Nyungwe Forest National Park – part three

It’s time to conclude the stories of wandering around Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest. We spent 4 days there, and I wrote about our adventures here and here. Read on to find out what we did on our last day! 🙂

As we didn’t need to get up at 4am to go chimpanzee tracking anymore, our Wednesday morning was much more relaxed 🙂 After breakfast we drove to the other reception where the Isumo (Waterfall) trail starts. We paid for the guide, who was already waiting for us, took the most essential stuff from the car, locked the door, and were ready to go. Meanwhile, the guide was standing beside us and watching our preparations quietly but it didn’t occur to him to tell us that there was no point in locking the car as departure is not from the reception but we would need to drive a few kilometres. In our own car. And take the guide with us. Urgh. It took us a while to rearrange all our stuff in the car yet again to find space for him. We were already four adults, with a large tent, sleeping bags, pillows, backpacks, a box with food and drinks… Finally we managed to cram our belongings in the boot, the three of us squeezed in on the back seat with backpacks, and the guide sat down comfortably next to the driver 😉

The starting point is actually the Gisakura Tea Estate. A luxury lodge called Nyungwe Forest Lodge is also located there, and the cost of the night starts at $295 per person. Well, it might be luxurious but recently a friend has told me about his stay there. He and his wife went to the lodge for Christmas (it’s good to spoil yourselves sometimes), and his fancy camera worth $5,000 was stolen from his room! He never thought he would need to worry about leaving his belongings in the room to go to dinner in a place of this reputation. What he found most disappointing though, was the staff’s reaction. They didn’t lift a finger to assist him and didn’t feel they had any responsibility for his predicament…

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Gisakura Tea Estate, with Nyungwe Forest Lodge in the background

But let’s get back to the trail. It’s just over 10 km long but not particularly difficult. However, it’s very picturesque and one can feel dizzy with the omnipresent lush vegetation and its different shades of green. Moreover, throughout most of the hike you can also hear the calming murmur of the stream, and little bridges appear here and there. While we didn’t see any monkeys this time, there were lots of birds singing and calling, and we saw many interesting plants and beautiful flowers on the way.

But as the name of the trail suggests, it’s the waterfall that’s the main part of it. It might not be very big but we could hear its thundering waters from quite a long way away. It’s possible to come up very close to it and admire it from a small concrete platform, but one needs to be prepared to get a bit wet as the huge impact of the falling water creates constant drizzle. This is also the reason why it’s not allowed to swim in the little lake underneath, the water falling on your head would probably kill you 😉 I posted a short film on Instagram so if you want to hear the sound of the waterfall, check out my profile here 🙂

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I can’t really remember our guide, probably because he barely said anything 😉 But it was still a very pleasant hike, it took about 4 hours, and when we were back at the tea plantation on our way back to the car, it started to rain. When we got in and started to drive back to the reception to drop off our mute guide (which was in the opposite direction to our next destination but hey, it’s only a few kilometres…), the heavy rain turned into hail (and at that moment our guide turned out to be human after all, and not a cyborg, as he graced us with a broad smile of gratitude).

Before getting back to Kigali, we had planned to spend one more night near the Nyungwe Forest and the Gisakura Tea Plantation. We went for the cheaper option ($50 per night with breakfast), a small place called Nyungwe Eagle Nest, whose owner is Vedaste, one of the park rangers, and which was recommended in the Bradt guide to Rwanda (the only guide to this country, and a very good one generally). However, we were a bit disappointed… Firstly, it took us quite a long time to find this place as there were no signs and people we asked on the way had no clue what we were talking about. And secondly, what was supposed to be ‘neat cottages and a pleasant restaurant’ did not really meet our expectations 😉 While the bed was large and comfortable, and the view from the window very pretty, the bathroom looked like someone forgot to finish building it, and the shower had two heads: one with freezing cold water, and the other with boiling hot. And there was no shower curtain.

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At least a plastic bowl was provided, so we were able to mix the water. And luckily I also happened to have an empty plastic bottle, which I could fill with the now-reasonably-warm water to pour it over myself 😀 Due to the lack of curtain and quite a bit of gymnastics required to actually shower, the floor was all covered with water, and since it was bare concrete and uneven, it stayed wet for a long time 😉

The “restaurant” didn’t really have any drinks so the staff member sent his colleague to the village shop 😀 And there was no food available either, so we ordered our supper there and then, even though it was four hours away. It turned out to be quite ok though, tasty tomato and mushroom soups, and pork fried with plantains. I didn’t take photos of this room as it was so dark and gloomy that we could barely see anything. But let me describe it briefly. You walk into a large room, and on the left you see two big sofas facing each other, an armchair (all with terrible dark grey upholstery), and a small table in between. On the right hand side there is a small bar (nearly empty of drinks), a very old and broken TV, and a door to the kitchen area, with a clock above it permanently showing 11 am. Across the room from the entrance, by the wall, there is a large table with six chairs. On the wall you can find A4 pieces of paper with information about what to do in the area. Further back there is nothing, apart from another door leading to a toilet. I didn’t go but my friends did, and would prefer to forget the experience 😉 From the ceiling hang two bare light bulbs, the concrete floor is brownish, and the walls dirty yellow. All in all, not particularly cosy 😉 I know that in Rwanda it’s possible to find decent accommodation for a similar price and expect something a bit better than this, so I guess Vedaste will need to work on his image a bit 😉

Still, the whole trip to Nyungwe was a fantastic adventure, and I will definitely go back there again this year!

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