Saturday, 6 December 2008

Getting out of town

Its been a little while, and material has dried up somewhat. In the New Year I'll update the Kigali 'long list' of reviews and sort them into restaurant types for easy surfing action.

For now though, lets have a look further afield. Some gorilla hunting types may end up spending the night in Ruhengeri on their way to visit our hairy cousins in Volcanoes National Park. With this in mind, here are a few reviews from Ruhengeri.

Having spent the best part of three months based in Ruhengeri, I'd recommend visitors avoid some of the more down at heel bars. As well as the usual annoyingly drunk 'friends' that strangers seem to accumulate in such places, I witnessed a fair few angry punch-ups. My interest in the grotty bars of the world remains strong, but it's important to know when it's time to leave.

Tourist Rest House, Rue Muhabura
Despite the general air of grubbiness and foot dragging service, this place remains my favourite place to eat in Ruhengeri. The Ugandan manager speaks good English and is eager to please. The menu is reasonably varied and its a good place to meet friendly folk from Ruhengeri who are having a quiet drink, as well as overlanders and backpackers.

  • Cheap, and reasonably varied menu. Very good chappathis.
  • Friendly and calm atmosphere.
  • When the power goes off the mice come out to play.
Hotel Urumuri, Rue du Marche
Hard to work out what is going on here, it seems a bit disorganised. Most things on the menu are off, but brochettes are almost guaranteed. You may have to wait some time while they go out and buy the meat though.

  • Cheap
  • Boring food
  • A bit disorganised - you'll have a long wait
Silverback Bar and Restaurant, Avenue du 5 Juillet (website)
This is a great spot for lunch as you can watch the world go by on Ruhengeri 'High Street'. Food is good quality - the usual brochettes etc, but with a few sandwiches and salads thrown in as well as a lunchtime buffet. There is a decent disco here, and a modern hotel. Its also a good spot for keeping an eye on bus arrivals and departures.

  • For people watching
  • Good, clean environment
  • Can get busy at lunchtime
Home d'Accueil, Avenue du 5 Juillet
Offers up a single massive plate of food at lunchtime, usually beef of some description, with all the carbs and beans you can eat. A little flirtation brings out the best in the staff and it's a pleasant place to spend lunchtime. Some senior military personnel like to eat lunch here, so everyone is well behaved.

  • Cheap with massive portions
  • Quick service at lunchtime
  • Little choice available
Hotel Muhabura, Avenue du 5 Juillet
Supposedly the only 'decent' hotel in Ruhengeri, this place suffers from the blight of many Rwandese hotels - they are happy to bump guests out of their rooms if a better offer comes in. The food is no better than Silverback, but the prices are higher. You might meet NGO types here.

  • Not a bad place for a drink
  • The food is OK
  • Overpriced
  • Bad service
  • Awful, awful coffee.
Some other tips on Ruhengeri that the guidebook neglects to tell you:

If you've just returned from Gorilla trekking and are eager to email your friends and family about your amazing experience, please take your muddy boots off before you go into the internet cafes. The owners are too polite to say anything, but they get very annoyed with the daily gang of dirty foreigners trailing mud onto their premises. Your courtesy will be acknowledged with kind smiles.

If you're travelling by bus keep a little spare change for the people who gather to beg around the bus stations. These people are not opportunists like you might occasionally find in Kigali, but are often people with mental health problems or who are very physically ill.

Don't walk on the grass in the middle of the main road through Ruhengeri, cross only where indicated.


I'll post a guide to Gisenyi soon. Butare, being a university town has a few exciting places to eat - I've had some worthwhile stops there. I'm not that familiar with the town though, so ideas welcome.