IMG_1542 © 2011 Tim. All rights reserved.

Ruhengeri – Kampala

Last time I ended with rejoining Fabian. We were at the cafe and I ate a meat pie which I had mistaken for an apple pie. That was somewhat disappointing since good pies or cakes had been hard to get.
But anyway there is one important story I wanted to tell which I forgot in the last report: Back in Gitarama I was returning from a restaurant with Sandra. Governmental website always state that you’re not supposed to drive in African countries at night time because of people on the street, pot holes, etc.
I never thought about those problems applying to pedestrians but they do. What happened is.. well I fell into a hole. It was so dark I couldn’t see the even darker hole right in front of me and like in a cartoon I ran into it. I seemed to hang in the air for a second while still speaking and then I fell right down. I scratched my knee (it doesn’t seem as if it’s meant to heal properly), arms and hands. Nothing severe but I was hanging there, clinging to the edge of a seeming bottomless hole. It actually was perhaps 1.5m deep but in the dark with my feet not touching the ground, since my torso was lying flat on the ground, it seemed bottomless. Before I realized what had happened or Sandra even moved the people walking down the road next to us had already pulled me out. Everything happened so quick that I realized what had happened only afterwards but it also occured to me that I probably would have have to be in danger of bleeding to death for people in Germany to help me.
… I know it’s not that bad. But it would have taken way longer. Just wanted to mention that with all my complaining last time. Still the people here are probably close to the most friendly in the world. And there’s an even better example to come.

Maxime in der paradisischen Werkstatt

Anyway. After our breakfeast we headed to Jock’s place – Jock is the coach of the Rwanda national cycling team – where we hoped to get our bikes back in shape. Unfortunatley Jock was in South Africa at that time to buy spares but we were able to meet his french mechanic Maxima who spend 6 hours with us that day repairing the bikes.
Maxime was such an amazing help. In case you read that: Thank you!!
We got them cleaned, changed cassettes and chains, repaired my front break (which for a different reason is broken already again but should be easily repaired.. just have to take the time), adjusted the gears, practically everything. The bikes were like new again! And such a pleasure of riding them… The problem with gears and parts wearing out is that it goes slowly you won’t notice the difference until it gets unbearable. But once you repair them the difference is.. huge!
Thanks again. You saved what remained of the original tour and what’s going to come.

Now with the new bikes and everything packed up again we headed to Michael’s and Kadda’s place (German volunteers, Fabian had met the day before) who had invited us to stay there. Rwanda is expensive so we were especially glad to stay with them – and for the nice company even more.
All summed up we had a great time in Ruhengeri with the different volunteers and I’d say it never got boring. We actually had so much to do I didn’t even get around to writing the blog…
And then finally Sunday arrived. Sunday was special because Jock was back from South Africa, we could pay for the spares and then finally get back on the road again.

The road from Ruhengeri to Uganda is not particularly spectacular, except for the amazing view on the Virunga volcanoes. And then well.. we left Rwanda. And here the conclusions:
Allthough I didn’t mention it in particular I talked with many many people about Rwanda, Rwandan society and especially how they act concerning the genocide. I dare say Rwanda is the country I learned the most about and I still have the feeling of only scratching on the surface.
I will start with the general things and superficial observations. First of all Rwanda is a very clean and well run country. It’s thoroughly organized, there’s not too much police or military around (compared to other countries), infrastructure is very well developed and in urban areas education seems to be on high levels. Rwanda has several universities with the best being in Butare and actually offering academic courses, unlike e.g. Zambia with its university of brick laying. Everywhere in Rwanda you will find purple and blue ribbons, memorials, flowers for the victims of the genocide. They seem to do great memorial work. This is also stressed by the amazing genocide memorial in Kigali.
Then concerning education again it’s not as good as it might seem. They do have schools and universities, yes. But the teaching methods are far from producing intellectual or critical thinkers and youth. Children get beaten here, not hit but beaten, for asking questions from the “why-age” on. They get laughed at in school for asking and in University foreign workers are complaining about having a dull class which doesn’t dare asking.
I don’t think this will be much different from other countries here but Rwanda is the only one where I have actually heard of it and even witnessed it.
Then concerning the post genocide memorials: Yes they are doing massive work. But it’s not all good. For example people that have buried their losses in or around their homes are forced to dig them back up and bring them to the memorial sites. The official reason is: “To have all the bones in one place”. People who don’t obey will be punished and nobody cares about the pains they might suffer whilst digging up the remains.
Then the genocide in public is an absolute tabu topic. No Rwandan will ever talk to you about it unless he really trusts you (for what I heard. I didn’t talk to Rwandans about it because I was too afraid to break that tabu to be honest). There are public displays of documents, photos and film from the genocide period during the 100 day memorial time (which is a third of the year!) and people attend it, publicly crying or suffering psychic crashes.. but nobody talks it.
And then, what troubled me most: Rwanda has one main difference from all the other countries I’ve traveled through. It’s got a certain sense of oppression and tension in the air. I heard people saying that there still are those animosities, although the words “Tutsi” and “Hutu” are banned, but people know perfectly well who’s who and it’s said to be possible to start boiling at any given time and event again.
People in Rwanda don’t laugh, they don’t talk loudly or freely. Or perhaps they do but it’s in a very different way. Everything comes at a certain price and the order and cleanliness in Rwanda seems to come from a ruler with a very tight grip on the country (the President won the last elections with 95% and if you ask random people the standard answer you will get is “He is very well loved”).
It is once again a country of outstanding beauty with touches of the toscany in some places but I wouldn’t say I really liked the country. Although people were once again more cautios and still friendly it’s just.. uneasy. I hope everything will be fine in future for Rwanda and that peace will remain stable and I still have just scratched the surface of what’s moving the country but for what I experienced it’s not a country I would like to stay in for a longer time.

