Bikepacking the Democratic republic of congo (DRC) Introduction The following is a collection of stories from 5 weeks bikepacking through the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I continued riding through
The congo nile trail
Spending time in Kigali
After crossing the border from Tanzania, I caught a bus and made my way towards Kigali.
Straight away I noticed how clean everything in Kigali was. There were plants in the median strips and the roads didn’t have any potholes in them.
It honestly felt like being back in Melbourne. A well looked after city.
I waited around for a week or so for my brother to arrive with a new rear wheel and before we did our safari in Uganda (which you can read about here).
After arriving back from the safari with my brother, he left and I made my way towards Lake Kivu, where I would ride the northern half of the Congo-Nile Bikepacking Trail.
The Congo Nile Bikepacking Trail
I spent 2 days riding from Kigali towards Karongi where I would start riding along the trail.
Rwanda is nicknamed, the land of 1000 hills, but I think I did about half of those hills in the first 2 days.
It’s up and down everyday, up down, up down.
I’d had almost a month off riding, probably put on close to 15kg while not riding and I wasn’t used to all these hills. So progress was slow in the beginning.
Once I started the Congo-Nile trail, I was back into it again and my legs were accustomed to climbing the hills.
The trail was absolutely beautiful. Rolling hills, through banana plantations and small villages with Lake Kivu as the backdrop. It was quite spectacular and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ridden through in Africa so far.
The locals were all pretty friendly except for the kids.
They annoyed me tremendously. They would chase after me saying “Give me Money, Give me money” constantly, without break. And when I had to push the bike up hill, it was even worse because there was no escaping them.
I spent 2 hours with a group of kids pushing my bike up one of the hills, the whole time asking for money, even though I kept saying no and to leave me alone!
It’s a shame because it was hard to have a real encounter with any of them because they just see your white skin and think “money money money.”
I guess it’s quite a touristy place and all the American tourists that come here for a one week holiday in Africa, feel bad for the kids after seeing them on the ads on TV and give them money.
But it just makes the situation unbearable.
I’ll admit, that the kids constantly shouting “give me money” and following me for hours ruined the trail for me.
I didn’t enjoy it and I just wanted to escape.
It’s a shame because it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in Africa so far.
It’s not the first time that kids have asked me for money, but it was 10x worse in Rwanda (especially along the congo nile trail) because every kid demanded money and they didn’t leave you alone. And the population density is quite high there, so there is just no break.
I spent a couple of nights camping by the lake which I really enjoyed because it meant I could relax away from the kids, swim in the lake and really take in the scenery…I really enjoyed that.
Looking out over the lake, knowing that the Democratic Republic of Congo is just on the other side, made me dream of entering there, even though I wasn’t able to get a visa yet.
But I will try my best to try and get a visa there in the coming months. I’ll most likely fly to Cameroon and try there.
On the last day of the trail, I went through a market where they were selling everything from vegetables, to pigs to clothes. It was really interesting riding through there.
There were also a couple of bridges that had collapsed which was quite the adventure trying to get across.
But I continued to the beginning of the trail (because I was going in reverse order) and then made my way towards the small border post with Uganda.
I think if I was to do the trail again, I would leave all of my bags in Kigali. Trying to do the trail with a fully loaded bike and having to push my bike up the hills meant I couldn’t escape the relentless kids.
Final Thoughts on Rwanda
I spent a considerable amount of time in Rwanda, mostly in Kigali.
I really enjoyed the little break I had in Kigali. It was nice to eat proper western food, have Wifi and nice barista coffee.
It felt like a little holiday away from Africa for a while.
Outside of Kigali, the population density was high. There are people anywhere and it was hard to get a moment to yourself.
The kids just wouldn’t leave me alone and kept demanding money from me. By the end of my time there, I just started yelling at the kids, because it was the only way to get them to leave me alone.
The worst of it is when you’re riding slowly uphill, which is hard enough as it is, but with them demanding money constantly, it just became too much.
I’ve just crossed the border into Uganda where I’ll be riding the Uganda Cycling Trail. I already feel a lot better here and not everyone has asked me for money which is nice 🙂