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Rockin' Rwanda

Suggestion : Print this out in draft form, on scrap paper, and use it for some bedtime, bathroom or weekend reading. Our journals are more like a chapter of a book and this is 11 pages. So relax and enjoy!

Exciting Photos: Just click the link below. Big thanks to Panasonic for the Lumix cameras:

Aug. 29, 2007: I'm 6 hours from starting the 11-country West African expedition to Morocco and just had to let you guys experience Rwanda before I leave the radar screen into the Sahara Desert to Mali. Enjoy!--Jamie

As the memories of my short but very sweet escapade to Rwanda are fresh in my mind, I have just finished with the epic book about the Genocide of 1994 by Philip Gourevitch entitled, “We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families”. I’m inspired to open this newsletter with following paragraph about Philip’s trip in Rwanda a year after the world’s largest and most horrific genocide that left over 1 million people dead in just a few months:

“….on the road, the country resolved itself in rugged glory, and you can imagine, as the scenes rushed past and the smells of earth and eucalyptus and charcoals, that people and their landscape—the people in their landscape—were as they have always been, undisturbed. In the fields people tilled, in the markets they marketed, in the schoolyards the girls in bright blue dresses and boys in khaki shorts and safari shirts played and squabbled like children anywhere. Across sweeping valleys, and through the high mountain passes, the roadside presented the familiar African parade: brightly clad women with babies bound to their backs and enormous loads on their heads; strapping young men in jeans and Chicago Bulls T-shirts ambling along empty-handed—save, perhaps for a small radio; elderly gents in suits weaving down red-dirt lanes on ancient bicycles; a girl chasing a chicken, a boy struggling to balance the bloody head of a goat on his shoulders, tiny tots in ragged smocks whacking cows out of your way with long sticks.


You knew, by statistics, that most of the people you saw were Hutu, but you had no idea who was who; whether that girl….was a massacre survivor, or whether she was a killer, or both, or what…”

Minus the bloody head of the goat, I recently experienced what the author wrote. And the real stunning fact this is: that during my entire 4-day, 12-hour a day expedition in Rwanda, I never met a Hutu. I did not seek out Tutsi or Hutu, I just wanted to meet the people of Rwanda and experience the country as it is today. But, against all statistical odds, I rode with only Tutsi riders and stayed at home of only Tutsi families. I won’t try to explain it, like winning the lottery, but I’m confident it happened for some reason to enlighten myself and the world we live in.

Now if you have not seen the movie “Hotel Rwanda”, read or researched the genocide in Rwanda some of this may not make any sense. What is a Hutu or a Tutsi? What is this Genocide? If you don’t have a clue, don’t worry. I won’t be going into politics too much in this newsletter. But I do suggest you get informed and the book above is a great start, as well as the film.

I crossed the border on Saturday the 16th of June, 2007, from the Kisoro border crossing with Uganda. I was grateful to have a brilliant Ugandan guest rider named Pam with me who would spend the weekend and use her precious vacation day away from her career as an investment banker in Kampala, Uganda to hang out with me in the capital of Rwanda, Kigali for a few days. After our hilly, dirty, bumpy ride in Uganda we hit the border of Rwanda and were blessed with perfectly paved roads—an experience I had almost forgotten after touring in Kenya and Uganda. The shoulder was huge, the traffic thin and the people ecstatic to see us ride by!

Pam and I both knew the history of Rwanda and we together shared the butterflies in our stomachs as we rode, totally exposed and unprotected, alongside the rural farmers wielding their standard tools of machetes and cyclical knives for cutting plants. As we rode, we had no idea if that person or the other, just over a decade ago, used these tools to murder one of their countrymen. This mix of angst and excitement between a male and female, from Uganda and USA, cycling in tandem in Rwanda, created an extremely unique and unforgettable energy that early Saturday evening.

The sun was setting to the west over numerous famous volcanoes where mountain gorillas roam and the view to the left was stunning, terraced mountains over a shimmering lake through a steamy afternoon haze. The hills were relentless for the first 20KM from the border. And, although Pam was doing her best, the fact that she had never ridden a bike in her entire life and lacked the typical cycling muscles of most of my guest riders added to the challenge for us both.

