My trip began with a ride from my AirBnB to the airport on the back of a motorcycle taxi, 'moto' for short. Motos are a great form of transportation in Kigali, with most rides only costing about $1. They're even easy to flag down on streets that aren't normally very busy, so you can plan around being able to find one. The driver will give you a helmet when you step on, though luckily mine never came into use. In total, I took about 4 or 5 moto rides during my stay in Kigali. We never had any seriously close calls in traffic, but whenever we weaved between cars I was glad I had bought the medical evacuation insurance from World Nomads, haha. Out of curiosity, has anyone reading this ever made a claim with World Nomads? How did it go? I usually buy a policy for every trip I make to a remote destination but thankfully have never had to make a claim.
My moto driver let me off on the street outside the airport and I walked right up this sidewalk into the terminal. The pick up / drop off process is much smoother at KGL than NBO thanks to KGL being much smaller and lacking a vehicle security search before you get close to the terminal.
There's a security checkpoint to first get in to the actual building, then a second security checkpoint after you check-in with your airline and make your way to the boarding area. Unfortunately, the only small store and coffee shop come before the second checkpoint and there are no services in the boarding area.
A few other Western backpackers checking in.
Like most other small African airports, there is only a single boarding area. Someone opens the door and yells out the next flight that's departing and a bunch of people get up, have their boarding pass glanced at, and walk outside towards the plane. Due to the noise level from outside and lack of signage, there are usually a decent amount of people who get up and walk to the door who are not on that flight. The person at the door will recognize this from their boarding pass and turn them back before they go outside, but it makes the boarding process a bit more cumbersome.
Like the CRJ-900 I flew in on, this 737-800 was nearly brand new and had a nice, clean interior. It had its first flight on July 28th, 2011 and was delivered to RwandAir on August 25th, 2011. The cabin seemed not even a third full which made for a pretty comfortable ride on this short flight.
Parked next to us was another very new aircraft operated by RwandAir. This 737-700 is leased from the International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) and was previously operated by TUIfly and Air Berlin. Its first flight was in March 2007 and RwandAir began operating it in April 2013.
Next we had a nice preflight announcement from our American pilot who described the route we'd take to NBO.
Taxiing out to the runway.
Like the outbound leg, most of this flight was pretty cloudy.
The overhead monitors alternated between English and French.
The catering on this flight was not nearly as good as the full meal served on my outbound leg. The wrapped bun had some sort of tan paste in the middle.
I was able to get a shot of the landscape after we descended through the clouds on our way towards NBO.
A view of Nairobi in the distance.
After landing, I was happy to snag a picture of the CRJ-100ER from Fly540 (the orange plane). Fly540 is a Low Cost Carrier (LCC) based in Nairobi. They don't fly to Kigali, otherwise I may have tried them on this trip. Central/Southern Africa is in need of a budget airline so I hope they do well. Intra-Africa airfares are usually pretty expensive. My guess is that most markets probably have very inelastic supply and demand with respect to price. Has anyone flown on Fly540? What was it like?
Everyone fit on one bus to the arrivals area in the converted parking garage. The arrivals area was set up in the ground floor of the parking garage after the fire two years ago and it's still there.
The arrivals process involves body temperature checks before Immigration and Customs. On this flight, everything was pretty smooth as we arrived with a very light load. However, I want to point out that this isn't always the case. When I arrived on my KLM flight from Amsterdam earlier in this trip, the body temperature checks caused a huge bottleneck (pictured below). There are only two thermal imaging cameras and you're required to stand still in a specific spot for several seconds, not just walk past. With a fully loaded 747, this was an extremely time consuming process.
I stayed at an AirBnB in this apartment block near Yaya Centre mall, west of downtown. My host was an immigrant from Eritrea who also had her newly arrived sister and nephew staying with her. If you follow the news on the European migrant crisis you know that many of them are from Eritrea. Apparently some of them are emigrating south too. I regret not asking her life story, but at the time I didn't know if she'd be comfortable talking about it. The apartment was pretty nice and felt very safe thanks to the 24 hour guards.
This marks the end of the flight portion of the report, keep reading for the Nairobi tourism bonus.
I didn't have a full day in Nairobi before I flew back to Amsterdam on KLM, but my flight the next day was in the evening so I had time to take a tour of Kibera that morning/afternoon. Capturing the entire neighborhood in one picture is near impossible, but here's my best attempt at an overview shot.
My guide Leonard met me at Java House in Adams Arcade, walking distance from my AirBnB, and we set out on foot. Leonard knows Kibera like the back of his hand and we met plenty of his acquaintances along the way. We took this photo while visiting his friend's place. It was a small room with a couch, chairs, a coffee table, and sheets hanging up to separate it from the neighbors. Seemed typical of most dwellings in Kibera.
From Java House, we walked into Kibera through the market area where you can find everything from clothes to electronics to seafood.
We then continued on deeper into the neighborhood. To answer the question you probably have right now, yes, a train does run along these tracks.
… and here's a video of it.
We stopped at this place near the train tracks called Victorious Bones Craft where they make jewelry and other crafts out of animal bones. It had a very interesting smell inside. They wanted me to spread the word with their contact info so here it is…
We continued down towards the more residential part of Kibera.
Rain started coming down and the ground became pretty slippery. That drainage ditch with the stray dog in it eventually had water gushing through it.
We ducked into this small shop to wait out the rain. It had all sorts of normal convenience store items, the equivalent of a 7/11.
The view from just outside the shop. I took the overview shot from this same bluff, but farther to the left.
We headed back up the hill and made our way to the area where I could catch a mini-bus to Yaya Centre. The rain stopped after a while and the sun made its way through the clouds.
View out the front of the mini-bus I took to Yaya Centre. It ended up being filled with around 15 people as it made stops. The guy collecting fares charged me the same as everybody else, the equivalent of about 50 cents. Our driver ran over a stray dog in a congested intersection and pedestrians started yelling to get our driver's attention. He backed up, turned to the right around the injured dog, and continued on. No word on how the dog turned out, but when I looked back I could tell it was hurt pretty severely. His nonchalant reaction made me think that must happen all the time. After the mini-bus got to Yaya Centre, I walked back to my AirBnB, packed up, and got ready for my KLM flight back to Amsterdam.
Kigali - KGL
Nairobi - NBO
Another great flight on RwandAir. Friendly staff, a brand new plane, and a whole row to myself made the quick flight very comfortable. KGL isn't a big airport and doesn't offer many services, but it accomplishes what it needs to. The check-in and boarding areas are spacious and the whole place is very clean. As I mentioned in my other RwandAir report, I don't see the need for the planned airport in Bugesera. The money could be better invested elsewhere. Last month, the Rwandan government started offering the idle Bugesera land to farmers on a short-term basis, so maybe that's a good sign. As far as NBO, they're still recovering from the fire that occurred two years ago. I look forward to the opening of the new Greenfield Terminal scheduled for completion next year.
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