So we left Rwanda and I personally was glad about it. Now whilst Rwanda had left us with a pleasant ride on good roads with friendly people Uganda was pretty much the difference. I might have been in a bad mood but Uganda occured to me to be vile, a place with only one goal: To annoy or even destroy cyclists. Although I quickly reversed my impression of Uganda being a bad country I'm still convinced that it's bad for cycling. This is due to mainly two reasons: generally bad road conditions, with patchworks, gravel and old tarmac. Then Ugandan constructers are very creative in finding ways to slow down traffic. My favorite idea: placing speed bumps every 10 meters over a stretch of 10 kilometers. Or later in the area of Masaka, a place were the road goes straight up and down the steep hills, they tore up the deepest points of the road and left a stretch of 50m loose gravel thus stealing your entire momentum.From 50kph to 5kph in 3 seconds…Then my personal favorite: begging children on mountains. This time with the slight difference that the children tended to run after you, try to grab you and knew perfectly well what they wanted. For fairness sake I have to admit though that that was only on our first day in Uganda, later we didn’t encounter a single begging kid anymore (except for the undernourished, glue sniffing children in Kampala).Gefaehrlicher Verkehr

And then the worst and most dangerous: Traffic. I came to the conclusion that those who apply to the army and get sorted out because they are too rambo for the operations in Congo get sent directly into the coach companies and on the road. Their mission: To eliminate everything on the road that is smaller than them, or slower, or weaker, or perhaps faster and bigger but not as beautiful. I don’t know but I’m convinced they actively tried to kill us and in some occasion there was no other possibility anymore than to take the jump into the ditch.

Now that first day in Uganda I was feeling ill. Diarrhea still had me in its tight grip and that makes you weak and cycling unpleasant. It was a very mountainous road and in contrast to the mountainous roads in Rwanda it wasn’t surfaced. In the end of the day I was so exhausted I honestly couldn’t enjoy the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi. My mind was totally occupied with asking myself why the hell I left the tarred road to Kabale and why that damn kid keeps following us.

The night of that day was probably the worst and my entire circulation seemed to crash. I was shivering from cold, clothed in normal clothes, fleece set and the fleece blanket. I shivered the whole night wearing the above together with the sleeping bag and the inlet.

Fabian was lying next to me only with his sleeping bag and totally fine.

Still I always expected it to improve over night (since it couldn’t get much worse) and it did. The next day started off bad but conditions increased and in the evening I was feeling as healthy as ever.

Unser Schlafplatz

We left Kabale, left the range of mountains of which we thought it was the last and entered savannah. That place was gorgeous. It reminded me a little of Namibia, we had slight backwind for the first time of what felt like ages and it was flat. Plain sheer pleasure.

We spent the night at some random guesthouse in a random trade center along the road and started cycling early the next day again. That is after a breakfast of Rolex (Chapati baked together with an omelet) and Chai.

The road continued with similar conditions and then at some point the traffic started to increase rapidly, which concerning the bad traffic before was really really bad. We had reached Mbarara.

The town itself is not worth mentioning at all. It is an awful place and I would never recommend cycling there but at the same instance the most amazing and my current favorite story happened there.

As you will all know Africa is poor. Uganda may be one of the better developed countries but compared to our standards it is still poor and we are although not by German standards rich.

