Having managed to cross the border between Uganda and Rwanda as one of the very last people that were able to do so, I was at least able to enjoy the stunning landscapes full of banana trees, rice fields, and tea plantations from inside the bus to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. After my couchsurfing host had canceled my stay very short notice and locals seemed very afraid of white people all of a sudden, I was lucky enough to find friendly people who offered help. The next day, it was announced that the last regular airplane would leave the Rwandan airport at midnight. Having been told to get back to my home country by many people, I rushed to the city center, and met up with other stranded German travelers while hunting for airline tickets. In front of the embassy, we were finally told about specials charters by KLM leaving the following week and managed to get the last, overpriced tickets. Then, all of a sudden, within a couple of hours, shops, hotels, and markets were shut down, the borders were closed, and everyone was obliged to stay inside the house. Complete lockdown of a country. I did not expect everything to shut down that fast due to the new coronavirus pandemic…
The days before departure were spent in Kigali House of Stories where I was hosted by Fiacre and his roomies from the USA and India. We had some fun days talking a lot, playing ball, watching movies etc. until it was time to say goodbye – too soon… 🙁
At the airport in Kigali, I had to experience a very strange, quite atmosphere. When boarding, we were handed face masks and had to keep our distance to the other travelers. During the flight, there was not really any onboard-service and the airports in Amsterdam and Frankfurt were pretty empty too… Well, like this, my world trip was paused for now but will be resumed after this pandemic has gotten over with. Stay healthy, everyone!
After having crossed the border to Rwanda in Busia, I took the next Matatu (mini bus) to Jinja where the Nile starts. There, I stayed with a lovely family at the Nile Vocational Institute (a little bit like a university campus), played a lot with the coolest little dude on campus – little Rephi, talked to the students, and visited the nursery school. 😃 Oh, and you should check out the Children’s Art Museum by my host Daniel Atwenda when nearby.
Other than that, I met up with my friend Sascha from Germany and also with the project group of Ring of Hope Uganda. We had a seminar on drug & alcohol addiction and visited the street kids (lunch & play time) as well as some of the sponsored children. Very interesting, but also thoughtful days… Make sure to check out their website in order to get more information on their good cause.
After a week, we left Jinja and went on to Kampala – the capital city of Uganda. It’s a huge, very noisy and crowded African city but it has some interesting historical places. And the best of it all was the house of Gaddafi by whom we were hosted in Kasasi – a bunch of very friendly, welcoming people whom it was fun to hang out with.
Crossing Fort Portal on my way to Kasese, I was able to drive through some stunning scenery – the beginnings of the Rwenzori mountain range. Having arrived in Kasese, I stayed with a lovely family, went with them to the river and the hot springs, and visited the mountains for a hike near Kilembe, an old mining town.
On our way down South, we passed some spectacular scenery with green hills, lakes, and even animals from the Queen Elizabeth National Park. And the best thing: the Kazinga Wilderness Safari Camp – a lodge in the wild – let us stay for a night in order to experience their amazing cottages with huge beds and outdoor shower, the delicious dinner in their restaurant, and the wild animals around. You should definitely check this one out if you’re in the region for a vacation!
Passing through Mbarara with its typical longhorn cattle, I went on to Kabale where I stayed one night. From here, I went with a lovely Mexican couple to Lake Bunyonyi where we rented a boat, did an island tour, completed a hike to the top view, and spent a night at the island of Itambira.
The next day, we went to the mainland on the other side of the lake in order to visit the Orphanage Smiling Hearts deep up in the hills. The kids welcomed us with singing and dancing before we had English class and lunch together. And of course, they also got some presents and donations from us before we left again to go back to Kabale in order to finally cross the border to Rwanda in the morning.
After a long but very pleasant flight with Qatar and, thus, a stopover in Doha, I arrived in Nairobi in the afternoon, took an Über to Ash, my Couchsurfing host here (couldn’t have asked for a better one), and felt immediately very welcome in this country. We talked a lot and had an awesome dinner! Thank you so much, Ash!
