Hiking Nyungwe

While in Nyungwe we went on two hikes through the rainforest: the canopy tour and the waterfall hike. We arrived the first morning for our canopy tour, also known as the Igishigishigi Trail, and were accompanied by our wonderful tour guide, Daniel, and two German tourists. I had been giddy with excitement all morning knowing that this hike included the suspension bridge featured in this short film of Rwanda, a video I watched on repeat in the days leading up to my initial arrival a year and a half ago. As we distanced ourselves from the trailhead and became completely enveloped in a world of green, it felt as if Fern Gully came to life and we were the only inhabitants. It’s both powerful and intimidating to be reminded of your smallness, standing silently among massive trees and plants and watching the abundant population of species go about their lives with little or no interest in your presence. It’s humbling to transition from a setting where you are constantly encouraged to expand your influence to an almost entirely different world where you are forced to contemplate your smallness in a massive world. Read, smallness does not equal insignificance. Rather, it offers a different perspective, one with a wider scope than we usually tend to work within.

Standing on a suspension bridge in the canopy of an expansive rainforest is an incredible experience, though I’m glad we saved the waterfall hike for last because it was, by far, the canopy tour’s superior. Joined by our tour guide, a Belgian MSF doctor in the DRC, an Italian conservationist, and two Swiss friends who met while conducting chimpanzee research in Cote d’Ivoire years ago – all of whom proved to be fascinating company – we began our descent deep into the rainforest. As we winded down along the switchbacks, our group shared stories of our travels, both of where we’ve been and where we’re going.

At last, the beauty of the waterfall struck us as we came up and around the last bend, making the impending ascent absolutely worth it. We stood there silently, allowing the sound of the waterfall to fill our ears and the beauty of our surroundings to make a lasting impression. Our ascent was similar to our descent, slowly getting to know each other through the stories of our lives, which, admittedly, was also a nice distraction from the more strenuous half of our trip. Back at the trailhead, we smiled with satisfaction and made our way back to Gisakura Guest House to relax and recharge over hot cups of ginger tea.