Whenever I feel the need to exercise, I lie down until it goes away.”― Paul Terry.
After another good night’s sleep in the car park at the youth hostel we were finally on the road to Nyungwe Forest. This time we planned our route meticulously. Wayne J had allowed T4A to do it for him and did a long unnecessary section on dirt. The problem is T4A does not know that the section between Huye (still often referred to as Butare) and Nyungwe is now tarred and recommends an earlier turnoff. Watch out for this. Of course the other issue is that many of the town names have been changed and the old ones often still used.
We said rather sad “au revoir” to our friends especially Clem from the Netherlands, Wayne and Nick. This time we were confident that we would not trip up and so it proved.
Banana trees grow like weeds in Rwanda and as we progressed the terraced and cultivated hills were picturesque. Later we came upon both tea plantations on the slopes and rice paddies in the valleys. Further on we passed one of the couple of areas that claim to be the source of the first stream forming the origin of the Nile.
From Huye (Butare) the new road winding up and down along the crests of the hills, is good. There is an abrupt transition when entering Nyungwe NP with its rainforest, compared to the preceding cultivated land. Nyungwe is a large and significant rainforest and the number of endemic birds and plants is astounding. This was only one of the amazing forests we were to visit in Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. Based on recommendations we stayed at Uwinka Campsite. This is where almost all the Parks Board walks leave from. A strange anomaly is that you don’t have to pay park fees unless you go on a hike. Even the short 3km canopy walk costs US$60pp, far too much for our liking. At Uwinka there is a visitors Center and an exhibit room. Below is where one parks for rooftop tent vehicles, one has to reverse down quite a steep slope onto a level area where there is room for only one vehicle. Next to this is a new, large, covered wooden platform and view-spot with an area for a fire. A little further down the slope is an area for tents. This spot is about 200m off the main road through the middle of the forest with its great views.
When we arrived there were a couple of L’Hoest’s monkeys about but they had vanished by the time I got my camera out. We were the only people in camp and hope more birds will be about. There is a flush toilet and the camp attendant will heat a large basin of water if needed as the shower is cold. There are numerous hikes of varying lengths and difficulty, but quite frankly we are not keen hikers and so have decided to spend only one night here. Hikers may want to spend a couple of days. Just a warning, the nights are chilly here.
Firewood is provided so it is probably a good idea to barbeque here. We found it nice and warm around the fire. We braaied some sirloin steak from home, we have been very stingy with our special meat from home, trying to consume local products where we can get reasonable supplies. It was a lovely quiet night although you could hear the heavy trucks on the road, but not too bad. As I was dropping off to sleep I could hear the classical hooting of a wood owl nearby. During the night there were some unearthly screams and calls, all of which were strange to me, presumably primates or the like.
The bird chorus woke me early and I was able to see some blue monkeys in the trees around camp but the L’Hoests did not return for photographs, neither did I see any of the turacos the area is famous for. All in all a satisfactory stay and a nice spot. Later on the way out we passed the other possibility as a stopover, Gisakura Guesthouse, but were pleased that we had not chosen this as it is outside the park amongst tea plantations. All in all this was a pleasant enough stopover but to do it full justice I think one has to be a keen hiker and spend at least 2 nights there. Charges for camping and activities are high. A walk with a birding guide comes in at US$60. I personally preferred the experience we had at Hondo Hondo in the Udzungwa mountain and forest in Tanzania but still think the Nyungwe Forest is worth a visit, especially seeing it links up so nicely with Lake Kivu and the so-called Congo-Nile trail.