After completing the grade on Hugo Blick’s recent drama set in the land of a thousand hills, Farm Colourist Perry Gibbs was inspired and set off on two wheels to see what Rwanda really looked like for himself.
Met at the airport by his guide Vincent and two motorbikes they rode off to discover the small but beautiful East African country.
Mention Rwanda to most people and they think of the horrific genocide of the mid 90’s and political instability and danger, but nowadays it is forward thinking and relatively safe. Tourists are welcomed and the country is on show to anyone who wishes to visit. It is apparently one of the cleanest countries in the world; plastic bags are banned and the streets are immaculate.
Take to the roads and they are full of a seemingly endless flow in both directions of people and bicycles. The official taxi bicycles (a normal bicycle with a cushion on the back) carry people, and the others are used primarily for transporting goods. You might see anything from huge sacks of vegetables to wardrobes, to mattresses - five at a time being carried! They are not ridden but instead used as trolleys and pushed often for miles and miles.
Leaving the road and heading for the Congo Nile Trail, one is faced with an exciting journey of narrow wooden bridges (often with gaps wider than a motorcycle tyre), river crossings, hill climbs and breathtaking views. Rwanda is a particularly verdant country and has two main rainy seasons which keep it so. Being only 75 miles from the equator also keeps it in the high twenties most of the time which can make for sticky bike gear if you’re not moving, but is perfect for a boat trip to a deserted island in Lake Kivu or sharing one’s lunch in one of the four National Parks with the abundant wildlife.
Rwanda is still a poor country; a lot of people live in mud huts for which they make and bake the mud bricks themselves. However, they have a rich history which predates the genocide and have clearly made huge efforts to rebuild their country. They now teach English instead of French in the schools and over 90% of Rwandans have health insurance. Aldous Huxley once famously said, 'To travel is discover that everyone is wrong about other countries'. If you don’t get a chance to go to Rwanda yourself anytime soon, Black Earth Rising is available on Netflix to tide you over.