The Congo Nile trail
The Congo Nile trail : There is no doubt that gorilla trekking in particular is the most valuable tourism resource in Rwanda. One of Rwanda’s developments was the launching of the Congo Nile Trail in 2011 which was an attempt to make Rwanda a top biking destination in Africa. The Congo Nile Trail refers to a 227 kilometre trail passing through Lake Kivu and starting from the northern shores in Gisenyi and ending in the Southern shores of Rusizi District.
The trail does not pass through Congo or anywhere near the Nile River but is named after a landmark that separates River Congo and River Nile. The Congo Nile Trail is possibly the best biking trail in East Africa and it is the best way to experience Rwanda’s natural beauty and the clean air. The trail passes through stunningly beautiful scenery including Nyungwe forest national park, Rwanda’s famous rolling hills, the clear waters and beaches of Lake Kivu and glimpses of the distant Democratic Republic of Congo.
Besides the scenery, you get to see how the locals go about their daily business in their coffee, banana and tea plantations. You also pass through small towns, shops, valleys, waterfalls, small local markets and fishing villages with warm greetings from smiling children and curious elders. You might even stop by the Mugonero orphanage and be entertained to local Rwandan dances. The Kiziba refugee settlement holding about 17, 000 Congolese refugees is also located near the trail. The climax of it all is going up to the very top of the Congo Nile.
Travelers have four options of completing the trail either by car, motorcycle, bike or walking. Each method has its own advantages whereby walking and biking may be tiring but are the best ways of completing the trail. The two methods allow visitors to appreciate the beautiful scenery along the trial and connect with the locals. Taking on the Congo Nile trail is a good form of exercise and can allows interactions with other travellers unlike driving or motorcycling. Walking through the Congo Nile Trail can be completed in about 10 days, while biking takes about 5 days. Take note of the rainy seasons that is March to May and October to November. Heavy rains make some sections of the trail muddy and difficult to walk/ride through.
Regardless of which method you choose to complete the trail, there are free maps guides available to visitors at the Rwanda Development Board offices in Kigali, Musanze and Gisenyi. Maps will help point out directions, correct distances, interesting places, landmarks, route changes and time taken passing through specific sections of the trail. A lone traveller visiting Rwanda definitely needs a map, self-assurance and personal supplies. More high-end visitors living in Rwanda can hire their own guides, porters and cooks to accompany them throughout the journey. If you are coming as a visitor to Rwanda, then the best thing to do is use the services of a tour operator to organize everything on the ground before you arrive. A tour company can help arrange for porters, guides and other necessities while taking into consideration your interests, time and budget. Mission Africa Rwanda Safaris can help you acquire the right maps, hire/buy suitable mountain bikes and related spare parts. We have experience arranging for guides, cooks, porters and transportation to and from the starting and ending points. The Congo Nile trail passes through sections with different characteristics. There are rocky areas, dusty roads and hilly areas. Most sections of the trail are not flat for long. There is nothing like a single biking or walking track. You will often be climbing and slopping while sharing the road with others before re-entering narrower trails.
Travelers need to be careful while on the roads and should watch out for moving cars, motorcycles and local pedestrians. You need to be reasonably fit and accustomed to mountain biking to complete the trail by walking or biking. If you doubt your overall fitness, then there is an option of completing the trail in sections as you take breaks to take part in refreshing and fun activities such as relaxing and taking boat rides or canoes along Lake Kivu, swimming or checking out the waterfalls. It is however costly moving with your own bike as an international traveller, so you may need to purchase or hire a proper mountain bike from specialized outlets either Kigali or once you reach Gisenyi. While in Gisenyi, travelers can hire bikes from Inzu Lodge for between $ 30USD to $75 per day however, test the bike yourself to ensure that it is in good mechanical condition and that you are comfortable with it. The bike should also come with important spare parts and a pump.
The Congo Nile trail was planned to pass through major villages, shops, trading centers and local markets. Water, fruits and food is can easily be purchased along the trail. You need is to learn how to recognize local signs leading to shops and other outlets. This is a good time to try out some of the local Rwandan dishes while on your trail.
The journey from Kigali to the starting point in Gisenyi for the Congo Nile trail takes about 3 hours by car and if you are traveling with your own bike, then you will need to inform the company you are booking your Rwanda safari with to also consider a space for the bike. Your tour operator can then pick you up later once you have completed the trail. The journey back to Kigali from the finishing point takes much longer. If you stopped in Kamembe, then your journey back to Kigali will take about 5 hours.
Gear for the Congo Nile Trail
In case you are planning on walking, cycling or biking through the Congo Nile trails, there are equipment need to ensure that your experience on a Congo Nile trail is memorable. Some of the items to consider when planning to take on the Congo Nile trail; a sleeping bag, a bike pump for bikers, an extra bike tire, clothing’s to change, warm clothing for the cold night, a dust Mask, Gloves, toiletries, sunglasses for the dust, a bicycle headlamp, Snacks and things like boiled eggs, bread, fruits and drinking water, biking shoes, helmets, a camera.