A Travellerspoint blog

How to sponsor Pol and Rob

Step by step instructions

As many of you already know, we are supporting two South African based charities.

Lulisandla Kwmtwana -

a charitable orphan fostering project in Mseleni, Kwa ZuluNtaal, South Africa.
This project strives to enable AIDS orphans to stay within their communities living with relatives, and seeks to support the families as they make this possible.

To find out more, or to support the wonderful work of this project: scroll down the front page of the blog, and look to the right hand side column, under favourite links and click on the link to DONATE TO Lulisandla Kwmtwana (foster care project).
This takes you to SIM’s website: Serving in Missions, a Christian Missions Organisation, under the wings of which Lulisandla Kwmtwana sits.
Click on the link: Donate to SIM-UK, on the left hand side
Fill in your details, and amount to be donated.
Fill your donation amount in the box for Projects
In the box stating, If you are donating to specific missionaries or projects please provides names, write Lulisandla Kwmtwana, South Africa.
For the box stating Any other information you would want us to know about this donation please write: Reference – longwayhome

Hipporollers water company –

the designers of such a simple invention that could be life changing for the people of rural African communties where the quest for water is such a struggle. It’s simple: a 90 litre water barrel, with handles that can be pulled behind with ease, through even sand and scrub, limiting the incidence of severe neck and back pain which is suffered by ladies who carry heavy water barrels on their heads on a regular basis.

For UK Givers:
It’s a little more complicated, because HippoRollers is a South African Charity.
We have a UK registered charity who will be collecting donations on our behalf for HippoRollers.
So please write a cheque payable to Winchester Vineyard
Write on the back and include a slip stating, Ref: HippoRollers Longwayhome
The Winchester Vineyard will then collect the cheques and transfer the money to HippoRollers. The Winchester Vineyard is a church that has agreed to do this on our behalf, as there have been some difficulties with making donations to this charity as it is South African.

This donation can also be gift aided, if you are a UK taxpayer, so please email Beth Sutton at haveahug@hotmail.com and she will forward you the giftaid form to complete.

Please send the cheques to:
Beth Sutton
Silverwood
Gardeners Lane
Romsey
Hants
SO51 6AD

For an online money transfer, please email Beth Sutton for the bank details of the Winchester Vineyard, and she will forward them to you, along with a gift aid form.
email: haveahug@hotmail.com
please reference email: longwayhome

If you have a credit card issued in South Africa:
Scroll down the home page of the blog
Look down to the right hand side column until you reach Favourite Links
Click on Hippo Rollers,
On their webpage click on Donate, in the top right hand corner
You have to convert the amount you want to donate into US dollars
In the box asking for how you heard about Hippo Rollers, please write Pol and Rob’s longwayhome

Thanks for all you interest and support, it is very much appreciated.

Posted by robandpol 13:46 Comments (0)

Christmas in Rwanda

a little different to at home!

overcast 23 °C

Christmas in Africa is so refreshing as the pressure to go out present buying weeks and months in advance just isn't there. However we were reminded that Christmas was just around the corner with the arrival of Stina and Jon, (Rob's sister and brother in law) bearing gifts and delicious Christmas cake that Sti had been 'feeding' with sherry over the last few months - one of the more discreet ways to get alcohol onto Shyira hill!

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With a couple of days to go before the big day we thought we'd better get out and do some Christmas shopping. There's not too much choice as it seems there is only a market for the bare essentials of Rwandan life and seeing as our parents wouldn't be very happy with a bag of beans or some fresh veg, we put our thinking caps on and went for a walk for inspiration... and it came:

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Rwandan coffee

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Rwandan Tea

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and beautiful handmade pots made by a local pygmy lady.

We went on an early morning walk up the mountain to Jomba on christmas eve. It was a cold morning and the morning mists shrouded the view for most of the way. Everyone we met was full of the joys; greeting us animatedly and wishing us a happy christmas. The phrase quickly stuck and we were soon able to return the greeting. By the time we reached the top the mists had evaporated and we spent a while absorbing the views.

Back down on Shyira hill we had to turn our thoughts to Christmas dinner. Our neighbours, the Kings, managed to get their hands on a turkey – lucky them!

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But we had to rely on Jemima and Dafney who had become very friendly and trusting over the past few weeks. I have to say we did feel a bit bad as they allowed us to pick them up and they put up no resistance as Rob placed their head on the chopping board. We consoled ourselves knowing that they had a much better life and death than most turkeys back home!

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Jemima and Dafney with Mr Duck in the good old days (ie before Christmas eve) Mr Duck still comes looking for his wives :(

In a society where everything usually stops as the sun goes down, and most people are fast asleep by 8.30pm it was a surprise to be woken at midnight by loud drumming which continued on until dawn. It is a Rwandan tradition to anticipate the arrival of an important chief by drumming through the night and clearly Jesus is regarded as such.

