Lodging facilities at Mount Muhabura in Kisoro to improve mountaineering experience.
By Alex Gahima
If you are a lover of Kisoro district’s great outdoors, with particular emphasis on Mountain hiking or climbing as it’s commonly termed, then this is the perfect article for you.
Kisoro district, located in the south-south western part of Uganda is home to the great and endangered mountain gorilla.
Its’ undulating hills and magnificent scenery that stretch as far as the eyes can see, right from Kanaba check point until your arrival in Kisoro town (now Municipality) is good enough reason, for anyone to come visit, stay and never want to leave this place, ever again!
With an elevation of 1,890 meters above sea level, it is safe to describe the land of the Bafumbira, Bakimbiri and the Batwa as sunny and cool during the day while the night time can accurately be described as starry, cold and crisp.
These lots of cool stuff to do in Kisoro like Gorilla tracking, birding, swimming in the lakes, mountain biking and community trails but I would rather, I told you about my favorite activity of them all, Mount Hiking.
Tales of a Mountain Hiker from Kisoro
It was back in 2015 when the thought of conquering Mount Muhabura first occurred to me.
I had just completed my diploma in Journalism, had secured myself an awesome job at Voice of Muhabura radio as a reporter and the only thing probably missing in my life then to make it completely perfect was, a girlfriend and conquering the towering mass of land.
You’re probably curious about the girlfriend bit but let’s focus on the latter, shall we?
Preparations for the greatest climb of my life
The night before the hike, my Cousin Vian asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this; his question only further increased my curiosity.
“Bro, city boys like you cannot handle, its better you quick before you start,” Vian said
That night I hardly closed my eyes, as I kept thinking and playing out all the possible scenarios that could happen.
If you do not know what I am taking about, Mountain Muhabura is one of three major conical ranges that border Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
It is 4,127 meters high above sea level and it’s a beautiful beast of a mountain.
At exactly 6:15 am the next morning, we were out of the family home in Nyakabande heading for the pick-up point in Kisoro town.
A few relatives of mine, Cousins mostly including Vian, some friends and work colleagues from Voice of Muhabura had also decided that it was time to overcome the fear of Mountain Muhabura, always staring down from high up there, taunting and laughing at them.
We were all first time climbers and as fate would have it, there was plenty in store for us.
After an hour of waiting for everyone to arrive, a truck pulled up and more than 30 of us jumped on and held dearly for our lives, as the driver raced towards Nyarusiza.
Interesting to note, is that as soon as we boarded off the truck, we had to move up a really steep footpath, passed a great buffalo wall, only to end up at the check point, also known as the starting point.
At this point, several people who managed to get to the checkpoint were already panting and sweating.
Others decided to sit down and open up their grab (Snacks) meant for the whole day’s hike. You can guess what happened next, those who sat down never got up again, they simply quit.
The Instructors simply told us three things only, do not stop walking, however tired you get, just don’t stop
Two, No littering in the national park, plastics or otherwise also if you wish to go to the toilet, dig a hole deep enough and out of sight, if you know what I mean.
And three, have fun, pace yourself and see you when you get back down.
The journey was grueling, the air was crisp and the whole time, it was smiles and giggles. People teased one another and it was a jolly good time until we started noticing some of our friends dropping off.
The higher we climbed, the harder it got to breath but with every one step ahead of you, the scenery was breath taking.
It took me close to three hours to get to the top and about the same time to get back down. It was a bitter sweet day for me because my entire body ached, even thinking was too painful.
Am grateful to my cousins Vian and Erisa, my friends Noble Mpimbaza and Denis Obua who remained tight formation allowing us to succeed.
Since that time, I have hiked three times more and each time has been captivating in its own right.
New Innovations as UWA introduces Accommodation Facilities
The Warden Tourism Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Moses Turinawe said during the first and second lockdown, the management of the national park thought it wise to introduce new innovations to keep clients engaged.
Turinawe said, as one of the ways to make the experience more memorable, people can now have the opportunity to spend s night on the mountain.
“We have constructed a number of cottages aimed at allowing our clients enjoy the experience of the mountain by leisurely hiking up until the resting point, enjoy a camp fire, rest and then go the rest of the journey the next morning“, Turinawe said
Turinawe said setting of Prices for the cottages is still ongoing however the rates for local and international clients should be ready within the next two months.
He also noted that new ladders have also been introduced to reinforce the existing ones.
Tourism in COVID era
Turinawe explained that times have been really hard because the numbers are still very low.
He notes that during peak seasons of June to August, before COVID 19, the national park would receive over 6000 visitors a month but this time round, they can handle get over 200 visitors a month.
“We are confident that as Government lets’ up on the lockdown and with the new innovations at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, things will improve with time”, Turinawe explains