Democratic Republic of Congo: Virunga National Park – Part 8

Day 2 – Virunga Park Volcano Trek– Nyiragongo Rim (3470m) to Kibati Forest Station (1,989m)

Part 1 – Intro
Part 2 – Visas & Virunga park
Part 3 – Safety
Part 4 – Kitlist & getting to Congo
Part 5 – Border crossing
Part 6 – Surviving Goma
Part 7 – Day 1 of the hike
Part 8 – Day 2 of the hike

The second day began with the most epic, early morning toilet experience of my life.

In the pale chills of dawn, I crawled out of the cabin and staggered in a morning fug to the ridge that looked down onto a wooden toilet hut. Slightly more treacherous than my usual wander down a corridor, there was a rope to help visitors climb down the rocky mountainside to the hut. Inside I closed the bottom half of the door, looked out at as the sun rose to bathe the mountains in the first freshness of morning and went about my business. I was barely awake and already I was emotionally moved by the landscape.

congo virunga volcano

Morning expedition to the toilet hut.

Camp breaks at 6:30am, barely giving you enough time for breakfast and a last glance at the volcano. Then it’s a steep, knee grounding, ankle twisting descent all the way back to Kibati ranger station. We marched to make it down by 10:30am – our jeep already waiting to pick us up when we arrived.

At this point you’ll be given the chance to tip your porter/cook/guards, leave a message in the guest book and then the jeep will take you back to your hotel and the border as you require.

congo virunga team

Our team.

We May Have Changed After Our Adventure, the Border Crossing Had Not.

The petite barriere was as chaotic as the first time, and even our driver was a bit on edge from the unruly crowds. As we were now experienced Congo adventurers, we marched straight into the customs shed, where we had spent hours just a few days ago.

The large boss-lady gave us a wry smile when we entered, still fanning herself exactly where we left her. She asked if we enjoyed the park to which we replied, “Magnifique!” No more questions, she stamped our passports and sent us on our way. The driver, who couldn’t take the jeep any further due to the crowd, kindly walked us through the barbed wire all the way to the border.

As soon as we crossed over to Rwanda, we were overcome with a sense of happy relief. It was as if an unperceived weight of worry had suddenly been lifted. Nothing had happened to us the entire trip, and yet the reputation of the Congo tinged our visit with a constant, niggling anxiety that something unsavoury was about to happen. After four days, this state of high alert had become exhausting and it was bliss to be in a stable country once again.

rwanda flag

Freedom!

So much so, that we were even thrilled when the Rwandan customs officials confiscated the plastic bags inside our backpacks. The proud guard said, “This is Rwanda, not Congo, there are rules. Welcome!”.

We were delighted to sit on a bus trundling over impeccable tarmacked roads back to Kigali. After witnessing some of the greatest natural wonders of this world, we were overjoyed to be in one piece to tell the tale.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *