Have you ever imagined riding on a stretch of primitive dirt roads and single trails that wind through farmlands and luxuriant jungles amidst cheers of enthusiastic children who will follow you as you ride like you were some sort of celebrity? This is an experience that you can only enjoy when you hike the Congo trail.
The famous Congo trail officially opened in 2009 is a trail along Lake Kivu that extends from Rubavu, continues through Rutsiro via the Karongi, Nyamasheke districts and ends at Rusizi District. The landscape of the trail is made up of unending rolling hills and innumerable towns and villages, offering trekkers and cyclists a glimpse of Rwandan rural life rarely experienced by the city dwellers that make up most of Rwanda’s expat community. Bird enthusiasts will also enjoy a wonderful diversity of fowl found along the way, including White-breasted cormorants, black headed herons and white tailed blue flycatchers.
You will enjoy views of banana trees, small fishing communities, coffee plantations as well as colourfully dressed women who effortlessly carry large bunches of bananas, bundles of firewood among others. Peninsulas of terraced hillsides will grace your right as they create the nebulous coastline of Lake Kivu and innumerable islets dot its sparkling waters. As you go further, the track pulls away from the lake and rises into the crisp air surrounding the charming emerald tea plantations. The route proceeds to ascend along the divide that separates the Congo and Nile rivers. The rugged dirt road then turns into a faint path entering the thick Nyungwe rainforest where you will hear calls of chimpanzees giving you an opportunity to encounter tropical birds, orchids, chameleons, butterflies and at least one of the 13 species of primates.
The Congo trail can be explored in so many ways including motorcycling, cycling and walking. All these have advantages and disadvantages depending on individual preferences and opinion; walking for instance may be hard especially while going uphill whereas using a motorcycle maybe a little fast for you to fully explore the attractions on the trail. Cycling however seems to be a much better option because you will easily move to any part in the trail from the wide roads to narrow footpaths, uphill or downhill.
The trail from Gisenyi to Cyangugu covers a distance of 227 kilometres which can be completed in 10 days while hiking or 5 days while biking. If you don’t have that much time this can be split up. Rwanda is a very secure destination for all those interested in hiking, and you will just need a few supplies to take with you through the journey. The Congo trail includes 8 amazing base camps, four bonus diverse sub trails and two extra ordinary paths, which are all, added value that make up this breath taking hiking experience a life time one. In addition the trail offers among other attractions the best coffee and tea experiences, with sceneries beautiful beyond imagination. Tourists often visit Kinunu coffee washing station on a hillside that overlooks the shores of Lake Kivu to have an experience in both coffee and tea production. On these plantations, they are taught how to harvest tea and they get to experience the process from the garden to the tea cup.
Don’t leave Rwanda without being a part of this experience and remember to pack a camera to capture this unforgettable experience for those you left behind.