Monday, 2 December 2013

A phone call to Habari Car Rental

The receptionist in the hotel agreed to try to get the hire car people on the phone.  Which after an hour of trying she managed.

I kind of forced the company into sending someone down to get the car fixed, they wouldn't send a spare car despite that promise being made on their website.  I guess we were lucky that we didn't really have to go anywhere for a few days, so we could let the car hire company come and take it away for repairs and new tyres.

I cannot recommend the car hire company, despite their friendliness.  You shouldn't be able to hire an unroadworthy vehicles anywhere in the world.

But they did fix the power steering and put 2 brand new tyres on the car, leaving us with 2 dodgy ones and a barely legal spare.  At least this was better than what we had.

Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda

Our guilt at passing through the refugee camps and meeting the shoe-less boy was not helped by arriving at the Nyungwe Forest Lodge.  This is a pretty sumptuous place -  driven the 50m from reception to our lodge in a golf buggy and wine glasses kept in the freezer if you choose the white kind of place.

It's a working tea plantation, and just to make you feel even more guilty there are tea pickers working their butts off just outside our room.

Which is just gorgeous - a huge bed, fantastic bathroom, a balcony that looks onto the forest, cold beers in the fridge, a chaise longue.....

We try to wash off our guilt in a hot bath!  Hot water, what a luxury.

We were invited to the evening tea ceremony,

A very polite waiter explains the tea making process and then talks you through a tasting after allowing the teas to infuse for the right amount of time.

There are some lovely cakes and biscuits to be eaten while taking the tea.  Karen, who hates tea, was presented with some of the nicest tasting coffee in the world so she could feel involved.

More car problems

We fuelled up at Gitarama, and bowled down the beautiful tarmac to Butare where the road heads off to the Nyungwe Forest.

This is one of the main roads to the DRC, and passing along it you drive through massive refugee camps run by the UNHCR.  These are tented encampments, on steep hills housing people displaced by the conflicts in the Congo and in Burundi.

These hill top camps are pretty sobering, especially knowing where we are going to be sleeping for the next few nights.

After about an hours drive from Butare, we entered the Nyungwe Forest, one of the last remaining montane rain forests left in Africa.  The temperature here is kept at a nice level, as we are pretty high up.

At a quiet spot on the road, which seems very rare in Rwanda, we stopped for a pee.  The trick to this is to stop very quickly, and jump out and pee as fast as you can, because it will only be a few moments before someone comes along to find out what you are up to.

After having our quick pit stop, we noticed that once again we had a flat tyre.  Oh for goodness sake.

I got the jack out, and out of nowhere a wee boy appeared and started talking away in a language we couldn't understand.  Almost everyone we had met so far spoke very good English or a little French, but this lad had neither.  He also didn't have any shoes, and the clothes he was wearing were filthy and full of holes.  This was also pretty rare in Rwanda, as the kids were generally spotlessly clean.

He helped me undo the nuts, and remove the wheel and then replace it with the spare.   A man on a bike joined us, but he just stood around making helpful comments to the boy.  I gave the lad a few coins for helping us, but what he really wanted (according the to bike man) was a pair of shoes - did we have any spare

The power steering gave out as we headed down the drive way to the Nyungwe Forest Lodge.