On top of this, we both experienced first hand a slightly annoying transition of demeanor of the local people from Uganda to Rwanda and it was not so easy to handle in our exhausted state. What we experienced was a lack of respect for our personal space that we enjoyed in Uganda, Kenya and other African countries. In Uganda the locals were curious, supportive and excited to have us pedal by but kept their distance to allow me to eat, fix my bike, urinate or other personal tasks. In Rwanda, we did not get more than 2 feet of personal space.

If we stopped, we were surrounded not by a few but dozens of people of all ages and their hands wondered, warm breaths created more heat around our already sweaty bodies, and we both had to dig deep to keep from exploding vulgar obscenities at our roadside companions. Luckily, as soon as the mob became too large, some mysterious man, likely a military man, would appear with a stick and the mob ran at full speed in every direction as he swung it with vengeance at anyone in his path. We would get a breath of fresh air just long enough for the man to walk away and the mob would reappear with wide eyes and roaming hands. One guy tried to steal my Ortlieb hip pack and made it about 100 meters before he was caught and dropped the bag. So, although the scenery was beautiful, we were both struggling with our first encounter with the locals.

We rode as long as we could until the sun went down over the stunning volcanoes and eventually decided to hop a van to Kigali in hopes of catching some Saturday night live music. I knew there were tons of Congolese musicians in Rwanda and, since there was no way in hell I was going to ride in the Congo with all my gear, I wanted to go on a hunt in Kigali. Finding a minivan to take my equipment was not easy as they don’t allow things on the roof in Rwanda so we had to buy a few seats in the rear of the bus and off we went. We ended up at the One Love Guesthouse in Kigali where we read they had regular live music and the funds from staying at the guest house went to help handicapped people with prosthetic limbs. Seemed like a win win to us, so we settled in.

For me, the 50KM ride we did was very tough, but I was excited and ready to hit the town for some music and fun with Pam. What I did not realize was the fact that those were Pam’s very first 50KM and she was dead to the world. I hopped out of the shower, went over to the bar to get Pam a drink and when I came back she was passed out and could barely say much except how much her butt and legs hurt. I was going to be a solo night on the town for the kid.

Several lively acts were on that night and I decided to get out on the dance floor and boogie to some great Congolese music rather than dive right into filming and recording. I connected with the musicians, told them my plan to go out riding for about 5 days and be back by the following weekend for some recording and they were excited as ever to show their stuff to the world and, of course, get a free CD of their performance. It was a stellar night out and the only thing missing was Pam. I went back to check on her several times to see if she could get a second wind, but no dice. She was a gonner.

Pam and I spent our last day together in the Capital of Kigali, walking the steep hills, having coffee, great conversations and running errands. Turns out Rwanda does not accept ATM cards and I was almost out of cash and it was a Sunday. But I was luckily able to change a few bucks I had stashed away for emergencies and the following day I was able to pull some cash from the Visa, but not without a hefty charge. Note to travelers: bring cash to Rwanda.

Pam and I shared one last dinner together and reminisced about our many adventures together in Uganda and Rwanda, and we still stay in touch today. We both learned a lot from each other and enjoyed the intelligent, deep conversations that unfortunately are quite rare in Africa, mostly due to the language barrier but also due to lack educational opportunities available for the vast majority of Africans. I was sad to see her go the following day but I was feeling strong and excited to head into the hills of Rwanda, yet scared to death at the same time. Deep inside I knew I had nothing to fear, but darn those movies and books sure can do a number when considering pedaling solo in a country with such a tragically violent recent history.

My sabbatical in Uganda to fight the burnout blues put me way behind my original schedule in Rwanda and Tanzania so I had some logistical hurdles to hop in order to meet my commitment to film the ZIFF festival in Zanzibar and still do some Tanzania riding. After plenty research I made the decision to ride Rwanda then take a flight over mainland Tanzania directly to the gem of Tanzania itself—Zanzibar . But the flight was a whopping 400 bucks plus whatever they would charges me for all my gear.

