Congo-Nile Trail

Congo-Nile TrailAfter a few relaxing days in Gisenyi, we head further south. We liked our time on Lake Kivu, so we decide to stay close to the lake a few more days. According to the guidebook Kibuye, a town south of Gisenyi, is a nice place as well. That is were we will be going today. We heard about a direct road from Gisenyi to Kibuye that follows the shores of Lake Kivu. On our maps we cannot discover any road, but the owner of the campsite confirms the existence of the ‘Congo-Nile Trail’.

Just like the last few days, it was not necessary to set an alarm to wake up. Even before the alarm goes off, we are already woken by the singing of the fishermen. Every morning they go out onto the lake in their rowing boats to bring in their nets. While they go out, they row on the rhythm of their song. It sounds wonderful and is definitely better than the nervous squeak of the alarm on my phone.

Congo-Nile TrailWe put on our gear and have some eggs on toast in the bar before we leave. It is still early when we tie our stuff on the bikes. The security guards, gardener and cook are around us, watching our every move and discussing the performance of our little Honda’s. We say goodbye and drive back to the main road. At the crossing, we see a large green sign that reads: ‘Congo-Nile Trail, Kibuye 95km’. The road is not paved, but looks fine. It has not rained the last few days, so the overall condition of the road will probably still be OK. Moreover, we see cars and small trucks that take the road. If they can ride there, so can we with our bikes. Great!

We turn right, drive past some little shops and past the local market. The road runs over the grounds of the largest brewery in Rwanda, where Heineken, Amstel, Mützig and Primus are brewed. Everywhere we go, we try to drink the local beer and Primus is absolutely our favorite Rwandan beer. We follow the road until we have a nice view on the village. From the road we see how the fishermen bring in their nets and how a cargo ship is loaded with crates of beer at the brewery.

Congo-Nile TrailWe follow a small grey line on the GPS and the large green signs along the road. The road is not good all the time, but on most of the parts we still meet cars and buses. Occasionally, the road winds a little further inland, but each time we return to the lake a few kilometres later. From the road we have a beautiful view over the lake. The sun is shining and the colour of the lake is unrealistic blue. It is a beautiful contrasts with the green hills and dusty brown road. It is a bit hazy above the water, we can hardly see the hills on the other side of the lake in the Congo. Like before, we ride from one hill to another. Some of the thousand Rwandan hills have disappeared under water and only show their top.

Congo-Nile TrailThe villages through which we drive are all located on the shore of the lake, with direct access to the water for the fishermen. In several villages, it is market day. People come from miles around with their goods to the market; a few cows, a basket full of potatoes or avocados. On a meadow at the beginning of the village all animals are gathered. Cows on the one side, sheep and goats on the other side and some pigs in the back. On the next square some ladies sit on the floor with a large piece of plastic on the floor in front of them with fruit, vegetables or fish on display. When we stop to take a picture, we are just as much an attraction for them, as they are to us.

At the beginning of the afternoon we arrive in Kibuye, a medium-sized city with a lively centre. We try to find a spot for our tent at one of the hotels, but do not succeed. Even finding a room is difficult today. After we have inquired about a place to sleep at five hotels, we finally find a room at Centre Bethanie, a nice hotel on Lake Kivu. After a late lunch, we swap our motorcycle gear for swimwear and take a dip in the lake. The water is very clear and not cold at all. We swim until the sun sets behind the hills in Congo.

Congo-Nile TrailWe leave the bikes unused in the parking lot for another day and enjoy the spot on the lake. There is no wind and the lake is just like a mirror. It is as if the water flows right off the earth at the horizon. That afternoon we see a freight ship enter the harbour. It must have come from Gisenyi, because it is filled with crates of beer. That will get the party started in Kibuye!

The next morning, we order a big breakfast to prepare for the second leg of the Congo-Nile Trail. We start our motorbikes while the guards are again gathered around us curiously. Once we leave the centre, the asphalt road immediately turns into a gravel road. Just like yesterday, we ride alongside the lake and we have a beautiful view over the water. But even if the road goes inland, we drive through a beautiful area.

Congo-Nile TrailOn the hills are terraced fields ​​where several crops grow, including Matoke (Cooking Plantains). Plantains are an important ingredient for the meal in East Africa, similar to potatoes in the Netherlands. The bananas are green and have a thicker skin than the yellow bananas we eat as a fruit. The bananas are peeled, steamed and mashed and then served with beans or other vegetables. The banana chips we ate in Gisenyi were also made from plantains. It is very tasty, a bit sweeter than potatoes and very nutritious.

