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Hiking the Congo Nile Trail

Hiking the Congo Nile Trail

Over the decades, tourism has experienced continued growth and deepening diversification to become one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world. Modern tourism is closely linked to development and encompasses a growing number of new destinations and activities. These dynamics have turned tourism into a key driver in social economic progress.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, tourism has surpassed oil exports, food products or automobile in terms of income generated. The sector has become one of the major players in international commerce and represents one of the main sources of revenue for many economies. This growth goes hand in hand with increasing diversification and competition among destinations.

In an effort to attract visitors, tour operators and institutions in charge of promotion of tourism are getting more and more creative. In a bid to create new activities for the benefit of tourists visiting Rwanda, the Congo Nile Trail was introduced. The trail extends from Rubavu to Rusizi via Rutsiro, Karongi and Nyamasheke covering a distance of 227 km of beautiful rolling hills and gentle waves of Lake Kivu.

The entire trek can be completed in 10 days. however, travellers are free to do sections of the trail depending on their availability and budget. There are different ways of discovering Rwanda through the Congo Nile Trail. Walking, cycling and kayaking are common recreational activities along the trail. Being a physical activity, it is a healthy excursion. The trail is highly recommended for the energetic, wild and adventurous travellers.

The Kivu belt is arguably the most beautiful part of Rwanda and trekking the Congo Nile Trail will give you an opportunity to absorb and digest this breathtaking beauty. Covering the trail on a bicycle takes five days but as mentioned earlier, visitors are free to choose a part of the trail that suits their schedule and budget. Accommodation facilities are available along the trail.

In adventure we find much more than the thrill of adrenaline. Adventure is the element of living life to the fullest and creating lasting memories. These experiences create a positive psychological arousal and dare us to discover more.

Rwanda’s climate is moderate despite the country’s close proximity to the equator. The temperature is lower than other tropical regions due to the high elevation the land of 1,000 hills is known for. The Congo Nile Trail rolls alongside the eastern shore of Lake Kivu in the western province of Rwanda. Unlike eastern Rwanda which is predominantly Savannah, the west consists of rolling hills and lush vegetation.

My Congo Nile Experience was brief and left me craving for more. I rode a bicycle from Gisenyi to Kinunu and back to Gisenyi covering a distance of approximately 100 kilometers. The mountain bicycle I used had good shocks and suitable for rough terrains. Although some parts of this portion are hilly, the trail is not as challenging as it sounds. I was on the road for more than four hours. I could have done it in about two hours but I could not resist the temptation to stop and take photos every after ten minutes or so. The stunning views of the lake and the landscape is irresistible to any tourist.

The trail is well marked and cuts across many small villages, shops, guest houses and camping sites. Trekking the Congo Nile Trail is a constant swing of ascending and descending. It is taxing to ride over hills but it is consoling to know that ascending is followed by descending a few meters away. Every challenging 20 minutes span is followed by 10-15 minutes of gathering breath as the bicycle rolls down the hill.

The trail is not reserved for tourists only. While trekking, you will come across many villagers moving up and down as they carry out their day to day economic activities. There are many pedestrians, motos and occasionally, Bralirwa trucks. Blogger and former Peace Corps volunteer, Claire Brosnihan joked that she didn’t know trekking the Congo Nile Trail was so popular when she saw a lot of people moving up and down the trail.

I have to admit that I haven’t discovered even a quarter of what the trail has to offer. I will be back for more trekking and share my experiences with you. If the little I saw is a reflection of what to expect, then the trail is a journey of great discoveries.

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