So decided to spend an extra day in Kigali pitching the president and marketing manager of RwandaAir Express for a free flight. To make a long story short I got the free flight and baggage allowance, so long as I got them some positive ink in the local papers. As my luck would have it, I met a report of The New Times, Rwanda’s largest newspaper, the day before as I was riding into town from the One Love Guesthouse and he was keen to write an article anyways; a one liner mentioning RwandaAir Express was not a hard addition to request. So I was set!

The day finally arrived, one which I was dreading at some level, to begin pedaling into the unknown towards the town of Butare. Something led me to choose that town, perhaps something I read, or perhaps the fact that the road looked less insanely hilly on the shaded relief map than others. I shot a nice scene leaving the city and was soon on my way. I had many takers to ride with me on the way down the hill but I felt cold and closed for some reason. I just coasted down the hill and was soon out of the capital city in a huge valley with steep mountains on both sides. The concrete building were slowing being replaced by grass huts, and the stores substituted with simple roadside vendors.

By the time I made it ten kilometers outside the city I realized that I had passed up dozens of potential riders—potential friends who I could have met and shared the cycling experience with. Something was not right, and I knew I had to make a shift in order to enjoy the journey to Butare. The next dirt road I saw off the highway I took—a steep, rocky road going nowhere in particular. I road it until I found a cool, shady spot to lean the huge tandem and trailer against a tree and check in with myself. I needed to be alone. But in Rwanda, that’s not easy. 99% of the land (or something like that) is used for farming so there is not much free space to be alone, especially if you are a bald white boy with a space machine bike train.

After some pretty mean faces and gestures I managed to convince the dozens of villagers to stop gawking at me at close range and got the space I needed. I meditated, wrote in my journal and even talked with the cameras about how I was feeling. In the end, it was all about fear. I was totally freaked out being alone in Rwanda, totally exposed on a bicycle, by myself, inviting people into my life who are no more than one degree of separation from a murderer or someone murdered, or even worse, zero degrees of separation.

But I’m happy to report that the shady spot and some time to regroup was just what the doctor ordered. I recognized the fear as my mom and Zig Ziglar once taught me: FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. The truth is that in 2007 Rwanda is one of the safest and most peaceful countries in the world. I had to face the fear head on and see it for what it was. So I turned the bike down the hill and left the fear behind. I am so happy that I did, as the real magic of my adventure in Rwanda began at that very moment.

With a smile on my face I pedaled with a renewed spirit and immediately picked up a young man on his way to work at the local sugar cane factory. His ride was so short that we did not even exchange names but we had a blast and he got superstar status when I dropped him off in front of his coworkers. The sun was shining, the sugar cane glowing green, the river flowing and a new attitude on the Peace Pedaler meant good times ahead indeed.

Just after the sugar cane factory there was a group of about 20 guys in the shade doing who knows what, stuff African men do, bullshit and relax, something most westerners call wasting time or being lazy. I don’t judge, I just wanted to ride. So I stopped in the shade and was soon surrounded by the horde of guys. I let my angels above decide who would be my riding partner for the day and it turned out to be a smiling guy named Emmanuel who had four huge stalks of sugar cane in his hand, which he immediately began to strap onto the Ortlieb rear bag.

Emmanuel spoke not a lick of English. I got that his name was Emmanuel through the magic of “travel sign language”; I point at me, smile, say “Jamie”. Point at him, smile and BINGO, Emmanuel is his name. It works every time. We had two stalks of sugar cane on the BOB trailer, one broken in half in front and the other we gave away. We were ready for the hill that was literally calling our name and just 100 meters ahead, and it was a big one, one you could see the top of and knew it was going to hut.

After we left the crew of screaming, laughing, giggling, cheering, happy yet ohhh so lazy, time-wasting, dirt poor men (there is a point hidden in there) I felt inspired to stop just before the hill and pull out lone battery powered travel speakers and MP3 player to have some tunes. If we could not talk, at least we could groove. He knew the world Reggae, as most Africans do, so it was Bob Marley Live in Sausalito that became our first bonding catalyst.

Like Pato Banton says, “I could tell that he was lovin it, because of his expression…”. Emmanuel and I had a huge bond, and it was music. We became a two man machine, powering up the endless hills, song after song, gallon after gallon of sweat out, liter after liter of water in. Rwanda is indeed the land of a thousand hills, and we conquered at least half a dozen of them that steamy afternoon and caught some great moments on the cameras as well.