Acting like a proper rich person I had forgotten I had placed my wallet on my bike seat when we pushed our bikes 30 meters down the road to an internet café. We crossed the road and once we reached the other side I realized the wallet was gone.

I ran back immediately up and down the road but it was not to be found. I asked everybody who was around, Boda drivers, Shopkeepers, random people walking down the road, street vendors. Most people were repellent, nobody had seen anything. I ran up and down three times before I gave up, I think people were already getting annoyed because I had asked them so often.

Eventually I gave up and called Barbara to cancel the credit card. The credit card was the only important thing in that wallet and the only way to withdraw money in Africa so its loss was a big one.

By that time probably 15 minutes had passed since I had lost the wallet.

Another five minutes later a man who had been standing in the shop on the opposite side approached me and asked me whether I had lost something. I told him about my misery and then he produced my wallet with everything (!) inside. Not a single bill or coin was missing, everything untouched.

I was so surprised and happy with my luck I hugged him, which in return seemed to surprise him a lot. After giving him a reward I immediately called Barbara back again who had, as fast as I could ever have wanted it, already cancelled the credit card.

To make a long story short: The credit card ended up being entirely useless in my wallet but I still think that an example of amazing honesty and reliability in a place like Africa. You always hear the horror stories but I really came down to relying on the help of these amazing people and the cyclists’ Fortuna.

The way I am describing this now is of course totally different from the way I felt then. I was furious after I discovered the credit card couldn’t be saved anymore. I tried to blame everybody for what happened, all the time knowing perfectly well it was only my own carelessness to blame. I tried to blame Fabian, I tried to blame African people in general, I even tried to blame the man who returned the wallet for taking so long.

I kept cycling 500m behind Fabian for the next two hours trying to get into a better mood again. But it is hard to admit there’s nobody to blame but yourself.

Wie die Schoko-Euros da so liegen, nimmt die Bedienung sie und fragt, wie der Wechselkurs sei. Sie dachte, ich wollte damit bezahlen.

In the end I did. I convinced myself that nothing serious had happened, that I should take it as a lesson and that the only consequence is me being tied to Fabian in withdrawing money (Barbara had transferred parts of my money onto Fabians account). I caught back up with him, we had some great food and two Euro-Chocolate-Coins which I regarded as a good omen and then we cycled on through the beautiful beautiful country (all the while trying to survive the traffic).

Later that day a traffic police officer next to the road started running with us for a few meters, said he would join us to Masaka. His bouncing paunch made this a rather funny sight.

We slept in another random place, led there by a hoard of cheering children. Since I was in that amazingly post-frustration mood I enjoyed it a lot to joke around with them until the security guard of that place chased them away and closed the gate.

The next day then… wasn’t spectacular at all until…… we finally reached the Equator!!The sun was burning, humid air, head wind and then there it was. The Equator Memorial. We road over the equator like a finish line of a race. We had been waiting for this all day long and it was an epic moment. All the tourists and vendors stared at us as if we were mad men (which looking at the picture, we are) but that didn’t bother us at all. We were just happy to reach yet another landmark and took the coolest pictures.Then we made the last few kilometers through the bad traffic to the next cheap place for accommodation, already convinced to take a bus or Matatu into Kampala the next day. What we had seen along the road and into Mbarara was already bad enough, cycling in Kampala must be the most awful thing in the world.We took a Matatu. They tied or bikes to the back, pressed the flap over them and then set off. The road was bad, the traffic worse and all the while we were glad to be on a Matatu and not on our bikes.After some hassle with the drivers (who didn’t want to bring us into Kampala but drop us of in Natete), we managed to bargain a free delivery to the Backpackers where we were going to stay and well.. we crashed there.Sadly Kampala is the place along the route where we stayed for the longest time. If we leave tomorrow (what we really want to) we’ve been here for eight days.One of the major reasons we didn’t continue is we didn’t know how – or rather where. We knew we had to get to Nairobi but we also discovered that it is impossible to get the Ethiopian Visa here (as it is in Kenya). It is possible to get the Visa upon arrival at the airport but not on the road border posts and only at you home embassy. They didn’t care about our tour. Fly in or leave it.So Ethiopia was blocked, then Sudan is waging war against it’s south internating hundreds and thousands of people and it’s expected to get worse with the separation on July 11 (Which is when we would have entered Sudan).We decided we didn’t want to pay for a flight to Ethiopia and even less wanted to cycle through war in Sudan so we had to find alternative routes.This proved to be a very hard task and we went through dozens of new plans, all the while discarding them after a few days.One of the plans we had was to fly to Iran and cycle home from there. We even applied for an Iranian visa but by now we have dismissed that plan already again. We just have to stay in Africa… it wouldn’t be the same.Then every once in a while I would get a shot of courage and decide to go through Sudan after all – and dropped it.Now our current plan is (after thinking it over thrice, discarding it as impossible in the first two attempts) to fly to West Africa and make our way up to the north coast along the west coast. This would be (Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali) Senegal, Mauritania, West Sahara, Morocco. It’s a beautiful solution and would still let us end with having crossed the continent more or less uninterruptedly (at least as for the north-south route). The flight cost is double the one to Tehran but well… At least we can stay in Africa and that’s worth a lot.Then another good thing happened in Kampala. The barkeeper at our hostel, Freddy, convinced me to go to the doctor. The doctor, a british expat, was exactly the type of person I like and we got along with each other perfectly from the moment he entered (I say that because people either tend to love or hate him). He diagnosed: “Intestinal Gastritis with a little bit of yeast”, got me drugs against everything and from that day my condition has constantly been improving. So I even got rid of my diarrhea here and we’re perfectly prepared to hit the road again.We also did a detour to Jinja from Tuesday to Thursday where we went kayaking for two days. It was rather expensive but so much worth it! We had a great instructor who taught us a lot about techniques and in the end we were both rolling through the water (though Fabian did much better rolls than I).Uhmm… There are many things that happened in Kampala but none except of the above really interesting. Most of them would concern food – we love eating!Obststaende

