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Nyabarongo Trail

Nyabarongo Trail

I left Kigali at around 4 p.m. My destination was Rusiga Sector, Rulindo District. This time, I rode along the seldom known off-road track. The said track spans from Nyarugenge to Gakenke alongside the meandering course of Nyabarongo River. For the sake of this story, I will call this off-the-beaten path the Nyabarongo Trail. This scenic route is recommended for both bikers and trekkers.

I branched off the tarmac after crossing Nyabugogo River. Then I proceeded to Rutonde via Nzove and Nyabyondo. Along the way, I saw the confluence of Nyabugogo and Nyabarongo rivers.

The two rivers are sandwiched by strips of bamboo trees. Their larger wetland areas are green swaths of wildlife habitats.

Elie Hageniyaremye, a resident of Kijabagwe village, keeps reminding his children that Nyabarongo is home to hungry crocodiles. "Our children need to know that this river is not their swimming pool and its bank is not their playground. He told me.

Despite the risk of a crocodile attack, I saw a few young men washing motorcycles and trucks on the edge of the river. Some of them were partially submerged in the water. My inquisitive self wanted to know if they weren’t afraid of falling prey to the Nyabarongo predators.

"This pool is formed by a broken river bank. Although its content is from Nyabarongo, it doesn’t match the natural conditions preferred by crocodiles." One of them educated me. The rest nodded in agreement. Their reasoning didn’t make sense to me but I am sure they know better.

"For how long have you been washing cars here?" I asked. "Three years." He responded. My follow-up question was: "How many crocodile-related accidents have been recorded here in those three years?" He claimed there have been zero cases since the pool was formed many moons ago.

What followed was a lecture on the characteristic features of a crocodile habitat. He went ahead to show me the crocodile-infested areas while insisting that the location of their carwash is not one of them. I wished him and his team all the best and left before I became the first victim.

My second stopover was Rutonde. This is quite a big settlement. The village has a modern health center, schools and churches. Its commercial street is a hive of activity. I wandered up and down the street and felt the heartbeat of the host community.

From Rutonde, I rode uphill towards the Kigali - Musanze highway — the same highway I had abandoned earlier. The stretch from Rutonde to the tarmac is a very steep gradient. As I ascended higher and higher, I felt like a pilot taking off. The sound of my bike’s engine, the feeling of lift-off and the striking rear-view mirror’s reflection of the ground falling away behind me caused an adrenaline rush.

Farther ahead, I spun around one S-shaped spot after another. At some point, I stopped and spent some time admiring the view of Rutonde village, Nyabarongo River and the breathtaking hills of Kamonyi. That was a sight to behold.

The author is an adventurer currently visiting all 30 districts and 416 sectors of Rwanda. Follow his awe-inspiring journey on Twitter @GeoExposure.

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