Gisenyi – Kibuye (via the Congo Nile Trail)

It was a great feeling to have the first 50 miles of the run behind us, but stage 2 of Run Rwanda had always promised to be the most challenging.

The plan was to leave the Entrepreneurs of northern Rwanda behind and head due south, down the remote Congo Nile Trail, a 100km hiking track created by the Rwandan Government, in order to showcase rural Rwandan life to intrepid tourists.

It had been difficult to find information about the state of the trail (particularly worrying for our 4×4 support) so on Saturday morning we set off slightly into the unknown.

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The start of the Congo Nile Trail on Gisenyi

Straddling the shores of the enormous lake Kivu, the trail winds down the western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and within minutes we were once again under siege from the now familiar towering hills that give Rwanda it’s famous nickname. With running an impossibility due to the tough terrain, the hiking gear was out in force as we gradually made our way down to our first camp site at Cyimbiri.

We continued to be met by cries of ‘muzongo, muzungo’ as we passed through local villages, stopping to document the local produce that’s famously Rwandan. From Coffee washing stations, to sweet potatoes fields, we were fortunate to witness daily rural life in all its glory.

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A local craftsman on the Congo Nile Trail

With 9 hot and hilly hours of hiking completed, we quickly nestled down at a local guesthouse and lay awake most of the night listening to the loud scratches of some sinister animal that had decided to take refuge under the beds.

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Traditional Rwandan farming on the Congo Nile Trail

The morning of our second day on the trail started with bleary eyes and for the first time, a clear lack of motivation. However all cobwebs were blown away as we hiked the first couple of miles along the sandy lake beaches, stumbling across a group of fisherman who were on their way back from a long night out on the water. We watched patiently as they pulled in their nets and immediately recognized the tiny Sambaza fish that made up the bulk of their catch. these sardine like fish are out drying in most Rwandan communities and along with potatoes, appear to make up a key component of the national diet.

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Sambaza out drying in a rural community

Taking refuge in Kinunu, a small and beautiful lakeside town, we prepared for what would turn out to be our toughest day on the Congo Nile Trail.

As we’d moved down the Trail, the roads had become progressively worse, and within 15 minutes of starting our final stretch of running, I turned around to see the support jeep engulfed in a cloud of dense smoke. The track had turned into a series of boulders, and not only did we have a flat tyre but the jeep wasn’t strong enough to get up the seriously steep climb. Half the village came out to push us up the hill, before an awesome local guy jumped in the car and led us 45 minutes down the road to a local bike mechanic. The car was sorted, but we were behind schedule!

After 19km running along a sandy track, passing hundreds of huge Diggers (and countless Chinese men, instructing road development) we were finally finished.

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John running along the Congo Nile Trail

As expected, the Congo Nile Trail had been the toughest part of the run so far, but it had been a true privilege to run through real rural Rwanda and enjoy the stunning views of Lake Kivu.

Now it’s time to get back on the Entrepreneurs trail and after a rest day tomorrow, we cut east across the country, next stop Gitarama.

 

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