, following the visit of a Burundi leader to the US.

View Rusumo in a larger map

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