The evening bus ride to Kigali from Kampala was rather long, the immigration officials and policemen at the Katuna border point were quite strict. They thoroughly checked through passengers’ luggage and confiscated plastic bags as they are prohibited in Rwanda. I was relieved as soon as my passport was stamped and I had boarded the bus once again for Kigali. The bus finally halted at the bus station early in the morning and I took a motor bike to my accommodation facility. The streets were impressively clean and organized, Rwanda has a consistent schedule in community cleaning every last Saturday of the month ranking it one of the cleanest countries in Africa. I have always been keen on Rwanda especially the president; Paul Kagame, who inherited a country that had been torn apart by genocide by the year 2000. 20 years later Rwanda is stable, prosperous, unified and has one of the most developed transport infrastructures in Africa.
I was up early the next day ready to set off to the Nyungwe Forest for the canopy walk expedition. The mini vans to the outskirts of Rwanda were quite old and dilapidated, I sat for almost 4 hours waiting for the van to fill up until the journey finally begun. It was about 9pm in the evening when I was warmly welcomed to the Nyungwe Nziza eco lodge, an accommodation facility I highly recommend using. The owner and the staff are quite hospitable and the views of the forest from the lodge are amazing.
I was up by 7am the next morning. I stood by the road side and patiently waited for the public bus to ferry me to the Nyungwe National Park, a top tourist destination in Rwanda that is good for relaxation, adventure and also gives one a great insight into the country’s beauty. I waited for about 4 hours in the scorching heat for the bus to arrive in vain. I braved it out and decided to hitch hike a ride in a massive cargo truck that was driving all the way from Zambia. The driver seemed quite friendly and was honest enough to let me know there was no passenger seat. He had opted to take it off and transformed it into a mini kitchen, I comfortably placed his pillow on the cooking stove and sat on it. He stared at me in disbelief for about 3 minutes as I smiled back and encouraged him to keep on driving. I was desperate to get to the park and comfort was the least of my worries by that time.
The smooth tarmacked roads along the way were welcome. The driver and I were stopped several times by some of the many military officials guarding the forest. They kept on asking for our identification and constantly eulogized the driver for having such a beautiful ‘girlfriend’ seated next to him. He tried to explain to them several times that he was just a ‘Good Samaritan’ giving me a ride to my destination but all this fell on deaf ears. After an hour or two, the truck suddenly halted as it had a mechanical problem. The driver alerted me that he would need at least an hour to fix up the truck and advised me to get a lift from any other vehicle that would drive along the road. I thanked him for his generosity, picked up my bag and started walking towards the park. I was joined by three Military officials who were keen to accompany me along the way. We shared various opinions about the political tension between Rwanda and Uganda until I finally managed to get a lift with another truck that was driving by.
I was relieved to be at the Uwinka reception centre of the Nyungwe National Park by 2:45pm where I hurriedly completed the payment and registration process for the canopy walk, was briefed about the walk and allocated an extremely friendly ranger to guide me. The time schedules for the canopy walk are 8am, 10am, 1pm & 3pm and it’s extremely important to keep to time. The 160m long & 70m high walkway is suspended above a ravine in the lush montane forest and is accessible as part of a guided tour along the Igishigishigi, Umuvoye or Mbuyove trails. The lush mountain forest is a hotbed of biodiversity, whilst the canopy walk is breathtaking. I sighted various species of butterfly, orchid and colorful birds as I walked along the suspended walkway. The walk was a bit frightening when strong gushes of wind blew over the walkway making it sway from one side to the other. I almost thought I would topple over and fall into the forest but thankfully all went well.
I completed the walk in 45 minutes and headed back to the reception with my guide panting behind me. ‘Are you in the military, Madame?’ he questioned as I rushed to pick up my bag. He was amazed by how fast I completed the walk that was meant to last for 2 hours. ‘I hike a lot of mountains and try my best to always stay fit’ I answered back as I ran out of the park to board a bus back to Kigali. It was such a long drive to the capital and by the time I met up with my friend Jane It was late in the night. Jane was kind enough to offer me accommodation for the night in exchange for juicy tales of my experience.
The following is essential for the hike:
- Quality boots or walking shoes.
- A head cap for sun/rain protection.
- A hand watch
- A camera/phone camera
- Walking sticks/bamboo sticks are always provided from the office at no fee.
- Long sleeved shirts and pants.
- Drinking water.