As a proud Rwandan who has had the privilege of hiking all the volcanoes in our beautiful country, the last one completed in February this year (2023), I am excited to share with you some fascinating facts about these natural wonders with the hope that you will be intrigued and plan to do it as well. Rwanda is home to five volcanoes, all of which are part of the Virunga Mountain range. These volcanoes are not only stunning to look at, but they also offer a unique hiking experience for those who are willing to take on the challenge as I did.
In these series, I will tell you my story at every volcano mountain hiking, and I hope by reading you will be inspired to take on the challenge as well:)
I started the series with Muhabura because I have written about Karisimbi, if you haven't read yet, please read here, https://www.divinetraveldiary.com/hiking-karisimbi-volcano/
Mount Muhabura is the second-highest volcano in Rwanda, standing at 4,127 meters. The hike up Muhabura is a bit more challenging than Bisoke, but not quite as difficult as Karisimbi as far as distance is concerned. However, Muhabura is steep, and it raises debates among hikers.
I woke up in the morning as excited as I get when I am about to hike especially the volcanic mountains. 4am is when we meet at the bus with other hikers and everyone is sleepy but excited to finally hike the monster volcano as people like calling it. It takes around 3 hours to get to the starting point somewhere in Burera. Inside me, there is a voice that keeps saying, "You didn't train much, the weather will change, you didn't have to go with a team because last time you failed to get to the summit"
How I hate it. That discouraging voice inside me, I shook my head as if that inner person was watching and started looking outside, suddenly it stopped and the excitement comes in. It's a mocktail of anxiety and excitement plus being sleepy. I had a short night sleep that I don't recommend, and please if you hear that voice, tell it to shut up. Enough with how I felt, let's ride into the real experience.
We meet our porters and a Rwanda defence force group because our securiy matters. Everything is set, we receive briefing by the guide and we start moving up. It's a pressure because it's the second time for me and I can't fail twice. My friends told me before going, "we want to see you on that lake, and that sign that crowns the top of Muhabura." I Smile and the pressure doubled.
In the middle of the climb, I am parched. Everyone is moving quickly and I follow, nobody wants to be left behind. I sip water and let my porter carry my bag and leave me with a chocolate which I eat hastily. There is no minute to waste when you know that you should be at the top by 1pm and you started at 9pm. Thank God for sugar, it does magic, it actually saves me. I stop and breathe for a second and I keep going. We are not even halfway, so there isn't enough time for stretched breaks.
Somewhere in the middle, at a place called "Ihema" or tent, I think to myself, I really want to get to the summit but with energy. So I decide not to sit there even though it's known for being the halfway, where you rest a bit and take your snacks before you begin the strenuous climb. I look behind but not ahead, as I take some selfies, look at the beautiful view from the other side where you see uganda's lakes, and I keep my small steps. I hum to the song that plays in my mind and other times I listen to my pounding heart and my legs keep me moving towards the goal, I stop talking to my porter and just keep my little sure steps, the summit is the goal, yeah?
I hum to the song that plays in my mind and other times I listen to my pounding heart, and my legs keep me moving towards the goal
The porter keeps a distance between us, and stops when I wave that I need water, he throws in some encouragement while avoiding me to ask him how many minutes left and before I know it, we arrive to a completely different part of the mountain, It is windy and my gloves start freezing. The weather changes a bit as we approach the rocky slope. Makes me appreciate my walking stick and do what? Keep going. My porter remains ahead and encourages me by saying, "Dore ugiye kuhagera, komeza uzeee" You are almost there, keep coming. You can imagine how it makes me feel. I pull out my last set of energy, start climbing and using my hands to support the stretch, one stone to another, without looking back.
The steep slope seems not to end, until I stop waiting for it and just keep climbing. I overheard a great noise, My heart skept a bit at the surprise and before I knew it, we were there! It was super cold but inside, there was a fire. I had made it to the top of Muhabura. The team came to hug me and congratulate me as we take pictures, eat some snacks and wait for others.
Nothing beats the feeling of being at the top of a volcanic mountain with a crater lake
Not long after, we start hiking again, what goes up has to go down, and the path is the same. We are now feeling fulfilled and happy at our accomplishment. It was fun. The steepness of a mountain is not equally difficult but the knees, my goodness. The knees do show off sometimes, but we got no option than going back.
It is much faster as the weather keeps changing. So we slope down even faster, avoiding the darkness of 5pm in the volcanoes national park and after something like 3 hours, we are out of the forest. Me and my porter get outside safely, he is old and strong. I always get impressed and inspired by how supportive the porter's club is. They receive less credit than they deserve but anyways, how much can you pay someone that does what they love with all their heart especially when they are doing it for a total stranger like me and you. I share my appreciation and give them the fee as recommended by the park guide plus a tip as a motivation because I can't thank them enough. The heart is full, the feet can't wait to be relaxed in open shoes and we take our lunch or dinner, the only real meal of the day around 7pm and head back home. The day ends, and leaves the memory that will always stir up my love for adventure, Muhabura is no more a monster to me, It's such a sublime volcanic mountain that took my heart away.
It is such an adventure, that I wish for everyone to go on when and while you can
Special thanks to my family that has accepted the struggle of seeing me leave at 3;30 am for hiking and sometimes watch me walk weirdly after tougher climbs, friends who cheer me up, keep me accountable then celebrate me, Instagram and twitter followers that keep the congratulations messages coming every time I post a summit picture, Rwanda development for ensuring that all the registration and guidance is done smoothly, Rwanda defence force for ensuring full security and going with us up and down the volcanic mountains, and the special people, our porters who not only carries our bag but also encourage us all the way up and then down. I can not thank you enough. We share the joy of this accomplishment.