So as this article comes to an end I would just like to announce our further route: We’ll be heading (on a bus, because of traffic) to Jinja again tomorrow morning. Then we will cycle north to Mbale and cross at one of the northern borders into Kenya thus circumnavigating the northern slopes of Mt. Elgon. We’ll take a detour there to Kitum (or any other) Cave and Saiwa Swamp National Park (which you may only enter by foot).

Then we’ll cycle south, cross the Kakamega virgin Forest Reserve from west to east and make our way along the many back roads through the mountains south of Nakuru to Hell’s Gate National Park (which you can explore by bicycle on your own!). From there it’s… Nairobi. Once again a place where we have to go but don’t really want to go.

But we can visit Dennis’ brother there, pick up a care package and take our flight to West Africa, so it’s alright.

That said: We hope to be back on the road tomorrow and finally go cycling again. Also we hope you enjoyed the articles and photos and have a good time wherever you might be.

Fabian is at the moment working on implementing the Facebook-Like Button into this Website so once it’s up don’t forget to hit it ;-) .

We’ve been featured on this blog:

There will be an article on us in the Suedkurier in due time and the WDR is planning to do a short report on our tour too.

And one more piece of good news for all those Germans who suffer their ways through the long English texts. In Nairobi we’ll pick up a toughbook waiting for us there and then we’ll write bilingual again!

So long,


Mit der M.V. Liemba bin ich in Kirgoma angekommen. Tim ist mir nach Ruanda vorrausgefahren und ich will ihn mit oeffentlichen Verkehrsmitteln wider einhohlen. Von Kigoma will ich einen Bus bis kurz vor die ruandische Grenze nehmen. Planlos stehe ich morgens um 5 Uhr am Busbahnhof. Ein Soldat fuert mich freundlich zu einem Bus, der mich ans Ziel bringen soll und ist schon wieder verschwunden. Kurzerhand wird mein Rad bei den Ersatzreifen verstaut. Wir fahren in die aufgehende Sonne, berg auf und ab auf einer ueblen Piste. Der Bus doest so vor sich hin, als ploetzlich das Amaturenbrett in Flammen aufgeht. Klappe auf und mit einem nassen Lappen den Kabelbrand geloescht. Dannach  laeuft der Scheibenwischer ohne unterlas. Bis er irgendwann ganz seinen Geist aufgibt.

Mit einem Pickup komme ich an die Grenze. Problemlose Grenzabfertigung und ein bereitstehender Bus in die Hauptstadt Kigali. Gegen neun Uhr abens kommen wir endlich an. Irgendwo im Stadtzentrum werde ich abgesetzt. Ohne Plan wo ich schlafen kann. Schnell bildet sich die uebliche Traube an Interessierten, die mir erklaeren, dass es keine guenstigen Unterkuenfte gaebe …

Ein junger Mann kommt vorbei und fragt mich in perfektem Englisch, ob ich hilfe braechte. Ich erklaere ihm nochmal, dass ich eine Unterkunft suchen wuerde. Kurz entschlossen sagt er, ich koenne auf seiner Arbeit schlafen. Wir gehen los. Ich frage mich, ob es eine gute Idee ist, Nachts einem voellig Fremden in einer Grossstadt zu folgen… Den Gedanken haben zwei Soldaten auch und halten uns an. Ich erklaere ihnen, dass alles in Ordnung sei. Sie nehmen trotzdem die Daten von Tawaz neben mir auf. Ich entschuldige mich fuer die Probleme, die ich ihm berreite. Er studiert Informatik und arbeitet in einem Internetcafe in einer modernen Shoppingmal. 24 Stunden geoeffnet. Ein paar Kollegen sind noch da und sie beratschlagen, wo ich am besten bleiben koenne. Am besten wuerde es wohl sein, ich lasse mein Rad im Internetcafe und schlafe bei Tawanz.

