The drive from Kigali to Ruhengeri in Rwanda is nothing short of spectacular. And for once, while traveling, it paid off to be tall since I was able to commandere the front passenger seat for the drive. After all of those years of trying to squeeze my big legs into a coach seat on a flight, I finally was able to put them to good use and have the best seat in the car for the beautiful drive – where we emphatically learned why Rwanda is known as The Land of a Thousand Hills.
The drive went smoothly, but we arrived in Ruhengeri later than expected. Why specifically I cannot say since we only made one pre-planned stop to snap a few photos en route. We were almost immediately approached by a group of kids in the area as we did this, and thankfully one of the other group members had brought a sack of candy to give out in such a situation. I was disappointed with myself for not having thought of this as well, but I was so squeezed for carry on suitcase space that it was probably for the best.
We were expecting to go to the Igitaramo, a local celebration around the Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony, when we arrived in Ruhengeri, but due to the time we missed all of it but a couple of short hours. It’s disappointing too to think of what we missed since the dancing we were able to watch was nothing short of masterful; I loved every minute we were there and was not disappointed in the least that I decided to leave my nicer camera in the hotel room since it allowed me to pull away from the lense a bit and just enjoy the celebration.
I’m not actually certain if this was the case, but it seemed as though our arrival was expected as we were almost immediately escorted to a row of front seats under a VIP tent. The lot of us piled on in, me pulling up the rear as I surveyed the situation, and took in the amazing dance put on by who I could only assume was a local group of both kids and adults. Some were dressed traditionally as they danced, and others were masked as the paraded around the grassy hill the event took place upon – it was all extremely well organized and performed.
Only about halfway through our time there did I realize, when someone leaned over and whispered in my ear, that I was sitting next to the Prime Minister of Rwanda – Bernard Makuza. I didn’t recognize him from an award ceremony we stopped at in Kigali briefly the previous night, so I only shrugged and smirked as I had been sitting next to him all this time and didn’t even realize it. I had traveled all that way and didn’t even immediately realize that I was rubbing elbows with one of the most important people in the country. Well, truthfully, it was actually with his wife since he was another seat over from me.
During a pause in the celebration all of us got up, lead by the Prime Minister, and sampled a local bread that was being made during the ceremony. Sadly, this sparked everyone’s appetite as it had been quite some time since we had last eaten a meal. So, despite coming late, we had to leave early to head back for dinner, as well as bed since our wake up call the next morning with the Kwita Izina ceremony would come earlier than most of us would have prefered in our jetlagged state.
None of us would even dream of missing it though as it would surely be a day to remember…