Neither one of us slept all that well, no doubt in part due to the smokers we had for neighbors, which made our room reek of smoke, even at 5 in the morning. We tried to finish our packing, only to realize that we did in fact need five bags instead of four, which we thought mind come in handy if we saw anything at any of the Duty Free Stores. We had breakfast, then went to check out. When we had checked in, they had requested a credit card. All over the hotel, there were signs not to pay cash for drinks or meals, rather to charge them to your room.
So we were more than a little surprised when they said they needed cash for us to check out, and could not take credit cards. It made us wonder why they requested a credit card when we checked in. We had little cash, certainly not enough to pay our room bill. There were no banks in the immediate vicinity, so our only recourse was to get our guide Lawrence to foot the bill, then stop by a bank on our way to the airport so we could repay him. This was by no means optimal, but it was the only possibility that seemed feasible.
We left a little early to account for our new stop for the day, and headed back to Kigali. As on Wednesday, there were a ton of people out, headed to and from the local markets. From the lines, it was obvious that some of these people were traveling several miles by foot, carrying heavy goods. We got to Kigali in about two hours, spending most of the drive in awe of the terraced hillsides and greenery all over the place.
In Kigali, the first thing we did was stop at a local bank. Unfortunately, it did not like our ATM or Visa cards, and Lawrence indicated this was the bank that was most likely to give us what we wanted. Lawrence bailed us out again, however, by calling his boss and getting us a refund for the day activities we had not been able to do since the Gorilla treks went long. This refund was more than enough to pay our room bill as well as tip Lawrence for his hard work.
Thus, we were able to get on with our day, and drove over to the Genocide Museum. In the early 90s, there was terrible violence between the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, and the Hutus systematically killed over 1 million Tutsis throughout the country. The country has bounced back, very quickly in fact, and has erected a memorial to describe what happened, why it happened, what should be learned from the experience, etc. The memorial also had a lot of information on other genocides, including Nazi Germany, The Balkans, Cambodia, and others. It was a very somber note to end our trip on, but very educational at the same time. We went from the museum to the airport, and checked in. The flight, other than a very rocky takeoff due to a storm in the area, was nice.
We landed in Nairobi just after 4, thinking we had almost 8 hours to kill. We ended up not having nearly so much time, though. It was not clear at all how to get our bags – which we had been able to check only to Nairobi. First off, the signs for baggage claim pointed both left and right. We walked towards the baggage claim, and saw we'd have to go through immigration and customs, which didn't sound quite right. We asked for instructions, and were directed to the transit desk, near Gate 6. The line there was incredibly long, and not moving at all. After about 10 minutes, someone told us that passengers going to Amsterdam and London needed to go to a lounge downstairs. We and 30 other people did this, only to reach another long line. After waiting in this line for some time, the lady down there told us that we were in the wrong place, and needed to go back to Gate 6.
Tired of the run-around, Justin asked how to get our bags, since we had now been on the ground for 45 minutes and had no idea where they were or how to get them. The lady told us that the people at Gate 6 would check our baggage tickets, then go retrieve our luggage and re-route it to our destination. There were two problems with this. First off, we had bought some alcohol in Kigali, and needed to re-pack them into checked luggage for flights to and from London. Second, at this point we had absolutely zero faith in the Nairobi personnel to re-route our bags correctly.
One option available was to get transit visas for $20 so we could get our own bags, re-pack, and then check in. The problem with this idea was that we had only $20, not $80. We asked where an ATM was, and were told there was one near Gate 9. We went, and as expected, it was broken. So we went to the Money Exchange place and politely asked "where can we get cash?" They told us there was a working ATM, not surprisingly, just on the other side of customs. We told the lady our conundrum, and she told us we could just tell the customs people our problem and that they would let one of us go to the ATM to get cash, then come back and finish the process.
Unbelievably, this actually worked, although not very easily. Justin went down and found the ATM, but it was actually outside the baggage claim area, past the one way doors. The ATM worked, but had only Kenyan schillings. Justin had to figure out what the exchange rate was, and then get more than enough in schillings. He then changed this back into dollars, then came back in. He successfully convinced the security people with machine guns to let him back into the baggage claim area, and then walked back up the stairs to customs.
After getting through customs, our bags were incredibly still on the carousel. We got them, re-packed them (putting on new deodorant for the long journey ahead), and then exited the airport so we could re-enter it. Given what had already transpired, we were not at all surprised that it was pouring outside, and there was no cover between where we were and where we needed to be. We waited out the rain, then walked over to international departures. We waited some more for someone to show up at the ticket desk, but once they did it was smooth sailing. The lady was very nice, checked us in all the way to LAX, tagged our bags all the way to LAX, and wished us well. We went upstairs and staked out a table in the restaurant area near our gate, then stayed there for several hours until they called our plane for boarding.
While we still had some time before we got home, including a stop in London, for all intents and purposes we were home as soon as we got out of Nairobi. Everything else was smooth sailing, including when we got home to our welcoming committee – from left to right Debo, Suge, Meth, Toby, and Cabo.
We had a great time. We would recommend everywhere we went, especially Botswana and Rwanda. We have no doubt we'll go back at some point.