It is not busy on the road. The first section, just after Kibuye, we still meet some cars, but most people are on foot or by bicycle. In the mid-morning, the road begins to change. The road narrows, turns into a double track until we are riding on a single track. It looks more like a footpath! The thin gray line we saw on the GPS earlier is gone. Maybe we missed one of the green signs of the Trail?

Congo-Nile TrailWe drive a little further until we reach a hut where some people are standing outside. I get off my bike and ask directions. None of the bystanders speaks any English or French and even with hand gestures we are not getting anywhere. When I ask where Kamembe is, the next big city, they all point in the same direction. They seem to say that we must continue to follow the path, so let’s do that.

We continue on the trail, down a steep mountain, across a small ditch, over the yard of a very surprised farmer, past small huts where women sit outside doing laundry, through some fields and right past dense vegetation. The trail follows the lakeshore and winds to the south. We drive over small bridges made ​​of logs. Cars would not be able to ride on this part of the route. We now wonder whether the Congo Nile Trail is a route for cars or actually a hiking trail. We follow the single track for half an hour and end up in a village on a slightly wider road.

Congo-Nile TrailIn the village is a green sign of the Congo Nile Trail right next to the road. To us it is still not clear which way we should go. The GPS does not know where we are and our Michelin map is not detailed enough. At the local school we find a teacher who speaks French. We have a chat with him and he shows us which way we should go. At the next intersection we are dubbing again, but a motorcycle taxi driver shows us the way to Kamembe. And so it happens that every time we stop someone comes running to the bikes to give directions, just until we arrive at a main road again at the end of the afternoon. The GPS knows that road and again begins to show where we should go. We leave the Congo-Nile Trail (of which we later discovered it was actually a hiking- and cycling trail) and set off to Nyungwe Forest National Park.

We leave the lake behind us and drive to the east, higher and higher into the hills. Once we are approaching the 1800 meters, the first tea plantations come into view. The views and the bright green color remain fascinating. It is not long before the park boundary is visible. Immediately after the light green tea plantations end, the dark green jungle begins. A bushy jungle with tall trees as far as we can see. There is one main road through the park, which is again a nice asphalt road with amazing curves! Another Rwandan road that belongs in the list of the best motorcycle routes in Africa. We turn the gas further open and spin through the bends. Wonderful!

Congo-Nile TrailWe stop in the National Park at the camp at the ‘Uwinka Overlook’, a viewpoint with stunning views over the treetops. We are taken to a place in the forest where we can pith our tent in the middle of the jungle. While we cook spaghetti in the last light of the day, we hear the strangest sounds, we are visited by a L’Hoest Mountain Monkey and we even see coloured Rwenzori turako’s. A beautiful place to finish our visit to Rwanda.


Rwanda has surprised us. It is an amazingly beautiful country with friendly people and beautiful scenery. It is without a doubt one of the most developed countries of East Africa, with a bustling capital city that rivals many European cities. It is definitely a holiday destination!

Congo-Nile TrailEven now, 20 years after the genocide, there are still plenty of reminders of those horrific events. Not only the memorials and museums were the story about the brutal way in which so many people lost their lives is told, but also in the ordinary things in the streets. Destroyed buildings, houses with a large cross on it, the absence of middle-aged men in the small villages and names like ‘Hope’, ‘Espoir’ and ‘Peace’ of the younger generation of Rwandans. Although the genocide is inextricably linked to Rwanda, it will not be the only thing I will be thinking of the next time. Memories of a wonderful country will be right at the top of my mind as well.

Click here to see pictures.

Distance travelled to Nyungwe Forest National Park: 17,726 km (11,014 miles)

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| Leonie | AFRICA, Rwanda

4 Reacties (Comments) - Congo-Nile Trail

  1. Miriam en Ernst

    Wat ontzettend leuk dat we weer zo mee kunnen genieten van al jullie belevenissen!

  2. Mieke

    Dat was een mooie route! Leuk om jou daar te zien zitten koken Leonie!

  3. Jan en Mariët

    Wat een avonturen weer! Liefs uit Eemnes

  4. Sofie De Lille

    Moooooiii!!!!! Zo groen, zo blauw. Ik vind die theeplantages ook erg mooi, er straalt rust van uit.