Church kicked off in style – incredible as many of the congregation had spent 4hrs in church on Christmas eve and many of the young men would have been drumming through the night. The huge church was jammed full but there was not a Christmas carol to be heard – more the atmosphere of a semi formal rave.

“Wow” shouted Rob “these people really are glad it's Christmas day” as the pastor in full white robes started showing the young'ns how to really move, while singing into a red megaphone as the sound system went on the blink again.

The church has many choirs and they all took their turn singing and dancing to varying degrees of perfection which meant a lot of sitting and listening for the non Choir members. I was joined by a lost looking little boy, thinning hair, round face, sad and expressionless, dry skin, pot belly and swollen ankles – all the classic signs of severe kwashiokor malnutrition. He simply climbed up on my lap and sat – it was impossible to get a smile out of him, his body had gone into shut down mode, any emotion - a waste of energy, even his pulse was slow.

Sitting there, not understanding a word of the service, guts rumbling, looking forward to the Christmas feast, Pol read a verse that hit home:

'Suppose a brother or sister has no clothes or food. Suppose one of you says to them, “Go. I hope everything turns out fine for you. Keep warm. Eat well.” And you do nothing about what they really need. Then what good have you done?
It is the same with faith. If it doesn't cause us do do something then it is dead.'

The little boy stared blankly as Pol read the verse.

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Christmas in Africa is not without it's challenges.

Posted by robandpol 09:44 Archived in Rwanda Tagged bicycle Comments (3)

How to Plan an Epic African Bike Ride

Check out Travel Unravelled

sunny 24 °C

The Travellerspoint people asked us to write a couple of articles about planning a bike ride. Stuff like how to avoid getting trampled by elephants. Check them out at:

http://unravelled.travellerspoint.com/

Posted by robandpol 10:06 Archived in Rwanda Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

Shyria – first impressions

'Roughing it' in Rwnda

sunny 27 °C

Kigali is a nice city. We happened to be staying next to the largest market in town. We had great fun choosing fabrics and re-stocking our wardrobes with a second hand pair of trousers and shirt for Rob and some skirts made by a local tailor for Pol. Louise, one of the doctors from the hospital in Shiyra where we will be spending the next few months, happened to be in town on a course. We met up one evening over pizza to learn a bit more about the hospital and the surrounding area and also lightened our load by giving some of our kit to Louise to bring on in the car. Kigali is only two days cycling from Shiyra. Highlights of the journey were the scenery and a refreshing 15km downhill at one point. On the second day the tarmac peetered out once more and we found ourselves bouncing over rocks and stones.

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We stopped at a little roadside restaurant in a tiny village to sit out the afternoon rain with some sweet tea and ended up acquiring a passenger. We piled all our bags onto Pol's bike so he could sit on Rob's rack. Chatting with the guy and trying to gauge how much further we had to go on what had already been a long day we were disappointed to hear there was a big hill between us and Shiyra. The deal, as we understood it, was that we were giving him a lift home and in return he would show us the correct road to Shiyra. However, this was not the deal as he understood it. It soon became apparent that he didn't really know the way to Shiyra, and also expected payment for his services! As a result we unceremoniously dumped our new friend by the road and gave Caleb (the Shiyra Dr) a call to find out where the illusive turning was. After few minutes we had found the road, “is it hilly” we asked Caleb “Oh yes” came the reply, “very hilly” our hearts sank “but downhill all the way!!”

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The last 17km to the hospital followed a small river on a beautiful track, the only other occupants were on foot or on giant homemade scooters carrying wood, potatoes, bananas, water or banana beer.

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These lethal contraptions had been banned by the government a few years ago, due to the huge number of accidents they cause, they have no breaks, indeed the only safety feature is the rider whistling urgently as he flies downhill.

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The bridges were pretty interesting! (note the heavily laden scooter behind!)

The last 2km were steep uphill, but almost felt like downhill as the local children gleefully pushed us up!

“Where are you staying?” They asked
“Near Dr Louise and Caleb's house” we replied
“Oh we know Dr Lousie – she is a very nice lady”

We are going to have a nice time here we thought to ourselves.

On our arrival we found 10yr old Caleb Jnr playing on the lawn, no one else was home.

“Any idea where we are staying?” we asked
“Over there” said Caleb
“No, that can't be for us there's only the two of us”
“Oh yes it is!” said Caleb

We were expecting to be roughing it in Rwanda, especially as we had just covered 50km of very rocky road, barely passable by 4x4 to get to Shiyra, but our new little house was fabulous, 2 story, stunning views from the balconies, running (cold) water and electricity 2hrs per day.

