Get a taste of Rwanda’s rural development while you trek along the Virungas and marvel at awesome views. Spend a night actively on Lake Burera, hike to Uganda’s border and tap into the Gorilla Highlands Trails on the other side.
- night session with Lake Burera fishermen
- lunch at the home of Rosamond Carr, an American fashion illustrator who devoted her life to Rwanda
- overnight on a private island
- sorghum and banana beer brewing
- chance to connect the Congo Nile Trail to the Gorilla Highlands Trails in Uganda
duration: 4 days; difficulty: moderate
area: Gisenyi (Rubavu) – Kinigi – Lake Burera – Cyanika
departures: daily at 7am
Price: USD 430 per person (2 people minimum)
Includes professional guidance, three nights of accommodation, all activities, meals and drinking water.
Gisenyi – Cyanika itinerary (can be reversed)
An early start from Gisenyi is important so that we will reach the Imbabazi Center of Hope in Mugongo by lunch time. The path is upwards, it’s 22 kilometres long and there’s constant temptation to stop and look back towards the majestic Lake Kivu, so it will take time.
The lush farm compound next to Imbabazi used to be the home of Rosamond Carr (1912-2006), the author of “Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda” who spent half a century here. After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis she established an orphanage for over a hundred children. You will get an opportunity to tour the premises and hear the whole story.
As we push on to reach Volcano Motel at Saswara we will be passing through villages full of interesting developments. For example, you will encounter settlements for people who have been moved from remote areas to be better served by the government. For instance, you will wonder at constant beeping in every trading centre (pay-as-you-go electricity metres).
A hearty breakfast will fill our batteries for the least exciting leg of the journey, the one that ends at the headquarters of Volcanoes National Park. The same wide but not paved road that we began to follow the previous day will lead us throughout the agricultural land at the base of the volcanoes.
Your guide will make your hiking less tedious with entertaining stories, he will arrange for you a picnic lunch moment on the way, and give you fresh local snacks to taste. Late in the afternoon you will reach Kinigi and settle at La Paillotte, a place that includes a nice little bakery.
(You previous night’s hotel in Saswara is located where the road touches the Gisenyi-Musanze highway, allowing you to catch a ride and skip this section if you wish so.)
Lake Burera is on our day’s horizon, encouraging us to hit the dirt road as soon as we can! We should be on Cyuza Island early enough for late but ample lunch. Awaiting the night session with local fishermen, you can relax on the shores, swim or take a kayak ride.
Remember the government settlement we saw on Day 1? Cyuza is an example of an area vacated like that; the new housing is on the mainland and the old inhabitants are long gone. The island has been sold to a European investor who has made it a backpacker paradise.
When dusk arrives, it will find you in the company of the catamaran-like boats that we already know from Lake Kivu, lit by petroleum lights and with nets full of tiny fish.
Breakfast will be the third excellent meal on Cyuza Island and it will be hard to leave… However, their motorboat will be awaiting to bring you to the north of the lake.
Under Mt Mweru a famous king reportedly walked on water and played table games. After a short but intense climb and a 30-minute lakeshore hike you will reach the village of Gitare.
Don’t be surprised to run into helmeted men everywhere… Wolfram is being mined in Gitare, something Belgian colonisers initiated many decades ago. The mine itself is not very safe for visitors but you will feel its atmosphere clear enough as we join workers during their leisure time. Sorghum and banana beers are their drinks of choice and you will hear everything about ther preparation – and even taste the brew if you are courageous enough!
Other trades in the village are farmers, tailors, carpenters, hairdressers and mobile phone airtime sellers. Your guide is a son of the soil, he was born in the very same village, thus it won’t be a problem for you to approach and photograph anyone! Want some extra fun? He will get together local youngsters to show you their modern dance!
On the outskirts of the village a primary school lies and soon after it an innovative farm established by a local man. In his forest you will enjoy your second picnic lunch and then climb an easy hill. From there on the land is flat and the Ugandan border tantalisingly close…