Rwanda is called the land of a thousand hills, and its a very accurate description. When landing at the airport taking a peek out the window may be hazardous to ones health as you see the surrounding hills but not the one you are landing on as the runway literally sits atop a hill.
Kigali is sometimes known as the Geneva of Africa on account of its lovely spotless streets which are all well laid out and perfectly marked. Those beautiful streets offer a wonderful opportunity for runners. Each morning (ok most mornings…) during my one week stay, I’d take a quick view at the roads surrounding my hotel on google maps and off I’d go.
Pounding the pavement in a foreign city in the morning provides fantastic insights to the city and it populace. I ran past children heading to school, women chatting deeply with each other on their way to work, men taking effortlessly long strides up Kigali’s hills as they came off the night shift, and of course the occasional runner. A head nod in salutation to each other in recognition of our morning commitments, with no shame about the sweat pouring off either of us .
Now that I’ve shared my formula, one should note that Kigali maps are aspirational in nature as I found out on two mornings. Due to Kigali’s hilly nature charting a course on a loop is easy. On the first morning, twenty minutes into the run I realized that what was a road around the golf course was still a work in progress. No worries from my end, just meant I went from tarmac to well graded murram, and then a footpath and then back to a paved road but at least the route was completed!
A few days later the journey was much more interesting as the path went from road to footpath to maize field! Undeterred on account of my earlier experience I picked my way through the maize field, blackjacks and all, until I realised that I was completely trapped with no route out in sight. Luckily I happened across a farmer who gave me a rather baleful eye for unceremoniously finding myself in the middle of his plot of land. Through a surprisingly effective conversation in my Kiswahili and his Kinyarwanda and lots of hand gestures, I finally found myself back onto a path or sorts and shortly thereafter at the back end of a primary school I recognized.
Needless to say I provided a fair amount of amusement for the schoolkids as I jogged past their classes. I can only hope the teachers put it down to their exuberant imagination!
Oh the places you will go, the things you will see…on a morning run in a foreign town!