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Tourism Memories: The Day I Reached Rwanda’s Highest Point

Tourism Memories: The Day I Reached Rwanda’s Highest Point

We are staying home today so that we can travel tomorrow. As travel enthusiasts, we can’t stop reminiscing about the good old days. While cherishing memories of our past adventure, we are looking forward to more adventure in our post-corona lives. For that to happen, you and I need to be responsible and play our role in the battle against COVID- 19.

In today’s segment of Tourism Memories, I have something to share about the day I reached the summit of the highest mountain in Rwanda. I climbed Mount Karisimbi during the summer of 2018. It took me about 24 hours to complete the round trip but looking back, I think I could have done it in 12 hours.

My cousin and I left Kigali early in the morning and made it to Kinigi at 7:30 a.m. After showing our previously bought permits, we were cleared immediately but RDB folks requested us to wait for one Chinese tourist who was still on his way from Uganda. We didn’t mind waiting for a few minutes because the aroma of fresh coffee at the tourist registration center’s cafe was irresistible. After breakfast, we were asked to wait a little longer. Just when we had started losing patience, the Chinese tourist arrived.

We drove upwards to the foothill of the volcanoes but we were not done waiting. Unbeknownst to us, the Chinese itinerary included a short break at Bisoke Beer Garden adjacent to Kwa mukecuru parking lot. We had to wait for him because we were assigned the same guide and security detail. Again, we didn’t have any problem waiting a little longer because we had unfinished business. We needed some time to rent camping gear and hire porters. When we were done with the procurement of equipment and recruitment of personnel, we grabbed something to eat. When all this was happening, the Chinese tourist was probably taking a nap.

By the time we took our first steps, it was already 11 a.m. Three hours later, we were at the camp set up at an altitude of 3,500 meters above sea level. Usually, other groups camp there and resume hiking on the second day but I thought it was too early to call it a day. My partners in the exploration of Karisimbi thought so too. We made a decision to make the final push to the summit on the same day.

If you are planning to hike Mount Karisimbi when tourism resumes, I wouldn’t advice you to climb all the way to the summit in one day. Experts advice us to spend some time acclimating to high density air before ascending to the roof. Don’t do what we did. Listen to the experts.

We took a break at the camp before proceeding to the summit. The plan was to spend about an hour up there but severe cold weather forced us to run back to the camp. Sitting around the campfire, we shared some tea and interesting stories. Our new friend from China had climbed Kilimanjaro and Everest mountains before. A couple of days before crossing the border from Uganda, he had climbed Mount Elgon. He had a lot of fascinating hiking stories to tell. His English was limited but adventure is a universal language. We had no communication problem whatsoever.

When we returned to Kinigi in the morning, I realized that the final stretch from the camp to Kwa mukecuru base was as easy as chewing a piece of cake. Had we started earlier, we could have come back on the same day. Yes, I can climb Mount Karisimbi in a day but I won’t do so next time. Spending more time at the camp, in the middle of the national park while enjoying the view of the neighboring Virunga mountains isn’t a bad idea after all.

The author is an adventurer currently staying at home for obvious reasons. Follow him on Twitter @ExposureRwanda

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