From dip to highlight in a day

The last post might have seemed a bit like an overreaction, but sometimes during our travels we feel homesick, we miss the people we love, miss having our routines or clean and dry clothes. Fortunately, things would take a turn for the better. 

The place in Kibuye itself was not too bad. It was mainly the feeling that we had left a little paradise and we had to cover 4 days until our next activity. This would be a 3-day hike through Nyungwe National Park, following the Cyinzobe trail. Since we are with two and the trail requires at least 3 people, we had to wait until the first planned trip with at least 3 people. 

While we are talking with Niek, we discuss the problems of traveling through Rwanda as one person. Rwandan tourism is on the rise, but it is still mainly focused on the high-end travelers, mostly in groups. As a couple we can find some guesthouses, but activities either require big groups (to share costs also) or very expensive. Niek was hoping to meet people who want to join him in experiencing the country. 

This is where our flexibility (and Africa's flexibility) came in handy. We asked Niek if he would like to join us. Then maybe we could go in two days, or even the next day. Niek agreed and one phone call later we had a new plan. Instead of covering 4 nights, we only had to stay for one night in Kibuye. The next day, we were heading to Nyungwe National Park. So we created our own luck. We did have to move a lot of things around in our car, though, to accommodate a passenger in the back seat. The car is fully packed and we needed to make room for Niek and his bag. Again with some flexibility, we were able to "tetris" everything and everyone nicely in the car, bags on the laps and all. 

Since the Cyinzobe trail is very new (it opened in July 2023) we didn't really have an idea of what to expect. We were all very excited about the trail, and mostly fantasizing how it would be. When we arrived at the visitors' center, we made our payments and ordered a quick lunch. As we were having lunch, we were reminded why this is called a rainforest. The rain just kept pouring, as we slowly drank our coffee and ate our lunch. We kept looking at each other, asking ourselves: 'what did we get ourselves into' and 'what did we say yes to?'

Right before we had finished eating, the rain decreased and even stopped. We met our guide, Oscar and we were off into the jungle! Well, sort of. We started by following the road, before we could enter our first trail. Oscar is an avid birder and Emma told him which birds she would love to see. There are several different Turacos in Nyungwe, and we would love to see them. Before we could even reach the first trail, we already spotted a Rwenzori Turaco. This is a beautiful bird that can only be seen in the Albertine Rift. A wonderful start to the most amazing thing in Rwanda. 

This trail is, in our opinion, a must do in Nyungwe and actually in Rwanda, at least for any nature lover. We hiked for three days through the dense primary forest. The forest showed a million shades of green, changing every minute due to the changing intensity of the sun. We loved every single moment of the 3-day hike. Emma made a new best friend with Oscar, trying to spot and identify as many birds as possible. Jeroen and Niek followed along, taking in all the beautiful views of the many valleys we came across and trying to get glimpses of the birds as well.

It might sound strange, but this was really a dream come true. Hiking through such a dense forest, catching pockets of light in the darker, denser parts, followed by open areas with beautiful valleys and breathtaking views. But what might have been even better than all that, were the campsites in which we stayed. They were perfect. They had every amenity we needed and we were short of nothing. Still, they were still basic enough to have the feeling of being out in nature, in the middle of nowhere. For us, it was everything we wanted. 

The first day was a relatively easy hike of 3-4 hours. As we arrived just before dusk, we were greeted at the campsite with hot chocolate, tea and some snacks. The camp site had 3 cabins that all looked out on the marsh down in the valley. After having enjoyed our hot chocolate and snacks, we used the outdoor shower, outdoors in the middle of the forest, with hot water from a fire heated bucket. We have not had many moments when showering felt so special. After a lovely dinner, we went back to our cabin where hot water bottles heated our bed. This is too amazing. 

The second day we had breakfast and went on to hike to our next camp. During this hike, we neared the swamp and hiked along the river flowing out of the swamp. We saw the other two turacos (the black-billed and the great blue) and many more birds. This hike continued where last day ended, more beautiful views. There were too many to remember and too many to photograph and videograph. This is something we recommend to everyone. The hike this day even added several beautiful waterfalls. 

We were not only lucky when it came to the birds we saw. The weather was perfect, too perfect even. The first day the rain stopped when we started hiking and it started raining again as soon as we arrived at the camp. The second day, we also had no rain. Some of us even got a little sad: Hiking in a rainforest without being rained on felt fake. Even those requests were heard. After our lunch the rain started to pour again, but as we were already quite close to the camp, this was actually wonderful. We hiked the last hour through the pouring rain and as we neared the second camp, the rain slowly stopped again. 

This camp was straight out of a dream, or a fairy tale. On the bend of the river we were following, there were again three similar, beautiful cabins and a lounge area. We had the river flowing right by us, forests all around and a lovely campfire that we could use to dry our clothes. We kept telling ourselves and each other that the 3-day hike is actually not long enough. We all were hoping to extend for a day, to enjoy some extra hiking and to have the wonderful feeling of arriving at that camp again. Unfortunately, the camp was booked for some research activity the next day, so we would just had to make the best of the time we had.  

We spent the afternoon reminiscing about the hike we just had, being amazed at how beautiful this place was and drying our clothes. Niek had brought a working power bank, which enabled us to charge our phones, so we could continue using the flash light at night and taking videos and photos the next day. We again had the most amazing shower ever and went to bed early after another lovely dinner. 

The next day was more of the same, but more of the same amazingness. We had a lovely breakfast again and hiked to the exit. On the way there, we made a quick detour to visit the largest waterfall of the region and after being completely wet again from the waterfall, we ended our hike at the exit of the park. A quick coffee, a snack and we continued our way. We agreed with Niek to go together for one more day, where we would have a dinner and a beer. Emma found a nice place among the nuns at Emmaus Hostel in Butare (Huye). We tried out all the beers we knew from Rwanda and had a great 'last' night with Niek. 

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