I used to look at Mount Kigali and wonder what was going on up there. I once entertained the idea of hiking the mountain and tried to convince my friends to join me but they would rather sit in their local bar, somewhere in Kabeza, and drink until they drop.
When I finally gathered the courage to hike Mount Kigali all by myself, I approached it from Sun City hotel near Kigali Regional Stadium. The route I chose is not as inclined as I thought. Contrary to my imaginations, one can drive all the way to the top.
I was prepared to hike in the jungle but, surprisingly, I found myself walking in a residential area. Houses are built on inclined plots, elevating one’s neighbor dozens of feet higher.
As I moved upper and upper, the city behind me seemed to descend. It was 9 in the morning but a few men were drinking alcohol inside a small stuffy kiosk while arguing loudly. When I entered the kiosk to buy drinking water, they stopped arguing and stared at me like I was a creature from Mars.
Taxi-moto riders were ferrying passengers up and down the hill and learners from a nearby driving school were busy practicing stick-shifting on a steep gradient in preparation for their driving tests.
As I hiked to the top, I followed directions from signposts labeled Fazenda Sengha. Walking enabled me to observe and absorb more. Speaking of observing, it’s unbelievable how much we don’t know about our own hometowns. Sometimes we travel to the other side of the world in pursuit of new discoveries leaving behind a lot to be uncovered in places we call home.
The real summit of Mt. Kigali is a military base I am not authorized to access. The side I visited has been invaded by Kigali dwellers scrambling for land to build their houses on. The upper Nyamirambo area is rapidly expanding towards the top of the hill, threatening to consume what should have been a reserved area.
It took me about thirty minutes to reach the top. As close as it is, the area looks rural and remote. It’s hard to believe you can walk to Nyamirambo, a buzzing Kigali suburb in a few minutes. There is a village atmosphere with scattered small houses, separated by farms and a small forest.
Whether you walk or drive, you won’t miss the Fazenda Sengha signposts with arrows directing visitors. Fazenda Sengha is a recreational facility located on top of Mt. Kigali. The center seeks to reintroduce the equestrian culture in Rwanda while creating an environmentally friendly social enterprise uniting friends and families interested in horsemanship and outdoor recreational activities.
I had never ridden a horse before but my guide, a gentleman namely Vitalis, made it easy by riding in front of me. I moved at his pace as we patrolled the entire crest. I would kick my horse and pull the ropes to speed up and slow down. I also learned the technique used to steer the horse to the right, left and straight.
On one side of the hill, I slowed down and admired the splendid panorama of Kigali. On the other side, I was overwhelmed by the picturesque Nyabarongo River, Mt. Shyorongi, Mt. Jali and settlements spreading as far as Kamonyi and Muhanga.
After a tour of the hill on the back of a horse, I had a taste of zip line adventure for the first time in my life. A zip line is made up of a pulley suspended on a stainless steel cable mounted on a slope. It is designed to enable the user to glide from the highest point of the cable to the bottom, propelled by gravity.
Before taking off, Vitalis gave me clear instructions and performed a safety check. Then he demonstrated how zip lining is done. I have to admit, I was a little nervous before my first attempt. Then I found the courage and took a leap of faith. It felt like flying. As speed increased, the wire I was hooked to became invisible, further enhancing my ‘flying’ experience. The landing part was scarier but I had no problem whatsoever, thanks to useful landing tips from Vitalis.
Before I called it a day, I tried yet another new experience. I played a game known as archery for the first time ever. Participants use a bow to fire arrows at a bulls-eye target. My first few attempts were way off the mark but the more I practiced, the closer to the yellow circle I started hitting.
A century ago, archery was popular in Rwanda. Most likely, we would have multiple Olympic gold medals by now if we wouldn’t have abandoned the sport our forefathers embraced.
Not one, not two, but three new things done in one day. When I climbed down that hill, I had a story to share with friends I left in the confinement of their local pub somewhere in Kabeza.