Our fuel for the day was three stalks of sugar cane from Emmanuel and numerous peanut butter and honey sandwiches from Jamie. The combination of the two was delightful and effective as we shoved dry bread in our mouths and washed it down with a huge bite of raw sugar cane and fresh water. We were both amazed how yummy it was and used our facial expressions and hand gestures to express our positive sensory overload. At our lunch stop I gave him a three word question, “Tusti or Hutu”. His response, “Tutsi”. That was as far as we went with that, of course. And his face showed no remorse, sadness, bitterness or anger. Just “Tutsi”. For me, I felt lucky, as it is rare to meet a Tutsi, based on statistics.

After four hours of grinding and grooving the uphills and roaring down the steep descents screaming we hit what appeared to be a plateau, and a restaurant bar loaded with beer guzzling African beckoned us to take a break. The sun was about two hours from setting, I was tired and thirsty and I knew I had to send Emmanuel on his way back home sooner than later. We were received with a standing ovation by the patrons of the restaurant and given warm chairs once occupied by customers who were rudely kicked out to make room for Jamie and Emmanuel at the full table.

There is nothing better than an ice cold Guinness draft, which is different than the Guinness in the states or Europe, after a long day of riding. And to have two cold beers bought for you by the locals as a gesture of respect—priceless. One beer led to two beers, but I cut if off there as I knew I personally still had cycling to do and a place to sleep to discover for the evening. We all hacked through broken English, shared stories of our wild day of endless hills with our new friends, and life was good that evening in Rwanda indeed.

I finally bid my farewell to Emmanuel and I saw tears in his eyes as I gave him a genuine hug goodbye. I also was sad to say goodbye to this man who I grew so close to by simply riding, grooving, working and sweating with without any words. I set him up with his bus fare back home and a few bucks extra to get some more sugar cane and a nice dinner and off I pedaled, into the sunset, literally.

After all that uphill I was soon smiling ear to ear as I reaped the benefits of all the hard work, or so it appeared. The sun was setting on the smoky, rolling hills of Rwanda and the light filtered through the endless trees just enough to light up the red soil so unique to Rwanda. Smiling children chased me, villagers waved with huge smiles from every direction, the weather was perfect. Add this to the fresh memories of Emmanuel and a mild Guinness beer buzz and you have the ingredients for a Grinnin Jamie!

Well, what goes down must go up in Rwanda and before I knew it I was climbing again. But this time the Guinness and muscle memories of my ride with Emmanuel hit me in the other direction and I was hurting big time. I looked up the hill, another big one, and the sun had already gone down behind it. I had no idea where I was staying, was dead tired, almost out of water and super hungry. But my Angels came to the rescue soon enough as a man of about 50 came literally running after me. He was wrinkled with a few gray hairs popping out, and smiling ear to ear. Through his panting breath he pointed to the seat and said something in French which clearly was that he wanted to ride with me. Enough said, hop on brother!

This guy had some power! Some guys I have to explain the fact that they are supposed to sweat and raise their heart rates when cycling. This guy had it dialed in and was sweating and breathing heavy in seconds. The endless hill I just dreaded was now a delightful amusement park ride with a kaleidoscope of rich dusk colors, silhouettes of eucalyptus trees and the smells of dinner cooking. Not a word was spoken, just two huge smiles and pumping hearts and all the way to the top!

As we hit the summit there was a line of colorful woman selling what appeared to be whisky. They smiled and waved for me to take a closer look and it turned out to be homemade honey sold in old whisky bottles. Behind the stalls were tons of adorable mud and thatch houses where I felt inspired to ask these woman for a place to sleep for the night and their eyes lit up and cheers erupted. Within seconds I was directed over a small bridge to one of the houses and soon surrounded by dozens of colorful villagers.

