From the plains of downtown Rubavu to the bustling streets of Kamembe, the Congo Nile Trail attracts energetic adventurers determined to discover the hidden gems of the Kivu Belt through an off-the-beaten path.
When I set foot on the trail for the first time, I rambled from Inzu Lodge in Nyamyumba to a small lakeside village known as Cyimbiri. From there, I boarded a boat and sailed to Bugarura island. My experience on the island was memorable but the long vigorous countryside walk was as intriguing as the destination itself.
The Congo Nile Trail spans the distance of 227 kilometers. It stretches from Rubavu to Rusizi via Rutsiro, Karongi and Nyamasheke. Trekkers need 10 days to complete the entire passage. 5-day cycling tours and custom-made kayaking packages are also available.
In most cases, tourists don’t cover the entire trail. Instead, they choose sections that suit their availability and preferences.
As mentioned earlier, the first time I explored the trail, I walked from the outskirts of Gisenyi to a small lakeside village known as Cyimbiri. When I returned to the area two weeks ago, I covered the stretch between Cyimbiri and another small lakeside village known as Nkora found in Kigeyo Sector, Rutsiro District.
Residents of Nkora engage in farming, fishing and mining, among other economic activities. They grow coffee and a variety of food crops. Their agricultural produce include bananas, beans, soya and cassava. In addition, trade between them and members of other communities in western Rwanda is vibrant.
Before Covid- 19 led to movement restrictions, traders from the North and South Kivu provinces of the DRC used to flock in to buy livestock and crops on every market day. Bizimungu Valens, a semi-retired veterinary officer, informed me that there is a huge demand for cows, goats and pigs on the other side of the border.
In a bid to stimulate trade and tourism, plans are underway to build a modern port in the strategically located area. Peter Claver, the Nkora coffee washing station’s manager, is excited about the proposed port project. "Transport of huge quantities of goods from this remote village is challenging. The port will undoubtedly make it easier for us to ship our coffee to Kigali and, ultimately, Dar es Salaam or Mombasa via Rubavu modern port which is also in the pipeline."
Capable of producing 500 tons of coffee per season, the CAFERWA-owned Nkora coffee washing station is the biggest in Rwanda. The station offers a hands-on coffee experience and one of the most beautiful campsites along the entire shoreline.
Increased popularity of the Congo Nile Trail is benefiting Nkora-based businesses. At Nkora New Vision restaurant, it’s common to see trekkers and cyclists stopping by to enjoy those sardine-like delicacies popularly known as sambaza. A few blocks away, Chez Mama Nelly’s eatery is also frequented by tourists.
In the energy sector, Nkora hydropower plant contributes 680 kilowatts to the national grid. The mini plant joins forces with the neighboring Keya and Cyimbiri stations to produce 3.2 megawatts.
During my brief stay at Nkora, I hiked the rocky hill elevating sharply on the eastern side of the settlement. While doing so, I discovered breathtaking a waterfall. I also stumbled into a big cave-like structure dug by the powerful stream. This is where the power plant’s pipeline is placed.
Every segment of the journey along the extensive trail as enchanting as the destination itself. When I embarked on this journey, I witnessed beauty every step of the way. I also learned one or two things about life in rural Rwanda.