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Our beautiful home in Shyira.

Soon there was a knock on the door – our first visitor, 6yr old Lydia.
“I've just come over to welcome you and introduce you to our cat Toukie, this is her house, she had move out of ours because our dogs tried to eat her, so you're her guests really. Oh and would you like to come over for Dinner? It's Pizza tonight!”

Oh my goodness, this house even comes with a cat and now they are going to feed us pizza. Life can't get much better!

We went to bed with full stomachs and a good feeling about what the first day at work was going to be like.

Posted by robandpol 10:02 Comments (0)

Dust bowl (Kibondo) to Kigali (RWANDA!)

First impressions of Rwanda

storm 26 °C

Although physically the cycling is now not too bad... psychologically it's getting tough.... it's just difficult to keep going day after day...

Hitting deep sand, just as its getting really hot is really not too good for morale...

refreshing river

refreshing river

Anyhow we pushed on and came to a glorious sustained downhill which led us to this beautiful little river that we could rest by until late afternoon when the blistering heat starts to soften.

rouge

rouge

The river was also an excellent opportunity to wash the pound of red dust off that made us both look like we have been using too much fake tan!

Late afternoon came, we carried on, rejuvenated by the cool river water and the thought that tomorrow we would be finishing our 1200km off road section and be back of wonderful, beautiful tar!!

The following morning we were up early, almost as excited as if it were Christmas morning, just 10km later there it was; all our dreams come true, some ramshackled little guesthouses, homes and a few shops and that fantastic invention – TAAARRRMAAAC!

It was just how we remembered it: Flat, smooth and above all fast... it's amazing how the things that you take for granted in everyday life are so much more exciting when you've experienced life without them! A hot shower, water you can drink straight from the tap, (for that matter a tap!) a bar of Cadburys Dairy Milk chocolate, electricity... and all those things were awaiting and beckoning us towards Rwanda.

Even with Tar, hills are hills and huge hills are huge hills and as we approached the Rwandan border we started to realise why it is called 'Land of a Thousand Hills'. Fortunately God had pity on little Rob and Polly struggling up the hills and sent a UN convoy of armoured cars, tanks, and trucks loaded on the back of huge slow lorries. As they trundeled past us we tried to grab hold, we missed the first couple but the drivers soon saw what we were trying to do so graciously slowed down just enough so we could catch the rear bracket and then they were off again... with us attached!

huge hills

huge hills

Of course we let go at the top of the hills, as we were far faster than the lorries going downhill!

Soon the GPS was beeping at us to let us know were were a few km from the Rwandan border.

rwanda/tanzania border

rwanda/tanzania border

And then we saw it, the beautiful River Kagera, Tanzania to the south, Rwanda to the north.
Crossing the border was a joy, the normal shady characters hassling and changing money were instead well dressed, hospitable and polite (but did still try to give us a terrible exchange rate!)

RWANDA:

“Rwanda is spectacular to behold. Throughout it's center, a winding succession of steep, tightly terraced sloped radiates out from small roadside settlements and solitary compounds. Gashes of red clay and black loam mark fresh hoe work; eucalyptus trees flash silver against brilliant green tea plantations; banana trees are everywhere. On the theme of hills, Rwanda produces countless variations: jagged rain forests, round shouldered buttes, undulating moors, broad swells of savanna, volcanic peaks sharp as filed teeth. During the rainy season, the clouds are huge, low and fast, mists cling to the highland hollows, lightening flickers through the nights, and during the day the land is lustrous.”
(Philip Gourevitch)

Once over the border and cycling again, it was as if we had crossed into a different continent rather than a different country. In comparison to Tanzania where you would see a small village every 20km or so in Rwanda there were people everywhere.

Every square inch of the steep sided hills were inhabited and intensively cultivated. As we greeted people in English/French/Swahili/Zulu they looked at us blankly (we were going to have to learn some Kinyarwandan).

Seeing the men working the fields, pounding maze to make flour and chopping the banana palms, we couldn't help our minds drifting back to the Genocide of 1994 when 1million of the 8 million inhabitants were massacred over 100 days by their neighbours using these same hoes, clubs and machetes.

