Cities and Towns in Africa
Cilaos is another good base for hiking in the mountainous interior of Réunion. It's bigger and certainly less cute than Hell-Bourg, but the surrounding mountains offer equal good hiking options. As Cilaos attracts more visitors than Hell-Bourg, the number of auberges and restaurants are also greater.
Even before you reach the mountain town of Hell-Bourg you will be spellbound by the magnificent scenery. Steep mountain walls with narrow waterfalls cascade down from ridges often covered in clouds. For every turn on the twisting road, another splendid view come into sight. Hell-Bourg itself is a cute cluster of old Creole mansions with green gardens on a backdrop of rugged mountains. As Hell-Bourg is used as base for trekking (both day hikes and longer), it has a fair share of tourist facilities.
Saint Gilles-les-Bains is a real vacation town full of holiday condos. The focal point is the nice promenade which runs along an attractive beach with shallow waters. Both the promenade and the main street inland is lined with pizzarias, restaurants and bars, which gets the place pumping during weekends in high season.
During the heydays of sugar production Saint Leu was blooming. Today Saint Leu is a vacation town with some fine old buildings, a lively waterfront and a equally popular beach. There are great viewpoints overlooking the town from the zigzagging roads which leads up the mountains.
A visit to the capital of Réunion is usually done rather quickly. The city center is small with more than a handful of charming well-preserved colonial mansions. No building is higher than three stories and most of the sights are within walking distance. The cannon and palm lined waterfront, La Barachois, has great views of the dramatic mountains which rise vertically out of the sea right outside Saint-Denis.
Home to the first secondary school in Rwanda, to the National University, the country's largest cathedral, many research centres and the National Museum, Huye is the intellectual town of Rwanda. Being the intellectual hub, it offers mostly cultural activities, but is definitely not boring. Often visited by people on their way to Nyungwe Forest National Park or Burundi, Huye is worth a short stop. With its cool vibe typical of college and university towns, it is a nice place to spend a day wandering its lively streets and visiting the few cultural landmarks. And like in the rest of Rwanda, the hills are everywhere and always superb.
Up and down, and up and down... Kigali is Rwanda in miniature. The city is spread over many hills, making it a bit difficult to find your way around. Luckily, fairly cheap moto-taxis (and, watch this, with helmets) are everywhere to take you to most places. Kigali doesn't fit the idea you could have of an African capital: with its large tree-lined and well-manicured boulevards, extremely clean and safe streets, its people driving slowly and cautiously and no real city centre to speak of, it looks more like a very civilised busy suburb. However, it is the kind of city that grows on you, and when you get to explore its diverse neighbourhoods, meet their friendly inhabitants, and take in the superb views of the surrounding hills, you can't help but start to love it.
The west coast of Sao Tome Island doesn't have that many villages, but Neves is one of them. It's a normal fishing village with ramshackle houses and a stone beach full of wooden canoes. The locals are used to blancos, so not many are batting a eyelit when you walk around - maybe except the kids.
The further south you go on Sao Tome Island, the less villages there are. Porto Alegre is the last village on the east coast. From the distance it looks like a beautiful fishing village framed by tall coconut palms, however up close it's a bit more grim - but not necessarily less interesting. The people are easy going and used to nosy blancos as there are several resorts in the area.
Santa Catarina is the last village before the main road turns to jungle road. There are many wooden canoes and a few street venders - else not much. But the roadtrip to Sante Catarina is spectacular with views of the forest covered mountains and black sand and stone beaches.