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Karisimbi Challenge - Part III

Karisimbi Challenge - Part III

From the roof of the Virunga chain of mountains, I watched a very theatrical sunset. As the sun dropped, clouds looked like waves in the ocean and the sky gleamed like never before. That striking sunset was followed by darkness. I would love to experience another delightful sunset from Karisimbi’s vantage point but walking back to the camp in total darkness is probably not a good idea.

Walking downhill was challenging. This exercise has the same effect as squatting. A step downwards obliges the leading knee to absorb the impact of the entire body weight magnified by the force of gravity.

We used flashlights to see the trail and avoid stepping on buffalo dung. Buffaloes and other wild animals were running their usual errands in the area. Luckily, they seemed to mind their own business. Whatever the case, we were safe. Our adept security team from the Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) knew what to do to prevent a hostile encounter and ensure the safety of interlopers (us) and the rightful inhabitants of the park.

At the camp, we had delicious meals prepared by a qualified chef from Beyond the Gorillas Experience (BGE), a social enterprise committed to improving the lives of local communities around protected areas through community-based tourism.

I ended part II of my Karisimbi chronicles by disclosing a big mistake - forgetting my sleeping bag. I was the least equipped tourist in the group. Maybe, the least equipped Karisimbi hiker ever. When we left the summit, it was cold enough to turn water into ice. The temperature at the camp was relatively higher but I was still freezing. I sat by the fire with porters and soldiers until wee hours of the night. Finally, I slept in a tent placed in a wooden structure covered by corrugated iron sheets. Before I slept, I wore everything I had packed and all clothing donations I received from fellow campers.

When we woke up in the morning, it was sunny and visibility was better than the day before. Bisoke and Mikeno mountains looked closer and bigger. Sabyinyo wasn’t as visible and its location obstructed possible views of Gahinga and Muhabura from our position.

Descending to Kinigi from the camp was easy. We crossed Mutara tract and exited the park in the shadow of Mount Bisoke. Finally, we celebrated our achievement at Bisoke Beer Garden adjacent to Kwa mukecuru entry-point.

Bisoke Beer Garden is managed by BGE, an initiative mentioned above. BGE folks help hikers to secure porters, tents, hiking shoes, clean sleeping bags and camping mats. They also provide hot water bags, raincoats and changing rooms. Last but not least, they offer catering services both at the garden and the camp. Having forged a partnership with them, my upcoming hiking experiences will be much better.

Some of you have contacted me expressing interest in climbing Mount Karisimbi. I am not a tour operator and for the record, I am a very disorganized fella. I even forgot to pack my own warm clothes and appropriate camping gear. If you want me to organize your trip, I will mess it up. Once again, I will let professionals from Paradise Safaris Africa do what they can do best. They did an excellent job handling Bisoke hikers last weekend. If you are interested in the exploration of Karisimbi, kindly send an email to george@exposure.rw.

The author is an adventurer on a mission to discover what Rwanda has to offer. Follow his awe-inspiring journey on ikazerwandatours.com

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