It was decided that I would sleep on the floor inside the modest one bedroom home of John Bizimana, his wife and three children. John made me put everything--bike, trailer and gear-- inside my entryway room for safety. His wife went to work fixing me a massive plate of beans, grown right there on their land, with potatoes and cassava. I ate in front of their house with a dozen curious children and their family as the last bits of daylight slowly faded to total darkness. We sat after dinner under the endless stars with a single oil candle lighting up the white teeth gleaming out of endless smiles from the villagers.

After dinner I was set up with a tub of cool water to bathe in and by that time John had become quite drunk from strong local spirits. He kept speaking to me in the local Kinya-Rwanda language and fully expecting me to understand and respond. I went along with it for a while, but then he became quite annoying as I was dead tired and ready for sleep. I pulled out my air mattress and sleeping bag to give him a hint I was ready for bed and to give me some space, but he did not get the hint. In fact, he must have taken it like I wanted him to sleep next to me as he was soon lying right next to me with his eyes shut!

His wife picked up on my discomfort and soon pulled her drunken husband up and tossed him in bed with the three kids. I slept like a baby in the total silence of this small village and woke up feeling refreshed but slightly malnourished from lack of any real power food. My breakfast was another helping of beans, potatoes and cassava eaten in the rising sun with the family. I gave a few dollars to John for his hospitality and he in turn gave me an amazing gift of his homemade honey that fit in my water bottle cage. We snapped some photos, gave some hugs, and I pushed my load over the bridge followed by dozens of villagers I met the night before.

When I hit the pavement there was a highly enthusiastic young man sporting a bright pink and purple fleece jacket that clearly was ready to ride. Again, the language barrier put us into sign language mode right away, but it was quite apparent that we were meant to ride together that day. And his name was none other than Emmanuel, the same as my first rider of the previous day! Could that mean something?

I kited Emmanuel up in an Assos riding jersey and gloves, but he denied riding shorts due to our exposure out on the street in front of dozens of his buddies. Before we knew it we were hamming the hills of Rwanda together with more great tunes flowing from the travel speakers. We only rode for about 10 kilometers but it was pretty blissful with a mostly downhill trend. By the time he got off the heat of the day was beginning to rise and another massive hill was showing its face. I sent him back on the next bus and began my solo climb.

About five kilometers up the hill I completely ran out of energy and my legs were simply not responding to the signals from my brain; they felt weak and were shaking when I took a break in the shade. I had no food with me but I did have the honey John gave me so I decided to give it a shot. The locals starred in wild wonder as I took huge gulps of the delicious thick nectar. It was way back in 2002 in the hills of China where Garryck and I resorted to this method to get us over some hills with no food. It certainly gave me a boost, and I took one of the school kids from the shade on the back to jumpstart me up the hill. I was rolling once again!

My guest rider was not interested in a long ride and hopped off after about ½ kilometer but I still felt relatively strong huffing away in the Race Face granny gear. Just as I felt the honey started to fade a group of five teenagers came running behind me laughing and joking as usual. I knew I needed help as I could see the hill was showing no signs of tapering off. As my luck would have it, these boys had nothing better to do besides create the “Rwanda Relay Team”, which I will never forget!

The first rider was none other than Emmanuel! Yep, the 3rd Emmanuel in 2 days! I decided to look up what Emmanuel means and it means “God with us”. Wow. Bring on the Emmanuel's! God must have been in his legs as he was also the strongest of the 5 members to follow him by far and was in it to win it. Next came Twagiamana, then Nizeyiamana, then Misheli and finally Severime. Each rider rode for about one or two kilometers while the other four ran behind, some pushing the bike, some just yelling and telling jokes I could not understand. I laughed anyways as the whole scene was classic and we got cheers in every direction and even more boys following us. I filmed the whole thing, so you’ll see it one day 

When we hit the top there was a huge decorated arch signifying the summit, a sight I had not seen since the Chinese and Tibetan passes in 2002. We were in clear sight of the folks at the top restaurant as we made the final half kilometer climb so you can image the crowd of people when we arrived. It was seriously like winning a race and I felt like I just completed one, that’s for sure!

The welcoming was fun but soon after our victory photo it sort of got out of hand. I was in the middle of back country Rwanda and that personal space barrier was getting a bit too much to handle, especially since nobody seemed to speak any English. But just as my patience was running thin a cheery man named Pascal came to the rescue and suggested, in English, that we pedal to a more civil environment for a cold beverage. So we mounted the tandem train and navigated through the fans onto the open highway where we gentle downhill took us to his recommended restaurant with shaded bungalows, cold sodas and no crowds! Bonus!

