Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Waterfall in Nyungwe National Park

Nyungwe National Park is something of a hidden treasure in Rwanda. It somewhat recently became a national park, the largest protected high-altitude rainforest in East Africa. And rainforest it is: at times I can't tell if it's raining, or if I'm experiencing condensation from the trees, or if we're hiking through a giant cloud.
Inside the park, you have the option of staying at a lovely little lodge that is run by ORTPN, the Rwandan national park office. It is very basic, but clean and well-kept, with a lovely garden and some of the best food we've had in Rwanda (not to mention the fastest service). There are several hikes with maintained trails, as well as the option to visit chimpanzee colonies and colobus monkeys.
Similar to the gorillas in Ruhengeri, there are certain groups that are habituated, and can be visited by tourists, and others that are wild, studied by researchers.
Nyungwe is surrounded by tea plantations. They blanket the countryside with a vivid green
colour. Tea is picked by hand, only the top leaves that are the lightest green colour. From over the tea plantations you can see Lake Kivu from here, on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lake Kivu is huge: total surface area of 2700 square kilometers, and the 15th deepest lake in the world. Tilapia are fished here - a light fish that is the staple of pretty much any restaurant in Rwanda. I've actually never seen another kind of fish served.
We chose to hike to the waterfall, accompanied by Emmy, our tour guide and driver extraordinaire, and Vedaste, our ORTPN guide. They pointed out many species of plants, medicinal trees, as well as the calls of hundreds of species of birds. The hike itself is somewhat challenging: the rocks are slippery as they are perpetually wet, and the descent to the waterfall is steep, but the trail is very well maintained. The waterfall was stunning: LOUD, and powerful. The spray was so strong that it jetted out sideways, was ejected up into the air, and fell again in a sort of vortex. Incredible.

After a lovely day, we were unfortunately greeted by an apartment with no water and no power, again. Particularly frustrating after a muddy hike and a 5 hour drive back. Rwanda is such a dichotomy: stunning natural wonders; an industrious, warm, and friendly populace; and daily aggravations that we take for granted elsewhere.
Everything is a balance, I guess.

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