As dusk approached we started to look for a place to stay (there wouldn't be the possibility of wild camping here). The little houses became closer to one another and we realised we were in a village. Stopping to ask if they knew of a place to stay we were immediately surrounded by a group of 50 people, looking at us both bemused and amused! Soon the villager who could speak English was summoned – Laurent was very helpful and we were welcomed into a small guesthouse and bar with no sign to distinguish it from the neighbour's home. Although everyone was exceptionally friendly we both slept badly thanks to some very persistent mosquitoes, eery night-time noises and dreams of people being massacred in the courtyard outside our bedroom. (maybe we've been on larium too long)

1st night in rwanda

1st night in rwanda

Laurent and our host after our first night in Rwanda

Bleary eyed we pushed on, motivated by the possibility of a night in crisp white sheets in Kigali. However 60km before Kigali we hit Kayanza, a nice little town with a beautiful lake and guesthouse. This guesthouse had everything we had dreamed of and more, HOT running water, electricity, clean linen and a beautiful view!

seeds of peace

seeds of peace

While in Kayonza we got chatting to a smartly dressed young man who was picking up some racing bikers in full kit.

Simon Peter had lost his entire family in the genocide and was living on the streets in Kigali when he was taken in by a young man and taken along to church. Since becoming a Christian he has managed to forgive those who he saw brutally kill his family and is now working with a charity giving hope to other street children. Meeting him was such an inspiration and helped calm our bad dreams and reinforce the sense that this is a hopeful country, that forgiveness and reconciliation are possible and the future is from bleak.

friendly wildlife

friendly wildlife

We found it difficult to prise ourselves away from the luxury of Seeds of Peace and the friendly birdlife but we did eventually manage to get our bums back on the bikes and get to Kigali.

Our new friend Simon Peter had recommended a place to stay in Kigali run by an American missionary organisation that he works with, on our arrival we were befriended by Rhonda, A middle aged American in Rwanda to facilitate the adoption of Rwandan orphans into American homes. She immediately befriended us and the following day took us on a tour of town.

rwandan coffee

rwandan coffee

After a morning of peaceful luxury drinking coffee and buying 'essentials' like jam and chocolate we were jarred out of our little western bubble and confronted with a frightening image of Rwanda, of feelings that remain so raw and a peace that is so fragile.

Genicidaires

Genicidaires

Driving ahead of us in the rush hour traffic was the truck in the photo above. The men are convicted genocidaires. They are dressed in pink to remind them and onlookers how the water ran pink with blood during those 100 days of terror. As we watched them they tried to catch our attention, winking, smiling, waving. Not wanting to encourage their jovial behaviour we tried to ignore them.

We then stopped at some traffic lights. That moment a minibus pulled up next to us. A thick-set black man in his late thirties sat a few rows back in the bus with a look of such intense hatred frozen on his face. He glared at the genocidaires, not blinking, not moving for 2 or 3 minutes while we waited for the lights to change. The hatred was so charged I half expected him to break out the side of the bus and attack the men.

The lights changed. We followed the truck left as the minibus headed straight on – the man still fixing the convicts with his stare. We passed a crowd of young men on the pavement and were horrified to see one of them give the prisoners the 'thumbs up' seeming to respect and show appreciation for what they stood for. The murderers smiled and acknowledged the young man with a nod of the head.

mass grave - one of many

mass grave - one of many

As we cycle around Rwanda we don't go far before passing a mass grave, and there is no doubt that most of the people we pass either witnessed or committed horrific things in 1994, and yet life carries on, and the people you talk to are normal and in fact very friendly individuals.

After the genoside there were 120 000 prisoners in jails only designed to hold 40 000, in some prisons people slept at night criss crossed ontop of each other. It was predicted that even with a fully functioning judicial system (most judges, lawyers and clerks had either been killed or were instrumental in the killing so have fled the country) it would take almost 200 years to process all the cases.

In Janurary 2003 many of those prisoners started to be released. The President had passed a decree that any elderly, sick or lower-level killers who had confessed their crimes could be released, they would then be tried in their own villages by their own elders, with the other villagers acting as witnesses in traditional 'Gacaca courts'. Billboards went up around the country “The Truth Heals”.

“If only there were evil people somewhere committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts trough the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Imagine yourself as a survivor, who lost most or all of your family, seeing your neighbors who killed your loved ones returning to their homes and intact families.

Desmond Tutu wrote; “There is no future without forgiveness” but imagine the reality of how difficult forgiving these people is. However, many (but by no means all) have asked for forgiveness and are trying to help the survivors in practical ways. Society seems to be rebuilding.

beautiful hills

beautiful hills

Of the countries we have passed through, Rwanda seems the most hopeful and progressive. It is a country that has plummed the depths of human depravity and now appears to be united behind a visionary and non corrupt Christian president (Paul Kigame – the leader of the rebel RPF army that invaded from Uganda and stopped the slaughter). If forgiveness and reconciliation can continue to free the hearts of individuals in Rwanda there is no doubt that it will prosper.

Posted by robandpol 10:25 Archived in Rwanda Tagged bicycle Comments (4)

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