Turns out Pascal is a Rwandan who was raised in Uganda but was not back to enjoy the country’s new found peace and prosperity as professional translator for businesses. He shared with me the fact that he was a Tutsi and his parents moved out to Uganda well before the actual core violence of the 1994 genocides occurred to have a safer life for their family. He was happy to be back in his home country and we were both very excited about meeting a new friend.

After an hour of relaxing in the shade mowing down a dozen BBQ brochettes and several Cokes I was feeling strong as ever. We got through the surface chats and were already having some great conversations and I really wanted Pascal to pedal with me. He had to walk to his job to ask for permission and I kept my fingers crossed while he was gone. To both of our surprise and joy, his boss gave him the okay to take the rest of the day off! Whoo hooo! We were pumped! I kited him up with a full setup of Assos cycling gear and off we went. He knew exactly where we were heading and even said he knew a great guest house we could stay at and he’d set us up with local rates, which are usually 50-100% cheaper than white boy rates.

Pascal lucked out big time as all the major climbing was behind us! We had a totally delightful ride on gentle rolling hills and built a great friendship chatting away. Pascal shared with me, and the video cameras, his life story and nuggets about being a Tutsi in modern day Rwanda. For the most part, he did not want to distinguish between Tutsi or Hutu, and preferred not to talk too much about it. He was more interested in getting my advice on his career path and options for him to start his own business, which I was happy to help him with.

We arrived in Ruhango just as the sun was setting and Pascal went to work lining up a sweet pad for us for super cheap. The only downside was that it only had one bed and no running water. We took bucket baths and did not sweat the double bed as we knew we’d crash out just fine after our day of cycling. We went out for dinner at a local restaurant, played pool, had a few drinks and continued our great conversations.

At the restaurant I was attracted to a late twenties looking chap with a huge smile sitting at the bar. I introduced myself and it turns out that he spoke great English and was an electrician in town from Kigali doing a job named Gaston. I shared the Peace Pedalers vision with him and he did not hesitate to accept the invitation to ride the next day to Butare bright and early. And yes, he is another Tutsi rider, and I had no idea how I could have attracted 100% Tutsis when the odds were so stacked against that happening.

Pascal and I slept like babies after we did some fun bedtime filming of us in our boxer shorts, total strangers just hours ago sharing a bed near naked! Classic! We were up early to do the last 70KM ride to Butare and beat the heat and Gaston was right on time at 6AM. Gaston and Pascal wanted to do a filmed duo interview at breakfast of passing the jersey from one rider to another and did it all in French so not quite sure what they said, but it will be good no doubt.

By the time the bike was loaded up the ENTIRE village of Ruhango was out to see us off. There were hundreds of people of all ages and the colors and sounds were unforgettable. We pedaled off through a line in the crowd created by a mean military man with a stick and off we pedaled into the hills of Rwanda! The rain started just after we left so heat was not going to be an issue, but rather cold! Luckily I had an extra Sierra Designs parka for Gaston who was shivering behind me on the long descents.

Now Gaston has a far more disturbing story of his life as a Tutsi and I won’t talk too much about it here. But the bottom line is that both his mother, father and 6 out of 12 of his siblings were murdered in the genocide. He told me that he had mourned already and was now a stronger man than ever with his own business, close relationships with his remaining family and a huge appreciation for life. He is not angry at anyone or resentful in any way, at least that’s what he told me. Gaston, like Pascal, did not like to distinguish between Hutu or Tutsi but rather call everyone Rwandans. “There are no more identity cards in Rwanda anymore, and nobody really talks about this much. Most of us choose to move on and build a stronger, more peaceful Rwanda” is what Gaston said.

So we cranked on some tunes and rode the rolling hills with the fresh smell showers hitting the hot pavement. There were plenty of long climbs, but since we had such an early start we were in no hurry; we would just pop into granny gear and spin on up grooving away. It turns out that Gaston loves country music so we spent most of the day shuffling through that genre with tons of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.

