About a week ago, I shared my experiences touring part of the Congo Nile Trail. This expedition gave me an opportunity to discover the magical Rugabano area and trace the source of Nyabarongo River. I was astonished by the Congo Nile Divide and saw water being dispensed to the drainage basins of both the Congo and the Nile.
From Rugabano, I proceeded to Gisovu Tea Estate. I was awestruck by the beauty of the manicured hills of Gisovu. The grandeur of the picturesque landscape, coupled with the artistically trimmed green crops, not to mention the view of Lake Kivu and Nyungwe forest took my breath away.
Many years ago, the upper side of the stage I covered was part of Nyungwe forest. A study conducted by Antioch University revealed that the forest lost 150 square kilometers of its cover between 1958 and 1973. Before Rwanda stepped up conservation efforts under the current administration, Nyungwe was a victim of constant encroachment by man for over a century.
Population growth around the forest brought forth more pressure. New settlements emerged at the expense of vegetation. Trees were replaced by crops. Hunters did irreparable damage. More trees were chopped off in the process of setting up mining camps and many more were burned by honey harvesters. Members of the surrounding communities relied on the forest for food, firewood, construction materials and medicine, to name but a few.
At least those who cleared the forest to grow tea kept it green. Going green is the silver lining here. After touring the evergreen Gisovu area, I had a stopover at Bisesero Genocide Memorial site.
In May 1994, as the genocide raged on, residents of neighboring villages gathered on Bisesero hill and defended themselves against the bloodthirsty interahamwe militants. Under the leadership of one Aminadabu Birara, men fought bravely while women and children took cover behind the hill. Unfortunately, the only weapons they had were stones and a few spears. On the other side, the killers were armed with heavy artillery. At the end of the day, more than 40,000 Tutsis were brutally massacred.
After revisiting the traumatic events of 1994, I winded up the trip at Mubuga coffee washing station. I will share my experiences at the station in one of my upcoming posts.
Navigating the Congo Nile Trail is an unforgettable experience. On this route, the journey is as intriguing as the destination.
The author is on a tour of all 30 districts of Rwanda. His Karongi expedition is sponsored by The Click Creations, Ikaze Rwanda Tours & Travel, Kivu Tours and Travel, Rebero Kivu Resort and Imari Hose Ltd.