Und schon rasen wir durch das naechtliche Kigali auf Motoradtaxis. Afrikanische Grossstaedte sind wahrhaftiger der falsche Oer fuer die allererste Fahrt auf einem Motorad ueberhaupt. Mit wackligen Knien steige ich schliesslich in einer ziemlich verlassenen Gegend ab. Mehrere male einem absolut sicheren Zusammenstoss enkommen.

Wir sitzen ein bisschen in der Kueche zusammen. Tawaz ist Weise. Will aber nicht naeher darauf eingehen, ob seine Eltern bei dem Genozit umgebracht wurden. Viel mehr ist er an unserer Tour interessiert.

Am naesten Morgen werde ich von der Deutschen Welle geweckt. Tawaz hat scheinbar den Internetstream gefunden. Mit dem Motoradtaxi geht es wider zum Internetcafe wo wir das Radholen und uns auf den Weg zu den Bussen nach Ruengeri machen. Tawaz organisiert mir einen Minibus, der auch mein Rad unterbringt. Ich lade ihn zum Fruehstueck ein. Geld will er nicht annehmen und so schenke ich ihn, meinen virenverseuchten 4Gb USB-Stick, mit dem Hinweis, dass er ihn Formatieren muss. In Sambia waren alle im Internetcafe scharf auf meine Sticks. Als wir zum Bus gehen sehe ich am Strassenstand haufenweise 32Gb-Sticks.


Tim wollte laut seiner letzten Mail abends ankommen. Ich erreiche ihn auf seiner ruandischen Nummer nicht. Wirklich sorgen mache ich mir nicht. Ist erwachsen und geimpft…

Der Mechaniker des Ruandischen Fahrradnationalteams Maxime laed mich abend ein, ein paar Bier mit amerikanischen NGOlern und dem Deutschen FSJler Michael zu trinken.

Am naesten morgen Klopft Tim wehement gegen meine Tuer und ich wache verkatert auf.

Jocks Werkstadt erweisst sich als kleine Oase inmitten all der China-Raeder die hier rumfahren. Rennraeder haengen an den Wenden, Laufraeder im Ueberfluss. Aufgebockte Mountainbikes und viele viele Ersatzteile: Umwerfer, Bremsen, Kasette und Ketten. Zwei Sets liegen schon fuer uns bereit. Zuerst wird aber der ganze Staub abgespuelt! Dann machen wir uns ans Werk: Neue Kasette und Kette. Tretlager bei meinem Rad wechseln, Raeder zentrieren. Tims vorderrad Bremse bekommt neue Teile. Theoretisch wissen wir bei den meisten Dingen, wie es geht. In der Praxis erweisst sich dann aber das Einstellen von Schaltung usw. als doch etwas komplizierter und wir nehmen Maxims Hilfe gerne an.

View Musanze – Kampala in a larger map


  1. Tim

    Der nette Herr von der Rezeption hat geklopft, nicht ich! :O

  2. Sebastian

    Jetzt bin ich überrascht: Wolltet Ihr nicht Andreas Frowein in Kampala besuchen?

  3. Franka

    hey, ich habe jetzt auch entlich mal den Eglischen Text gelesen. Muss morgen Englisch schreiben und da habe ich mir gedacht ist Englisch lesen fast genauso gut wie lernen ;)
    viele grüße Franka

  4. Lisa S

    Hey Alex, Ich bin ja bald in Uganda und habe jetzt auch nen Blog. dafür würde ich gern ein paar Fotos von euch stibitzen. Wär euch das recht?
    viele Grüße aus dem 7Hof

  5. Lisa S

    Oh nein sorry, das war ein versehen. ich wollte doch eigentlich Fabian schreiben. :D

  6. Toller Bericht, tolle Gegend, gute Bilder. Danke für den unterhaltsamen Schreibstil.


  7. Patricia

    Sehr interessant eure Berichte zu lesen, zumal ich letzten Sommer auch in Uganda gewesen bin;) Merci dafür:)