04 Jan

During the 30 Districts Expedition, I bypassed three national parks. When I reached the vicinity of the fourth one, I couldn't resist the temptation to stop by and participate in one or two activities. 

Nyungwe National Park covers parts of Nyamasheke, Rusizi, Karongi, Nyamagabe and Nyaruguru districts. At this stage of the tour, I had already visited Karongi, and I was about to leave Nyamasheke for Rusizi. Since the most popular attractions in Nyungwe are found in Nyamasheke District, I chose to explore the said district's slice of the forest.       

When this decision was made, I considered rambling along the Kamiranzovu Trail all the way to the waterfall. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time for an 11-km hike. After weighing my options, I opted for a canopy walkway experience. 

From Kagano, I rode to Buhinga junction and proceeded to the national park. My destination was a hill known as Uwinka. Before the mountain rainforest became a protected area, Uwinka was a popular cow-grazing zone. Umusozi w'Inka (cows' hill) is now a tourist information center and my favorite coffee break spot during my regular trans-Nyungwe adventure rides.

I had crossed the canopy several times before, each time feeling like the first one. I will never get enough of this thrilling activity. Walking on top of the lush forest is otherworldly. That explains why I am always looking forward to the next canopy adventure.

The 2-km Igishigishi Trail, serving as the path to the canopy, is the shortest track in the forest. Although tourists toil along an inclined terrain during the return leg, its level of difficulty is below moderate. 

The canopy swings with every step one takes. At some point, it feels like the whole thing is about to turn upside down. To maintain balance, I walked while holding handrails. One trembling step after another, I made it to the other side. After a short photoshoot session, I returned to the starting point. While in the middle of the bridge, 70 meters from the ground, I took a minute to marvel at the breathtaking landscape and the dense vegetation cover.  

After yet another memorable hiking and canopy walkway experience, I had lunch at Uwinka Overlook. After lunch, I spent some time skimming through exhibits providing important information about the park. Then I paid homage to the last elephant to call Nyungwe home. The said elephant was killed by poachers in 1999. Its skull, exhibited at the visitor center, is a painful reminder of the dark chapter in the history of the forest.