Hiker’s paradise

Climbing mountains may not be your cup of tea but the frenzy around this activity is unbelievable. Some people climb mountains to battle their personal demons, tackle their insecurities or satisfy their empirical urges.

This notion is hard to comprehend but the therapeutic impact of hiking is validated by credible studies.

Some hikers go to the mountains to get lost while others do the same to find themselves. There is a strange brood of wanderers out there who need to get lost in order to find themselves. As crazy as it sounds, I can relate to them. I went to the volcanoes to look for something. I didn’t know what it was but I wanted it badly. At the end of the day, I found adventure. When I found it, I found myself.

The doctrine of losing and finding oneself is probably confusing you.

Let’s get down to the business of climbing mountains in pursuit of adventure. Nothing more, nothing less.

There are eight mountains within the Virunga chain. Five of them are located along Rwanda’s northern border. Their slopes are home to the famous mountain gorillas from which substantial amounts of dollars are milked.

Climbing the volcanoes is a tall order but when I did so, I enjoyed beauty every step of the way. Karisimbi, Bisoke, Gahinga and Muhabura offer great hiking experiences and guarantee a lifetime of memories.

Sabyinyo’s summit is not accessible from the Rwandan side but as more and more people are trying to lose and find themselves thousands of meters above the sea level, the way to its highest point is likely to be created soon.

It is a different world up there. The air is thinner and the force of gravity is weaker. Peaks are often foggy but on a lucky day, the view of the surrounding landscapes is breathtaking.

When I made it to Mount Bisoke’s crest, I discovered a stunning crater lake. A week later, I saw the same crater from a different position.

This happened when I was climbing the neighbouring Karisimbi Mountain.

From Karisimbi’s vantage point, I also saw Mount Mikeno soaring to the clouds on the other side of the border.

At some point during my Karisimbi expedition, I had to hold branches of trees firmly and pull myself higher and higher.

I turned back the hands of time and applied tree climbing techniques I mastered decades ago. Growing up without tech devices, useless toys and other distractions, my extracurricular activities involved a variety of action-packed outdoor activities, climbing trees being one of them.

A giant tower is erected on top of the mountain and a high voltage transformer is planted on the ground a few meters away. Heavy metallic construction materials are abandoned near the warm container I ran to when temperature flirted with 0° Celsius.

Getting to the summit is optional but coming back is mandatory. Descending presented its own set of challenges. Each step downhill obliged the leading knee to absorb the total body weight magnified by gravitational force.

I walked back to the camp in darkness. As I did so, I found a way to grab branches of trees while holding my hiking stick and flashlights at the same time.

I stepped on buffalo dung a few times. Buffaloes were running their usual errands in the area. Luckily, they seemed to mind their own business. Whatever the case, we were safe.

Our adept security team from the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) knew what to do to prevent a hostile encounter between the invaders (us) and the bonafide inhabitants of the park.

I haven’t climbed Gahinga and Muhabura yet. From the distance, Muhabura looks like a daunting challenge.  It’s not as tall as Karisimbi but its gradient is steeper and rockier.

Despite its level of difficulty, this challenge doesn’t scare me one bit. On the contrary, it inspires me. After all, tougher challenges yield more gratification and bragging rights. I am looking forward to the challenge.

The author is an adventurer on a mission to discover what Rwanda has to offer. Follow his awe-inspiring journey in Sunday Times and exposure.rw.