The plan was to go from Cyangugu (Rusizi) at the lake’s southern extremity to Gisenyi at the northern end of Lake Kivu. Everybody says it’s a 10-day hike of 227km in a country renowned for its hills but this was not true. You have to plan more days for sure and you will have to be fit to tackle the trail in its entirety without prior training. Or you will be fit on the trail ;).
I travelled with a friend by foot and a tight budget or let’s say we didn’t want to spent 500-1500USD for a night in fency lodges ;). But this was sometimes a challenge to find a sleeping place as we didn’t want to bring our tent with us. But sometimes you have to trust in yourself and hope for the best.
But I will start from the beginning.
Our trip started 01.01.2019 with a flight from Amsterdam to Kigali.
Coming straight out of the airport I bought a 13GB 4G LTE SIM card from MTN shop for 40 bucks. Rwanda has the best mobile network from Africa and from my experience it is true. The taxi, a blue cab took me from the airport to the Discover Rwanda hostel and cost around 20USD. There I met my travel buddy. The hostel itself was good and the people were helpful. We were eating hard boiled eggs with bananas, bread and got coffee or ginger tea with milk. We also had a warm shower. But do not expect european standards or comfort, it is still Africa.
Tip: You can survive with USD but in rural areas you should have Rwanda Franc.
Day 2 – From the hostel we drove with the hostel driver to the Kigali bus station, bought 2 tickets for the bus to Cyangugu. For the typical traveler the Congo Nile trail ends here but for us it was the beginning. The journey took 7 hours and from the Cyangugu bus station we hired for 500 per persons 2 motor taxis to drive us to our stay over – the Peace guest house. 1 night for a double bed room plus breakfast 25.000 RWF. We had a delicious dinner for 18.000 in addition.
Tip: Some words in Kinyarwanda will help you and bring smiles on people faces.
More words here
amacuru – how are you
murakoze – thank you
umuzungu – white men
yego – yes
oya – no
Day 3 – The next day we hiked to Gafunzo to look for a lodge. We couldn’t find any lodges as this is the back country and after 25km we ended up to ask the padri or father of the ADEPR Shangi Mugera Church for a night. He told us the church has a few lodges were we can stay. We were so happy because we saw us lying under a banana tree, wet from the rain and with 1000s of sucking mosquitoes. The night cost per person 9000 included breakfast and 2000 for a dinner( beans, fish soup, potatoes, rice and spinach. To our astonishment there was the possibility to buy beer. So we ordered 2 for 600 as we deserved them.
Tip: Gear – We tried to travel light with just the following items: back pack 65 litress, leeping bag, pillow, charger, battery pack, 4G modem, mosquito net, rain jacket, sandals, Nalgene bottle, cap, sun glasses, one long hiking pants, one hiking shorts, 2 sets of underwear, 3 t-shirts, toiletries, headlamp, sunscreen, book, simple down jacket (it gets cold at night), assorted snacks (power bars, chili salami ) Deet 50 bottles.
Day 4 – We said good bye to the padri and walked 6km to the main road RN6. The Congo Nile trail has some main road parts which we decided not to hike. From the road RN6 bus stop we took the bus, a very small van to our next stop. After 21 km and 2000 RWF lighter we arrived Kagano. We ask the Nyamasheke Panish catholic church for a lodge and they were helpful to give us 2 rooms for 14000 plus 70000 for a dinner. Beer or limonade cost between 6 and 800RWF.
Tip: if you would like to drive some distances Rwanda has a efficient and reliable public transport system. The express bus company Ritco brings you fast from A to B. A small shared taxi bus line called Kivu Belt stops everywhere and will cost around 1.000 – 1.500 RWF. Moto taxis are generally safe and there is always a helmet for the passenger. Look at the driver, if he is in good shape the bike should be the same.
Day 5 – After 15km we arrived the Kumbya Eco Lodge. A fantastic place for 25Dollar the night. The location is around 1km from the main road direct on the lake Kivu. From the manager we got the info that the lodge is quite new. And nobody has ever slept in the beds. YES we were the first lol.
Day 6 – We started 09:00am from Kumbya to Mugonero. The hike besides the main road with almost no cars. The weather forecast reported a lot of rain. In reality it was raining a few times but not that heavy. So we could walk without the rain jacket. The only difference was that the sun could not dry our clothes. After a few mountains and 17 km we decided to ask for lodges in Karengera as Mugonero was still 17km away. On the top of one mountain was the secondary school in the village. They had a guesthouse (the home of a former missionary). We stayed at the apartment which has a few sleeping rooms for 10.000 RWF but no food. After unpacking our stuff and changing clothes we went back to the village bought a few bananas, pineapple, avocados, bottles of water and of course 2 bottles of beer.
The delicious fruits and the beer we enjoyed on the roof of the school with a perfect view over the valley.
Day 7 – the day began without breakfast or coffee and Andre was not in the mood to start. After a while of walking we bought some delicious bananas and Mangos at the small shops besides the road. I have to say these bananas were the best tasting bananas in my life. We figured out eating Mangos is not that easy as it sounds. You have to cut out the fruit meat with a knife instead of biting bit because the meat will stick between your tooth. After 20km of hiking we decided to use a moto taxi for the last miles to Mugonero: L’Esperance guest house. When we visited the L’Esperance it was being converted into an ecological farm lodge where people get trained to farm ecological and sustainable. L’Esperance had lots of simple guest rooms, a warm shower on the day and a communal dinner. Payment was 15.000RWF. We did fall a sleep with heavy rain and thunder.
Day 8/9 – always waking up at 07:00, eating breakfast 08:00 and on the road 09:00 am, we broke our rules. Because our room was very dark and cool we slept until 08:00. After almost 12 hours of refreshing sleep we were ready for the next hike. The breakfast with coffee was already on the table and Andre had a big smile on his face. Because of my blisters from day 7 and after 15km walking I decided to be lazy and hitch hike. Lucky bastard I am I found a pick up truck that drove me to Karongi/Kibuye. The last kilometer I drove by Moto taxi to the Home Sant Jean guest house. The guest house had a lot of rooms, a restaurant with a perfect view on Lake Kivu. While I was drinking my beer Andre instead wanted to go all the 24km. So I had to order the beer and meat sticks at forehand for him. The rooms cost between 25.0000 and 35.000RWF per night. The second day we had a 3 hours boat trip to the islands(napoleon etc) and were relaxing on the terrace after that. Saint Jeans is a place we’re you can meet some umosongos. We met some Germans, Checz and Dutch and had some nice chats.
Day 10 – the boat transferred us from Kibuye to the near of Kibingo were we started to hike to Bumba basecamp. The trip cost around 40USD. But as an excuse we travelled by bus, hitch hiked and moto taxi so we want to travel once by boat. After 10km of steady ascension we arrived totally wet Bumba base camp. The owner showed us our guest house called the cave. For 50.000RWF we got 2 rooms with bathroom, lunch and breakfast. From 14-19 we were sitting on the spot to see the mountains and the lake, in addition a bottle of beer. The lunch was served in the light of a bonfire with ice cold water and melons. The owner told us a lot of interesting things about Rwanda.
Day 11 –