The next day, we went to an orphanage in one of the slum areas of Nairobi. I had brought some gifts for the children (Thanks again to the donators from Germany!) and oh, how happy were they when I handed them clothes, stuffed pets, and pencils for coloring – and that’s what we did after the shyness had been gotten over with.
After playtime was over, we went to the outskirts of the capital city in order to get a glimpse of the nature surrounding it. Thus, we strolled through tea and coffee fields, discovered beautiful flower gardens, and visited a nice little waterfall.
The next day, we decided to pay a visit to the elephant orphanage. There is just 1 hour per day (11am-noon) at which you can do so. That’s when the baby elephants are fed milk and are allowed to play in the mud. What a gorgeous sight! I was even able to stroke one of these beautiful creatures! 🙂 Afterwards, we decided to skip the giraffe center (way to commercial and overpriced) and instead drove around Karen with its impressive houses and gardens and visited the Kazuri Beads Center where we were explained and shown the processes in the factory.
The following two days I spent mostly with Dr. Richter from Germany who had just arrived here with a small group of people in order to take a look at the project he had founded to help the people in the slums. So we first were shown around Diguna (a mission founded and led by a very sweet German couple), had a delicious lunch there (thanks Elfriede), and then set off to Mathare – the poorest slum in this area – in order to talk to the leaders of different groups that had been formed. The following day, we went to the Nairobi Chapel where thousands of people go every Sunday in order to sing and worship to God (church here in Africa is very different to what we are used to in Europe and definitely worth the experience even if you’re not religious). Afterwards, we went to the Mathare soccer field to meet and greet the kids that are sponsored by the project – and, of course, I also had to kick some ball with them – what an unforgettable experience! 🙂
When you go North from Nairobi, you end up in the Rift Valley which stretches from the Red Sea to Mozambique. I there lies Naivasha surrounded by beautiful landscapes and thousands of animals. At Crescent Island, we were able to stroll around freely just like all the zebras, giraffes, antilopes etc. – time for some animal selfies! 😉
After our encounter with these wild African mammels, Ash and I went on to Nakuru, where his best friend Kenny lives with his baby boy and works at a gorgeous wheat farm – right next to the rim of a former volcano crater. This was the place where I stayed for a couple of days in order to soak in the African farm life and relax for a bit – well, sprinkled with trips to some lakes and waterfalls in the surroundings.
My next – and last – destination in Kenya was Kisumu. Located directly at Lake Victoria, it is a fairly laid-back city. Other than strolling all the way to the lake, I met up with the project group from Germany again and we visited about 300 street kids in the city center bringing them tons of bread and liters of milk.
Havana is definitely one of the cities in the world where you’ll have to spend more than just two days in order to see it all. Its true spirit can especially be felt in La Habana Vieja – the old town. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it features many historic colonial buildings. Other than that, you can find here the capitol, the four main squares, some nice churches, forts, and the famous Floridita bar where Ernest Hemingway used to hangout. And – of course – hundreds of these famous old American cars! 🙂
Without even knowing it, I had booked my flight exactly for the time when Havana was celebrating its 500th anniversary. It was a huge spectacle with free concerts, huge fireworks, and colorful parades. The best time to be there! And, of course, we also went to an after-party…
Vedado is the more modern part of Cuba’s capital and the central business district. It comprises many bars and clubs, cultural venues, part of the Malecon, the Revolution Square, and the University where also Fidel Castro studied law. A bit further outside, Fusterlandia – the Cuban answer to Park Güell in Barcelona – is worth a stop.
Viñales is a small town in the Western part of Cuba. It mostly consists of colorful one-story wooden houses with porches. Many of which are so called Casas Particulares – private residences that have been tailored and licensed to operate as bed and breakfasts. (My travelmate Darijusch and I stayed in these throughout the whole trip.) It is situated in an agricultural area, where crops of fruit, vegetables, coffee, and tobacco are still grown by traditional methods. Oh, and don’t forget to visit the Botanical Garden in this town when you’re around!