Day 167 & beyond

Date: 30.03.17 onwards
Blog entry date:21.05.17
Distance: 0km
Odometer: 8 544km
Flat tyre counter: 3
Max speed of tour : 72.1km/hr (Day 142)
Longest day: 215km (Day 48)

Renting an apartment in Durbanville, Cape Town.

This blog entry is long overdue, but better late than never.

We have been back in South Africa since 02.04.17, but let me start with the last few days in Kigali.

During our last day at the Mille Collines we slowly started arrangements for the trip home. Our plan was to pack the bicycles and fly Kigali-Johannesburg-Cape Town. Eva scoured the internet for good deals, the “sparfuchs” that she is 😁.

Using a flight search engines we bougt our tickets for Kigali-Jhb. Unfortunately this turned out to be a bad deal. Without boring you with the details, we lost the flight, but at least no money. It did result in a bit of an anti-climax, for our last day at the Mille Collines was spent sorting this out.

We had one last stop to make in Kigali and the next day cycled to Jacques and Hannelie, South Africans who recently moved there. They really spoiled us, but more important, they helped us get onto a flight to South Africa (through a friend who work as a travel agent).

I previously tried to get used bicycle boxes for packing the bikes. In South Africa you walk into any bicycle shop and they gladly give these away. In Kigali, not so easy. After several phone calls I found some at the Rwanda cycling federation. Jacques generously offered to collect these by car.

During our time with them we had great food and we soon realised that suddenly the tables have turned. Instead of burning more calories than what we eat, we were definitely consuming more than what we burn.

We also went for a visit to the genocide memorial in Kigila. This is in memory of the 1994 genocide, whith a strong message, “we’ve moved on but must never let this happen again“. It was moving to see all the exhibitions and it was difficult to imagine this happened 23 years ago. We both agreed that Rwandans deserve massive respect for the way they dealt with this. The country is moving forward and has the highest rate of GDP growth in Africa. One also gets a sense of “I’m proud to be Rwandan”. No one talks of Hutu or Tutsi, except during the week of remembrance when the whole country reflect on the atrocity of 1994.

By coincidence Jacques and Hannelie were on the same flight to Johannesburg as us, as they planned a visit to family. Again, this was of great help for us as we shared transport to the airport, organised by Jacques.

Kigali airport have some of the highest security I have ever experienced. Entering the airport every car is evacuated and luggage and car searched by sniffer dogs. After this and 3 security checks in the airport itself we made it onto the plane, with no time to spare. No extra cost charged for the bicycles.

The flight back was uneventful, but it felt really strange to sit at 30000 feet in the air and in 4 hours land in Jhb. The glossy in-flight magazine felt like something from another world and the artificial nature of commercialism has never been more clear to me.

We landed in Jhb at 23:00 and had to overnight at a hotel at the airport since the first connection to Cape Town was only the next morning.

We arrived in Cape Town the following day. There we were, 6 hours flying, less than 24 hours travel time to what has taken us 5.5 months by bicycle. In one way an anti-climax, but we were also very glad to be back home. In retrospect it would have been great if we could have planned our trip to cycle all the way home. It is a bit of a shock to be thrown back into normal life so suddenly, but ultimately it is inevitable.

We received a warm welcome from friends and family at the arrival hall. Then we went for a hearty wholesome Sunday lunch with the family. A meal we have dreamed of so often during our tour, the food was especially delicious. Besides the food, warm showers and flush toilets are really great πŸ˜‚.

In the days that followed we relaxed and did a few beautiful hikes in the Cape mountains. I was reminded again why we love this part of the world.

We also visited friends in Knysna and they invited us to the Addo Elephant Park at their expense, very generous!!

At this stage we were slowly getting used to a normal life although we have not started work again. We also had to rent out our house for 12 months and were still bumming with the family.

On 2 May we walked back into the office and it felt a bit surreal. We did however receive a warm welcome which made it easier. Now after 3 weeks back at the desk it sometimes feels like our tour was a lifetime ago, or even that it never happened.

For this reason I’m so grateful that we could have done this together. From time to time when one of us remembers something it helps to be able to talk about it. It makes the whole experience more real, especially now that “normal” activities steal the hours and days.

In the meantime we managed to find a small furnished place to rent close to work.

Oh, I forgot, our two faithful companions, Friday and Uitkyk made trip back in good condition too. I re-assembled them in the first week and we already did beautiful cycling routes around the Cape winelands. We will soon be back on them for our daily commute to work (while staying with the fam it was too far).

For us this tour was a dream come true. We are so privileged to have had this opportunity. On an expedition like this you learn things about yourself you never knew. Some of them not so nice 😬. If we can share one lesson it is: take 1 day at a time, or put differently, break a big task down into small achievable segments. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time 😁.

