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Crossing Nyungwe National Park

Crossing Nyungwe National Park

It takes about an hour to cross Nyungwe National Park through the highway. Drivers are advised to exercise caution along this meandering road as they maneuver through one S-shaped stretch after another.

Beware, baboons and their cousins tend to cross the road at their own pace. No one has ever instructed them to look right, left and right again before crossing. Expect them to appear out of nowhere.

Wild animals are free to traverse the road as they wish. When you bump into a group of primates conducting a meeting in the middle of the highway, pull over and switch your hazard lights on to warn the driver behind you, if any. Don’t touch the horn. Honking drives wild animals wilder. Besides, you don’t have any rights to disturb the bona fide inhabitants of the park, especially when they are in an important meeting.

During the rain season, it rains often in Nyungwe. When it rains, it pours. 70% of rain watering the Rwandan soil falls in Nyungwe. The forest records 2,000 mm of rainfall annually. Chances are, you and I wouldn’t be alive if Nyungwe wasn’t there.

Before embarking on a journey to Rusizi through Nyungwe, bear in mind that at some point you will likely be driving on a wet, and possibly, slippery floor. Check the tread depth of your tires and ensure they are not worn out. Your front and rear wiper blades must be in a good condition. Detect any possible malfunctions in your air conditioner and heater. Make sure they are fixed before departure. You must be able to clear the mist and prevent internal condensation if need be.

Last time I crossed the forest, I saw two neighboring hills experiencing two different weather conditions. It was raining on one and shining on another despite the close proximity between them. It’s amazing how rain and sunshine can be separated by a hundred meters.

A few years ago, my guests and I had coffee at Uwinka Overlook. It was raining when we arrived but it stopped before our coffee was delivered. A short while later, the cloud disappeared and the tropical sun took over. We used our umbrellas and sunglasses in a span of fifteen minutes.

Apart from sharp corners, this road has many steep gradients and slopes. Some elevated spots guarantee spectacular views, come rain or shine. Seeing how thick vegetation winds through the landscape, covering the surface and falling over deep valleys will take your breath away.

The author is an adventurer on a tour of all 30 districts and 416 sectors of Rwanda. Follow his awe-inspiring expeditions on Twitter @GeoExposure.

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