Photo credit: Kingfisher Journeys
From downtown Musanze, we headed to Gacaca Sector, about seven kilometers out of town. Upon arrival, we geared up and embarked on a 3-hour Mukungwa River canoeing tour.
One stroke at a time, we propelled our canoes down the stream, leaving behind trails of twisting whirlpools. Kids from the surrounding communities gathered on both sides of the river to cheer us up.
Farmers grow their crops in the wider wetland area. They also carry out subsistence fishing. They use hooks to catch one fish at a time. Some of them leave behind their traps and attend to other duties. Our guide instructed us to avoid paddling near those hooks but it wasn’t always easy for us to stay on our lane.
The current had a way of speeding up and slowing down our canoes at different stages of the watercourse. As gentle as they looked, those waves overpowered us from time to time. I remember being swayed astray several times. Whenever I lost control, I took it easy and let the velocity of the water get me back on track.
The team behind us experienced balancing issues at some point. Their canoe turned upside down, causing a big splash and loud screams. Nonetheless, the tourists involved in the incident seemed to enjoy their unscripted swimming session. When order was restored, we resumed our thrilling journey.
I fell in love with canoeing the moment I put the paddle in the water for the first time. Until the 1800s, canoes were commonly used by explorers and traders around the world. Today, these light vessels are also used for recreation and sports. In northern USA, Canada and New Zealand, a canoe is an iconic cultural symbol.
The highlight of the day was the whitewater stage under the bridge. At this point, the flow is rapid and the turbulence is more violent. When we approached the bridge, helmets were distributed and more instructions were given in a bid to prepare us for what was to follow.
Farther downstream, the river splits into two channels. We pursued the one on the right hand side, following recommendations from our guide. Here, water flows more rapidly and corners are sharper. We had to work harder to keep up with the twisting and turning.
The last hour of our memorable experience was relatively easy. When we crossed the finish line, at Nyakinama, the driver was already there waiting for us.
The author is an adventurer on a tour of all 30 districts and 416 sectors of Rwanda. Follow his awe-inspiring journey on Twitter @GeoExposure