Thanks for you interest and all the support. In a next post I will say something about the donations and how it will be used.

Willem & Eva

Friday & Uitkyk, packed and ready for the “short” trip home.

Arriving at Cape Town airport.

Hiking in the beautiful Cape mountains.

The Cape mountains are very close, but it looks like a different world, far away from the outside noise.

In Addo Elephant park, the reserve lived up to its name. We saw many elephants and it was a fascinating to observe their social behavior.

Days 165 & 166: Masaka to Kigali!

Date: 28.03.17 & 29.03.17
Blog entry date:29.03.17
Distance: 24km
Odometer: 8 544km
Avg speed: 13.8km/hr
Time on bike: 1h46min
Problems: Tear in back-rim
Flat tyre counter: 3
Max speed of tour : 72.1km/hr (Day 142)
Longest day: 215km (Day 48)

Staying in the Hotel des Mille Collines, translated from French to Hotel of a Thousand Hills. Eva did some effective marketing for us and they gave us a room at a better rate. They later upgraded this to a suite at no extra cost, awesome!

A tour like this needs an appropriate ending. We often wondered what landmark we can use at the end. While searching for options we found the Mille Collines a landmark in Kigali of historical significance. During the 1994 genocide this is the hotel where more than a thousand people took shelter. The story is depicted in the film ” Hotel Rwanda” (although the hotel itself does not appear in the film which was shot mainly in South Africa). 

The name is also very appropriate, Hotel of a Thousand Hills which fits right in with our tag-line “cycling to the land of a thousand hills”. 

All of the above also gives us the perfect excuse to end the tour in luxurious accommodation. This makes up for all those nights sleeping in a dodgy hole somewhere. Finally it is an early anniversary celebration for us wich is later this week. 

After all the amazing food and generosity received from the Komants it was time for the last kilometers of our tour. We had a delicious breakfast and packed our bags as we have done so many times during the last 5.5 months. Then we got onto our bicycles, cycling into the sunset πŸ˜‚, (or just heading for the city). 

I set the navigation onto the “bicycle” option in order to avoid the busier roads. After about 6km a voice advised us to turn right…. and so we did. What the voice did not say is that in front of us loomed a hill with ridiculous gradient πŸ˜‚. Oh well, we’ve had 8500km’s of training and this hill was not going to get the better of us.

Kigali is built on many hills and occassionally we had nice views of the skyline.

Before going to the hotel we had 2 important stops to make, a pottery  shop and market selling local art. All of this made Eva very happy, me too but not at the same level 😁

At last we pedalled up our final hill  (more like #100 000 than 1000) and suddenly there we saw the signage for the Mille Collines. There were no bells, no firecrackers, not even someone calling us mzungu😁. It was only us and it suited us very well. 

Eventually the security looked at these two funny cyclists parking their bicycles in front of the signage and we asked him to take a few pictures of us. 

When we arrived at the front door we were immediately escorted away as bicycles are not allowed at the entrance. Nice welcome to the end, I guess we looked a bit out of place πŸ˜‚.

At least they allowed us in and helped us to get all 10 bags and tent and folding chair into our room. 

We have reached our goal and it is difficult to know what to say. We are both happy and sad at the same time. Most of you will not know that at various times we considered to make the tour shorter (a nice way of saying we wanted to quit 😁). Even as early as Malawi we had such a discussion. In Kenya, after Mt Kenya, we had many such discussions 😱. I guess in part we were naΓ―ve about what was laying ahead of is, but we finally made it and are very grateful!πŸ‘. 

We thank God for the strenght and courage He gave us to continue. For His protection and for all the answered prayers. To Him the glory.

We thank you for continued support. For all the messages, each and every one, via the blog, whatsapp, facebook, email or whatever way. It is not an understatement to say that it helped to carry us, to keep persevering. It meant more to us than what you could have expected. We are eternally grateful for all the support and will never forget it!

Your generosity towards our goal of raising funds for Josiah Trust/Klipheuwel has been amazing and an inspiration for us. It also helped to keep going and make those tough days a little lighter. 

We know that both scholars whom we wanted to support in this way have found opportunities and support, one on a bursary and the other on a type of learnership. Their financial needs therefore provided for to some degree.

Once we are back we will talk to Josiah Trust about the most responsible way to use the funds and report back as to how it will be applied. It might be a combination of auxilliary support to the scholars and another project in Klipheuwel. Assisting building of an Early Childhood Development (ECD) creche in Klipheuwel was mentioned to me as one possibility. We will do this via email if we have your contact, but will also do this via the blog.

Although we have reached our goal  we have one last stop in Kigali at family of friends. We still need to ride there and will include a short post for that too. 

