On this memorable day, I teamed up with a fellow adventure rider and left Kigali at seven in the morning. Our destination was Rubavu District, bordering DR Congo’s North Kivu Province.
More and more thrill seekers, myself included, are turning to motorcycle tours. I prefer the rugged, dirt trails. Unfortunately, my friend’s sport bike isn’t built for my usual off-the-beaten paths. Although four times more powerful than mine, his Yamaha YZF R1 is not an off-road machine.
There are different types of motorcycles in the market — including tourers, commuters, cruisers, sports and adventure. It is important to understand the capabilities and limitations of your bike while planning a trip. I would recommend an adventure bike for all-terrain, long distance riders.
The Kigali - Rubavu ride was nothing short of spectacular. At some point, we slowed down to soak up the scenery. I am a regular user of this highway, but I am always awestruck by the beauty of those hills I always write about.
Breathtaking hills as seen from the Kigali - Rubavu highway
We had breakfast at Rusiga Highland Resort in Rulindo District. This serene resort is built on a beautiful hill, more than 7,000 feet above sea level. The said hill is surrounded by equally attractive elevations. As I always say, one picturesque hill in the middle of its lookalikes can sum up the description of the entire land of 1,000 hills pretty accurately.
While waiting for my coffee and pastries, I took a minute to stroll around the property. From my vantage point, I saw Nyabarongo River snaking between the Southern Province and the Northern Province. Nyabarongo is part of the upper headwaters of the Nile. The longest river in Rwanda is also the primary source of domestic, commercial and industrial water supply in Kigali and other parts of the country.
Shortly after leaving Rusiga Highland Resort, we had another stopover in a small village known as Ikirenge (Kukirenge cya Ruganzu). Ikirenge is a Kinyarwanda word which means foot/footprint. This settlement derived its name from the footprint of King Ruganzu II Ndoli.
While at Ikirenge, we visited Ikirenga Cultural Center. It takes about three hours to study every thing exhibited therein. Since we didn’t have three hours, we chose to see one thing: the footprint of King Ruganzu. The mysterious footprint was dug out of the rock during the construction of the highway in 1980.
Ikirenga Cultural Center
When the ride resumed, we spun our wheels to Nyirangarama Village. As usual, the headquarters of Urwibutso Enterprises was a hive of activity. This was a bathroom break, but I didn’t leave without buying a bottle of my favorite Agashya passion juice.
As we navigated the Gakenke stretch of the scenic highway, the imposing appearance of Mount Kabuye caught our eyes. Kabuye is one of the tallest mountains in the country outside the Volcanoes National Park. The sight of this attraction rekindled memories of my camping experience "in the sky".
In Kivuruga area, we marveled at Mount Mbwe located on the shore of Lake Ruhondo. Farther ahead, the blurry view of Muhabura volcano looked like a painting. That was another sight to behold.
Our next stop was on the bank of Mukungwa River in Musanze District. Mukungwa flows from Lake Ruhondo to Nyabarongo River, but its source can be traced to Rugezi swamps near the border with Uganda. There is a fascinating story behind the blockage of the stream from Rugezi, its deviation and the formation of the twin lakes. I will need a whole day to write something about these magical creations.
From Mukungwa River, we spun our spokes to the Karisimbi viewpoint in Mukamira Sector, Nyabihu District. Unfortunately, the highest volcano in the Virunga Massif had been covered by fog. We couldn’t see it.
There are eight volcanoes within the Virunga range. Five of them straddle Rwanda’s northwestern border, while the remaining three are entirely in the DRC. On a good day, travelers traversing this highway can see the towering geographical features from different viewpoints.
From Nyabihu, we twisted our throttles all the way to the northern tip of Lake Kivu. The ensuing tour of downtown Rubavu included a brief stop at the Grande Barrière. This ultra-modern border post looks like an airport terminal.
We had lunch at Saga Bay. Upon arrival, we took off our biking gear and joined beach goers who had flocked the recreational facility in big numbers. This was one of my regular Rubavu weekend getaways. As usual, the ever enchanting sub destination didn’t disappoint.
Rubavu District borders the North Kivu Province of the DRC