The last long climb into Butare was a killer in the hot sun but we knew a cold beverage and shade was waiting for us so we cranked it out with a smile. We arrived pretty wiped out but were fortunately treated to a free room at the historic Faucon Hotel, Rwanda's very first in fact! The owner happened to be in and see us roll in and, well, ask and you shall receive! So we were able to spend our lodging cash on drinks and food with Gaston’s sister and friend who came over to greet us. Butare is a lovely little town with just a few restaurants, hotels and shops but plenty of interesting people to watch go by sitting in the shade after a hard day in the saddle.

Gaston took me out on the town that night and we met a group of fun students from the local university and had a blast! But I was starting to feel the effects of three mean days of riding the Rwandan hills and filming; my sinuses were all plugged up and my body was telling me to get some rest. Gaston was in the same boat so we called it an early night. Back at the hotel we were relaxing and chatting and Gaston passed out in the middle of the conversation—another victim of riding the hills of Rwanda.

My time was limited as I had a flight to the ZIFF festival in Zanzibar in a few days so I hopped a bus the next morning after a nice breakfast and farewell hug from my new buddy Gaston. Gaston and Pascal still keep in touch and Pascal is starting his own business with the help of Gaston and I. Good stuff!

I made it back to Kigali after a quick bus ride and just in time to meet up with my musician buddy Tyty who had gathered his buddies for a live performance at the One Love Club, just next to the One Love Guesthouse where I was staying. Tyty had several new songs, all with great meaning and progressive messages, that he was eager to record and get to the radio stations. We were both totally pumped to be reunited, but I was still feeling pretty exhausted and my body run down from the Ugandan and Rwandan hills. But I muscled through it and the concert was a huge success!

The next day was Sunday and I had to find a way to get my bike and all my gear ready to go on a plane early the next day. Finding anything open on a Sunday in Rwanda is not easy, I tell you! Luckily some construction workers were doing some overtime and I found a super tough air conditioning box that fix the disassembled Black Sheep Tangle just right! I spent the rest of the day building a custom cardboard box and getting it all to fit and be protected for the next day’s flight.

There was only one more mission and that was to meet up with Tyty again and edit his CD. He came by as I was finishing packing and I handed him the Toughbook and taught him how to cut and name the tracks himself while I finalized my sorting. I was now fighting my first serious flu and was sweating and shaking a bit, but was so excited to soon be teleported from the mountains of Rwanda to the beaches of Zanzibar that I kept on crankin.

Tyty shared with me and the cameras the meaning of his main songs, which were really stunning. The one that stuck me most was about appreciating what you have and not craving all the western material goods that are making their way into modern day Rwanda. They are all in French, so the translation efforts will be fun no doubt! When the final two CD’s were complete Tyty was grinning ear to ear and was planning to take them to the radio station the next day! I love my life!

The next morning I was feeling 82% better and caught a smooth taxi to the airport, carted all my bags and massive 100 pound bike/gear box to the checkin where the folks at RwandaAir Express were instructed to greet me with a smile and check all my weight without question. Our flight path was delightful, starting in the smoky rolling hills of Rwanda, down to the savannah of Tanzania and right next to Mt. Kilimanjaro where I would change planes to a cheap connecting flight with another airline.

I held my breath and prayed that they would check my bags right through to the other airline. I saw my massive load on the ramp and the last thing I wanted was to have to pay the huge excess baggage on the connecting flight. My prayers paid off and the angels on my side as they did not hassle me and I was soon flying over the ocean to the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar! I landed just in time to take a taxi to meet my brother Johan at the Africa House Hotel for sunset and a cold drink! Gotta love being teleported from the hills of Rwanda in the morning mist to the sunset on the island of Zanzibar in one day, and for about a hundred bucks!

I sat in the warm, muggy ocean air watching the palm trees sway and reminisced on a truly unforgettable adventure in Rwanda as huge doses of gratitude radiated from every pore in my body! I give Rwanda two thumbs up, I just wish I had some more time to explore it more. Give yourself a few weeks and have a blast!

Over and out from Niger, West Africa!

Live Big, Give Big ;)



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