Interestingly, the Congo Nile Trail is neither on the Congo nor the Nile Rivers, but on the shoreline of Lake Kivu in Western Rwanda. It is considered a moderate to difficult trail to tackle; easy if one has done other such African cycling trails. The Congo Nile Trail is well marked and has numerous villages along the route, with shops, guesthouses and campsites. There is little traffic, but there are a few cars, trucks and buses that travel in both directions every day, so one has to be alert. The climbs are few and not very steep, as the gradient on most hills is gradual. That being said, one is in fact ascending and descending between 1450 meters and 1800 meters above sea level.
If you can manage the 5 day cycle, it is recommended to start at Gisenyi and travel south to Kamembe, which is the end of the trail. If you do not have the time, one can do the Gisenyi to Kibuve in one long or two short days, and it is the most beautiful sector of the Congo-Nile Trail. There is a 3-hour (2,000 Rw. Francs) boat that goes from Kibuve to Gisenyi twice a week; this allows you to return your bike rental easily. The bike rental and boat trip can both be arranged through Rwanda Gorilla Safari.
There are many opportunities along the Congo Nile Trail to buy both food and water; one is never more than 5 – 10 kilometers from any one village. Shops in Rwanda, as in most East African countries, do not have large signage as in the West, so when one passes through the villages and small trading centers, one has to get used to what these ducas, as they are called, look like. Looking in the doorway of any shop that is open, will identify what they are selling. For cyclers, it has been recommended that you pack snacks for the traveling time, and eat a meal before starting your journey and after you have completed it, ie. breakfast and dinner.
Sleeping is not a difficult issue, as you do not need a tent for the Congo Nile Trail. There are numerous campsites set up by the Rwanda Development Board if you want to camp; these sites are well marked and do not require advance booking. The guesthouses are about 3-6 hours of cycling apart from each other. The longest day of cycling, 4 – 6 hours long is the trail from Kinunu to Kibuye; it is also the hardest part of the Congo Nile Trail. There are many guesthouses along the trail and they are very clean and well maintained.
Below is a list of some of the recommended guesthouses along the Congo Nile Trail, with their location and price:
- Gisenyi – Inzu Lodge. 20,000 Rw. Francs for a safari tent; 10,000 if you bring your own.
- Kinunu – Kinunu Guesthouse is 15,000 Rw. Francs.
- Kibuye – Home Saint Jean and Bethanie Guesthouse. Price is 5,000 – 10,000 Rw. Francs.
- Mugonero – L’Esparance Guesthouse. There is no fixed rate, but operate on donations. $ 10 a night full board is suggested.
- Kibogora – Kibogora Guesthouse Camping and rooms
- Kamembe – Peace Guesthouse. Camping and rooms
The recommended gear to take with you on such a 5-day cycle trail is as follows:
- Sleeping Bag
- Water purifying bottle
- Small bike pump
- Extra Tire and patch kit
- Change of clothes, a sweater, a roll-up coat and toiletries and sunscreen
- Headlamp, dust mask
- Snacks (nuts and fruits)
- Gisenyi – Adventures and Inzu Lodge. Prices are $30 a day; $75 a week
- Kigali – TR Companion. $ 25 a day
Getting to and from the Congo Nile Trail with or without a bike can be done by local bus companies from Kigali; the 5.5 hour trip from Kigali to Kamembe ic 5,000 Rw. Francs per seat.