Once we are back and have settled down and reflected a bit more we may want to add a last “conclusion-post” on the blog.

If anyone has read this blog and plan something similar, we will be more than happy to share any information we have. Please use the email contact provided.

Thanks for having followed.

Willem & Eva

Shopping at the local market in Kigali.

A street in Kigali. It is a clean city with green spaces. We like it a lot!

Another view of the city.

 

City view from the hotel.

The end, after 5.5 months and 8500km!

Days 163 & 164: Urugo to Masaka

Date: 26.03.17 & 27.03.17
Blog entry date: 27.03.17
Distance: 69km
Odometer: 8 519km
Avg speed: 22km/hr
Time on bike: 3h07min
Problems: Tear in back-rim
Flat tyre counter: 3
Max speed of tour : 72.1km/hr (Day 142)
Longest day: 215km (Day 48)

Staying at family contact, about 20km outside Kigali city centre.

Last night I checked the bicycles for the last time, cleaned and lubed the chains. They are showing signs of the long journey, but did really well to carry us and our luggage this far. We had some mechanical issues, but generally speaking the bicycles held up very good. We are really grateful!

Today we started seeing signs of the impending city and the end of our journey. The shorter days are however giving us a little extra time of nomadic life. During our planning we estimated the journey to be 8500km. Today we passed that mark and are very close to our destination. 

The road was in a good condition and we had some nice downhills. The last part we cycled in a valley between the green hills, beautiful.

We saw people almost the entire way and were faced with a different kind of problem, where to take a toilet-break 😁. Don’t worry, we did manage without curious eyes around.

In Rwanda the locals really love to cycle with us. Despite the single speed bicycles these guys are really fast and will stay with us for kilometers. As we pass the bigger towns we pick-up many cyclists. At some stage it felt like the we are in the Tour de France pelleton. Then, every so often a local will come racing past, just to pull off at his destination. I guess his way of showing us, “I won that stage!” πŸ˜‚. I think this has to do with cycling being taken seriously as a sport in Rwanda. They even started the Tour de Rwanda a few years ago. With all the hills here it must be tough.

We arrived at our destination and were received with fantastic hospitallity! We had the best home cooked Sunday lunch in a very long time, and it was enough for our cyclist appetite. We were made to feel so welcome we soon decided to stay an extra day here. We will therefore cycle the last kilometers into Kigali only on the 28th. 

Thanks for all the support! We are also extremely thankful for all the donations received for Josiah Trust. Your generosity has been an inspiration to us throughout our journey! The target is R50000 and we are now at R42472.

Willem & Eva

The road was in a good condition.

A small banana plantation.

This was 8500km’s.


Being treated to the best meals here. It was an easy decision to stay an extra day 😁

Day 162: Kibungo to Urugo

Date: 25.03.17
Blog entry date: 25.03.17
Distance: 31km
Odometer: 8 450km
Avg speed: 22.1km/hr
Time on bike: 1h25min
Problems: Tear in back-rim
Flat tyre counter: 3
Max speed of tour : 72.1km/hr (Day 142)
Longest day: 215km (Day 48)

Staying in safari tent.

Today was a short day as we wanted to stay over at the Urugo Womens Opportunity Centre. It is a beautiful setting with restaurant and curio shop and a very nice stop over.

Most interesting, today is “Umuganda” day in Rwanda which essentially is a day of community work. All locals between 18 and 65 are obliged to participate. It stems from local tradition where family and friends would come together to help with a difficult task. It was reintroduced in 1998 in an effort to rebuild the country after the 1994 genocide.

I think this is a great idea and if you are interested to read more about this see http://www.rwandapedia.rw/explore/umuganda which I used as a source. 

As a result of Umuganda the roads and towns were all very quiet which suited us well 😁. We also cycled past a few groups of people working together which we assume was part of Umuganda.

There were still people around and along route a few local cyclists joined in for some kilometers. Cycling, as a sport, is relatively popular in Rwanda and it is amazing how fast they can peddle those single speed bikes.

The rainy season here normally starts beginning March. It was therefore no surprise when the rains started, fortunately we were already at our destination.

About 80km’s remain to Kigali, but tomorrow we make one final stop before going into the city.

Thanks for following.

Willem & Eva

Beautiful valley seen from the camp site.

Day 161: Rusumu to Kibungo

Date: 24.03.17
Blog entry date: 24.03.17
Distance: 63km
Odometer: 8 419km
Avg speed: 16.7km/hr
Time on bike: 3h45min
Problems: Rain, Tear in back-rim
Flat tyre counter: 3
Max speed of tour : 72.1km/hr (Day 142)
Longest day: 215km (Day 48)

Staying in the St. Joseph Catholic Centre. After 6 nights in dodgy accommodations we are very glad to stay in a well equiped room including full bathroom.

