Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Bakiga Window: Truck in the Dust

A truck that seems to have come a cropper on the road to the border.
The journey to the Rwandese/Ugandan border is a mad dash when you compare it to the distances that you've travelled to get this far in the first place. The relative brevity of this stretch of the trip means that you barely have chance to take in everything that you see along the route - and there is so much to see. The Rwandese countryside is such a rich canvass of colours and different lights and people and your eyes simply struggle to capture it all - what they do see your mind has scant time to process before the image has faded into the heat haze.

It is still Sunday 10th April and we are on a bus storming through the Rwandese countryside having left Kigali earlier this morning, bound for Kabale in Uganda. The modern bus - a relative term you'll understand - has struggled its way up never-ending inclines, glided down helical descents effortlessly and has done so all in the most intense sunshine.

Leaving Kigali, the urban sprawl of small shops and spluttering motors gives way to wide fields of crops, which disappear on entering the hillier areas, before being replaced by large tea plantations which emerge from the valley floors. The tea goes on forever forming a blanket of green over the landscape, punctured sporadically by the raising head of someone picking a leaf or cutting a branch from the plants.

Without exception my mzungu arm hanging out of the window is noticed by people we pass by. The reaction is firstly of amazement and curiosity, shortly before a smile appears on the face of the older people. The children react slightly differently though. The curiosity is replicated in the fashion of the adults, but it is shortly followed by an outbreak of wild excitement in the form of singing, jumping, waving, dancing, chanting and, in the case of one boy, a desire to chase the bus for around 100 metres.

After losing the boy attempting to chase us into the dust behind, we round a corner onto one of three sections of the road which cross a valley floor and have no tarmac surface on the road - a rarity in Rwanda! Needless to say the changes must catch people out and as we continue along this rough section a truck that is listing badly and is being propped up by sticks becomes visible in the dust. Even in Rwanda, where everything seems to move forward in leaps and bounds, things can go wrong!

I fight the desire to turn the listing truck into some form of typically Western metaphor about Africa's past, present or future. After all, I have no choice - our bus keeps moving forward and many new images are already filling my mind in this beautiful land.

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