The bus driver dropped us near One & Only Nyungwe House. From there, our guides led us to Isumo trail’s entry point. Minutes later, we were completely swallowed by the forest.
There are different trails in Nyungwe National Park leading to specific attractions while giving hikers an opportunity to see different species of birds and monkeys along the way. Some trails can be covered in an hour or two while others require three days or more.
Isumo trail is so narrow that we had to march in a single file. Behind us, another line was formed by a group of foreign tourists. We had to watch our steps more carefully when we reached the wet, rocky and slippery part of the twist and turn downhill parade.
I was at the end of my group’s line. A bunch of bazungu extended it behind me. I overheard them talking about black, blue and white monkeys. In my wildest imaginations, I never thought monkeys are also divided along racial lines. We moved faster than the group behind us because we were not paying attention to monkeys and their racial stratification.
We had been instructed to keep our voices low but my excited travel companions could not refrain from shouting. They were young, hyper and uncontrollable. Failure to observe the park’s code of conduct robbed our foreign counterparts an opportunity to see more monkeys, chimpanzees and baboons. Noise pollution scares monkeys and their cousins away unless the culprits are carrying bananas in their lunch boxes. The temptation to steal bananas is irresistible to these creatures.
When we finally arrived at the waterfalls, excitement was in the steam-filled air. A powerful stream flows vertically creating whirlpools, turbulence and vapor. Rocks are eroded and farther down, streaming water looks like black coffee. It’s amazing how crystal clear dropping water turns black after a short crooked path down the cliff.
When it was time to leave, our timekeeper’s polite reminder was ignored. We spent more time at the site than we were supposed to. The photogenic selfie generation needs long photo shoot sessions our itinerary planner hadn’t anticipated. Being behind schedule did not prevent the youngsters from causing even more delays as they whined over poor internet connection or lack thereof.
Hiking back to the bus was physically taxing. If you are planning to explore Nyungwe, you better start using that gym membership you have been wasting.
Benches are placed a couple of kilometers apart for those who need to pause and take a breather from time to time. We didn’t use those benches because time wasn’t on our side.
As we fought an uphill battle (literary), we tried to move as fast as we could in order to make it to Uwinka Overlook in time for the 3 p.m. canopy tour. The canopy was all the motivation we needed to keep pushing when the going got tough.
When I finally came back to Kigali, the image of Isumo Falls stuck on my mind for a while. I still remember my reaction when I saw this attraction for the first time. From a distance, it looked like a painting but when I got closer, I was shaken by the velocity of water falling off the edge and pounding the rock hard.
The sound of striking water, coupled with screams from notorious noisemakers I had traveled with, made it hard for our timekeeper to make an announcement we all didn’t want to hear anyway. We didn’t want to hear anyone saying it was time to leave. We didn’t want to leave.