Talking of accommodation, last night in Rusumu was a small disaster. Despite the beautiful setting we actually camped at the local drinking-well. The decibel levels were extreme until 02:30. At one stage I started reading aloud in the tent to try compensate for the drunken noise surrounding us. It did work to some degree. Soon I started skipping sentences and slurred as sleep overcame me 😁. We made it through, but it was unpleasant.

As we packed our bicycles a little rain was falling, a foreboding of what was to come.

The route started with a nice long uphill with strings of scholars walking down, presumably on their way to school. They reacted with excitement and some started running with us for a distance. This was standard through the day (seems there are children not attending school).

The scenery was beautiful. Rwanda is very green, it almost hurts the eyes 😁. There was not much natural vegetation and we saw mainly banana plantations and rice fields in between and on the hills.

We stopped in Kirehe after a tough climb from the border. Here we had chapati and tea which fuelled us for the rest of the day. The clean and neat streets are conspicuous. I did not take a picture, but will still capture this in one of the next towns.

With 15km’s to go it started raining and we did the last long climb up to Kibungo in the rain. I enjoyed it and prefer this to a hot sun while cycling uphlil (I think Eva prefers neither hills nor rain πŸ˜‚).

We expect more climbing to Kigali, but I think we are through the worst of it. Our goal now seems a stone’s throw away and within graps. It’s not far, but we will take it easy up to the finish line 😁.

Thanks for following, all the messages and prayers. Without all the support the whole endeavour would have been more dull and difficult.

Willem & Eva

Early morning half-way up a hill, looking back the way we came.

The road condition was fair and did not carry a lot of motorised traffic.

Massive rice fields down in the valley.

Old “Friday” made it this far. Another 110km to go, I hope he stays healthy πŸ˜‚


Wooden scaffolding used on a new church building in Kibungo. It looks scary 😱

Day 160: Rwanda! Nyakahura to Rusumu

Date: 23.03.17
Blog entry date: 23.03.17
Distance: 66km
Odometer: 8 356km
Avg speed: 15.1km/hr
Time on bike: 4h23min
Problems: Tear in back-rim
Flat tyre counter: 3
Max speed of tour : 72.1km/hr (Day 142)
Longest day: 215km (Day 48)

Camping at a local “lodge”. After seeing the small dark stuffy rooms that reminds of a bad movie, we got permission to pitch the tent in the beautiful garden.

We started early, prepared for the prequal to Rwanda-hills proper. There was indeed a lot of climbing, but subsequent to the route around Mt Kenya we have a different perspective of hill-cycling. Today was tough, but very manageable.

The route was really stunning. A lot of natural scenery, very green and of course hilly. A rain shower also added a fresh feeling to it all. Just before border control we crossed the Kagera river. Here the Ruvuvu flows into the Kagera and an impressive waterfall, Rusumu, is a beautiful sight.

The road surface from Runzewe to the border (past 2 days) is in a bad condition. We expect this to improve in Rwanda.

Rwanda! The land of a 1000 hills. We arrived in our last country unceremonially. The final border crossing and for us an incredible milestone.

At some point we were worried we might have an issue with the East Africa visa (Kenya, Uganda & Rwanda) but this worry proved unfounded, all went smoothly. We were however stopped by a guard with AK47 at the perimeter of border control. He wanted to see our passports and contents of our bags. We briefly opened them and he instructed Eva to discard a plastic bag, it is not allowed in Rwanda (they only use paper bags). I believe this is consistent with Rwanda’s “clean” image for which they have become famous.

Rwanda introduces various practical changes. Right-hand side traffic, time shifts back an hour (again same as SA), currency Rwandan Franc and the local language is Kinyarwanda (French & English are also official and most people still understand Swahili). I was hoping we would cease to be called “mzungus”, but this remains the same 😁.

After today we have one last goal, to reach Kigali, our final destination. If all goes well we hope to arrive on Monday the 27th. I cannot believe I just wrote that 😁.

With tomorrow our 1st full day in Rwanda we look forward to explore the 1000 hills.

Thanks for following and especially the donations received for Josiah Trust! Our target is R50000 and we are now at R39096.

Willem & Eva

Scene along route. Today was some of the most beautiful scenery of our tour.

Not always easy to capture these scenes on a cell phone camera. The early morning light helped to create great scenery.



Nice perspective of part of the route.

The road we came on is visible just underneath the horizon.

Almost on top of another long climb.

Looking down into the valley towards Rwanda.

Approaching the border down at the Kagera river.

Rusumu falls.

Beautiful camp site for the night. If only they had proper ablutions.