The bus ride from Kampala to Gisenyi was rather long and hectic, the Congolese lady seated in front of me was giving me such a hard time with her seat. She kept on pushing it backwards with no consideration for my long legs and the effect it would have on my knees. After a few back and forth arguments with her in Swahili, I gave up and decided to gaze out of the window into the dark. I was anxious to see the boiling lava of the Nyiragongo and was so grateful that this trip was finally happening after two previously failed attempts.I have always been compelled by Mount Nyiragongo; an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 3,470m with the world’s largest Lava Lake visibly sighted from the crater rim at the summit point.
I was relieved when the bus finally halted at the Gisenyi bus station, it had been an exciting journey at the start but a bit grueling in the end after sitting for almost 12 hours. It was interesting to jump on a motor bike and,in my limited French, bargain for a ride to the Paradise Malahide Hotel where I was staying for the night. The service at the hotel was incredible, I was warmly welcomed by the staff especially since I’m a Travel consultant at Matoke Tours; one of the leading Tour agencies in East Africa that gives them plenty of business. The food was great and the views of Lake Kivu were quite fascinating. I was particularly impressed by a group of fishermen who lowered their canoes into the water and set off chanting and singing songs simultaneously as they rowed across the water. The staff at the Malahide informed me that the best time to go angling was from 6PM-6AM
The border entry organized by both immigration and health officials at the Grand Barrier border post the following morning was exceptional. I was attempting to enter Congo and was amazed by how well the system worked at both the entry and exit points.The officials were quite warm and friendly to start with, and they thoroughly checked through every passenger’s travel documentations, health certificates and even went ahead to measure our body temperatures.
The Virunga Office at the border post is where most tourists coming to visit Virunga check in to get their Gorilla or Mountain hike permits, these are meant to be showcased at the National Park before the start of the hike.
As soon as the checks were done, by 8 am, about 15 of us sat on the Virunga National Park truck and were drove towards the Kibati Patrol post which is about 1.5 -2hrs away from the Grand Barrier border. There was a heavy traffic flow in Goma town that morning with so many commuters seated on motorbikes heading to various parts of the city. The buildings in and around the city looked old and dilapidated. Political instability in this region in recent years has greatly hindered the growth and development of the town.Excited children waved at us and tried their best to greet us in English as the truck was mainly occupied by Caucasians.
The following is essential for the hike:
- Quality hiking boots
- A Quality back pack
- A hand watch
- A long pair of thick socks
- Long sleeved pants and shirts (to act as protection from thorn pricks from the bushes along the hiking trails).
- Sunscreen for skin protection (the heat in this region tends to be extreme especially between December-February).
- A fully charged power bank to re-charge one’s phone comes in very handy.
- Toilet paper/wet wipes/hand sanitizer/face towel/Tooth paste & brush- Hikers should not expect to have a bath/shower at the mountain.
- A hat or cap to offer protection from the hot sun.
- Oranges for vitamin c, chocolate bars and salty snacks are also handy to replace the nutrients lost during the hike.
- Altitude sickness tablets like Diamox and Acetazolamide come in handy for hikers who suffer from Altitude sickness. Medication is best when taken a day before the hike or at the start of the hike.
- A sleeping bag, a tent, and all the necessary beddings required. (if hiker’s choose to spend a night at the mountain)
- A head torch comes in handy especially in the night.
- A camera/phone camera to capture the breath taking views encountered during the hike.