By Joseph Ondiek
As a writer, sometimes you need to escape from your so-called comfort zone, disappear under the earth and just write. After all, that is what writers are best at: writing under no influence.
So when I headed to the Red Rocks Cultural Centre some few weeks ago, I wanted to escape to my world of writing. And of course, I was not disappointed.
My journey began from Kigali where the founder of Red Rocks and Amahoro Tours, Greg Bakunzi, picked me up. This was my second visit to the famous campsite, but this time, I was going there with a different purpose: to experience for one week the calm and serenity of Red Rocks Cultural Centre, which is located some seven kilometres west of Musanze town. And of course, I needed this atmosphere to complete the kind of work I had.
My two-hour trip to Musanze town — now growing to be another big city following Rwanda’s dramatic development after the infamous genocide — was uneventful. Along the way I was able to see how Rwanda’s countryside looks like: happy people, green countryside, winding and smooth roads, and many more. It made me realise I was actually in a country that’s variously described in many quarters as the Singapore of Africa for good reasons. But that’s a story for another day.
After two hours, we finally arrived at Musanze in the evening, at precisely 6pm. What thrilled me the first day I reached there was the fact that the Musanze I visited slightly one year ago was totally different from the Musanze I was now seeing. Good roads, functioning street lights, particularly to where I was going to stay at Red Rocks, and, of course, happy people. One year can be long, I realised.
My first evening at Red Rocks Cultural Centre had all the elements of fun. I went there to write, remember, but I discovered there was even more things to write about, more than I or any other writer, could handle. I needed more than two weeks, I postulated.
Red Rocks itself has so many stories behind it. The next day, talking to my acquaintances I struck friendship with, they told me how Bakunzi himself has managed to transform a dry and rocky swath of land into a paradise that has become a beacon of hope to several people who live in the neighbourhood. Without going into deep details, you just have to experience it yourself to know how Bakunzi is playing god by transforming an ugly and despised caterpillar into a gay and beautiful butterfly.
I did realised that Red Rocks is truly an intercultural centre. Why? Later in the evening during my first day, I met different people from different countries and continents, and the campsite fireside is where we could spend a warm evening talking about our cultures and how the world has now become a small place. People from Colombo, Germany, UK, Canada, Nyakinama village. Red Rocks brought us all together and we shared our different stories. But one thing I realised was that even when you come from a different culture, humanity brings us together. We shared abundant laughter and made lifelong friendships.
At night, I would write, then retire to my warm tent and wake up in the morning to the beautiful morning sun rising from the east, enjoy traditional food, walk the village, see people, and other visitors arriving, and finally retreat to my writing desk o my thing.
That was the best one week holiday I have ever heard. Of course I finished my assignments, surrounded by jovial people, particularly the workers at Red Rocks. More so, I liked my village walks. And what most excited me was that at Red Rocks, I saw all that I needed to be inspired to write. Where else are you going to find a “puppet” of an old man grumbling like this:
“Today I went to drink the traditional beer with my sons but they got lost. Now my wife is is cooking my supper and she is going to be mad with me. So, just let me sit here under this tree and enjoy my traditional banana beer.” Only at Red Rocks!