58 days. I was away from London for 58 days this year and now I’m back it feels in many ways that I’ve hardly been away but as my days pass I feel like I’m not looking at my usual life properly straight on, more from a slight angle so familiar things are not exactly as they were. It will pass but for now, I’m enjoying this feeling of dislocation as it allows me to hold onto my 58 days for a while longer. Travel is a wonderful thing but it is addictive…
They were 58 days of adventure and exploring in Rwanda, Uganda and Oman which have filled my head with sunshine, friendly faces and some extraordinary memories. I was volunteering in Rwanda, helping to build a school surrounded by banana and maize fields. The painting and plastering were fine but 2 weeks of pointing were testing and it’s really not as easy you might think.
Building an extra classroom for a school means you are surrounded by curious kids all the time which is a delight even tho we had very little common language. After a couple of weeks they got up their courage to run up a hug me as I arrived each day, a great way to start any working day. On my last day a picture with everyone in it was a must as these kids love being in any photo even tho some have them haven’t got their most cheerful face on here!
Rwanda is a fascinating country with a shocking past which feels so recent and yet as you travel around, apart from the genocide memorials in every town, it’s hard to square the slaughter with the country you see and the people you meet. The genocide memorial in Kigali is built on the site where 250,000 people were killed, a number impossible to get your head around even after visiting the excellently curated memorial museum. The concrete blocks in the photo of the peaceful gardens are sadly mass graves and their plain, impersonal style is another sobering moment on a hard-hitting visit. Rwandans themselves mention the genocide seemingly quite easily in passing which is both alarming when it first happens but also feels healthy, an example was a woman who replied when I complimented her on her language skills: ‘Before the genocide, we spoke French, but after the genocide, we speak English’. There must be thousands of appalling stories and mental scars but Rwandans are busy getting on with life and keep these hidden away so visitors have to respect this and join in the moving forward.
I travelled into Uganda to see the mountain gorillas, some of nature’s most beautiful creatures but our visit required a day of extreme hiking to track them down and the pain of this has stayed with me. This was the hardest walk I’ve ever tackled and I have a few taxing experiences over my years of travelling but I’ve never needed porters to help me on the steepest slopes. However, when I look through the photos I remember their gentle enquiring faces and the moment when you feel you have locked eyes and there is a brief connection.
Oman has more to offer than I had realised with a stunning range of scenery from white sandy beaches to grand mountain ranges through to empty sandy deserts of rolling dunes. I stayed in the super fancy Hyatt Regency in Muscat which offers everything you could want and wild camped in the Empty Quarter with no facilities at all but loved them both equally. Waking to endless massive sand dunes outside your tent is something that stays with you and in this photo you can just see my little tent and our vehicles dwarfed by the dune behind.
It’s great to be home even though I do miss the constant fun of travel but London has so much to offer and I’ve got a lot to catch up on so watch out for London blogs in the coming weeks. If you have any questions about any aspect of my 58 days of travel, do get in touch as I’m always happy to share my experiences.