Friday, 28 October 2011

A school trip with a difference...

Yesterday was the TTC trip to Akagera national park and we were supposed to be leaving at the ungodly hour of 4.30am! Now those who know me will know that I generally only get up at that time to leave the country. Not being a morning person I am barely civil at that hour, in fact I can’t really communicate at all. Needless to say it was more like 5.30 by the time we all squished into the matatu (we had to wait for the restaurant guy to finish making our lunch) and trundled off along the dirt track.

At breakfast time we took it in turn to hug a fake zebra at this place called home land motel. I unsuccessfully tried to follow the news in French (yes there was a TV, such a rare and exciting sighting!) And at that place I have to say there was the most frightening plaster lion I have ever seen. Restaurants in the east of the country like in Kayonza and Rwamagana often go for these plaster animals on the side of the building, but this one was a shocker, it really was. I’ve included a photo of it so you can see what I’m on about.

So on to Akagera we went, stopping for beer and live chickens on the way. And said beer bottles and live chickens rolled around our feet in the bus for the duration of the day. Occasionally I would forget that there were live chickens on the bus and when they appeared from under the seat it gave me a shock, far more scary than the baby buffalo which charged at us. When we arrived at the park my colleagues argued for half an hour about what they should pay for me. ‘She’s Rwandese!’ I heard them say but the park people were having none of it. There is no getting away from being muzungu, unlike my Burundian and Congolese colleagues who don’t arouse suspicion...

Now one thing that was really odd about the animals on that day was they kept standing in lines. There was a line of zebras which formed a kind of living bar code, a line of impala and a line of people. There was definitely something going on. Perhaps it was animal queuing day or something, or perhaps they just like order? Who knows.  I have to say that fairly early on my knees got bruised in the matatu, there is no suspension to speak of on those buses. However we did get an opportunity to escape for lunch which was very delicious. I ate balanced precariously on the side of the priest’s pick up truck and had a lesson from him in how to rip open chicken wings. I am so feeble at that. I never like to get my hands covered in chicken mank so I always try to do it with a fork and you just can’t, it doesn’t work.

It was a long afternoon back in the bus as we trundled our way down to the southern entrance, which took 4 hours. After a while, we cracked open the left over Primus from lunchtime and began to drink in the matatu. Drinking in a matatu on a rough dirt road is an interesting experience. Every time you hit a bump the beer froths right over the top of the bottle and you have to catch it with your mouth or it goes everywhere. And after a while you get a bit dizzy from the smell of lots of beer in a small, squished, enclosed space.

It was a long and eventful journey back to Nzige. Most of my male colleagues had had quite a bit of beer by this point so there were numerous comfort stops, and some very bad singing. It was dark and bumpy and at one stage the boot flew open and all of the stuff from our picnic lunch went rolling down a hill and people had to go and run after it. We went down some random dirt track to give a random lady I had never seen before one of the chickens (boy that poor creature looked relieved) and finally ended up back in Nzige at 9pm. We had spent a total of 16 hours in a matatu. This is a record for me and a challenge I put out to everyone in vso Rwanda: can you beat 16 hours? We will see. But all in all I had a good day and we actually got closer to the animals than I did last time, despite being in a load clattering bus where people stamped their feet on the floor to make the impala run away!

The hideous plaster lion.

A zebra barcode
 A line of impala
 A line of people. The staff at TTC Bicumbi
 The giraffes doing their whole two headed thing.

Bambi! Impala are so cute.

1 comment:

  1. A brilliant account. I can just imagine everything you described. I have no doubt that you have the record and no one will ever come anywhere near it. Stephen