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Ride Kigali To Congo, 8 Days, Slow Cycling Tour in Rwanda

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From: £1,995

 

 

Kigali To Congo is an extraordinary 7-night guided and supported 220 kilometre journey on dirt roads through some of Africa’s most awe-inspiring scenery, from Rwanda’s capital to one of the continent’s great lakes on its northern border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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All about the Ride Kigali To Congo, 8 Days, Slow Cycling Tour in Rwanda.

Kigali To Congo, Slow Cycling

Kigali To Congo – The Challenge

You are invited to join us on a thrilling Kigali To Congo mountain bike challenge through some of Africa’s most beguiling landscapes. After 36 hours acclimatisation at 1,500 metres above sea level in Rwanda’s fascinating capital Kigali, you will ride towards the mountainous north of the country through tea plantations, lush green hills and along the Virunga Mountains – a chain of volcanoes that are home to some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas – all the way to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Nicknamed the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills,’ Rwanda doesn’t do ‘flat’ meaning this challenge will offer not only incredible views around every corner, but a serious test of fitness and endurance with daily climbs in excess of 1,000 metres.

Highlights

The star of the show is undoubtedly the scenery you will encounter on your way across the country by bike. However, there is plenty more to enjoy in a country brimming with charm and interest:

  • Trek into Volcanoes National Park for a jungle encounter with Rwanda’s most famous inhabitants, its mountain gorillas.
  • During four days in the saddle travel almost exclusively on dirt roads and tracks through some of Africa’s most incredible mountain scenery and experience a remote, rural Rwanda few visitors are lucky enough to see.
  • Be guided by fun and knowledgeable locals, including at least one member of the Rwandan national cycling set-up.
  • Sleep in charming accommodation, from a working tea plantation to a private home and a guest house with views of five volcanoes across a lake.
  • Visit the moving Genocide Memorial Museum in Kigali.
  • Dine at one of Africa’s most celebrated game lodges, complete with extraordinary views of the surrounding plains.
  • Take a dip overlooking the Democratic Republic of Congo in Lake Kivu, one of Africa’s Great Lakes.

The Country

Rwanda is a land of sprawling lakes, cultivated green hills and smoking volcanoes made famous by Gorillas in the Mist. Of course, it’s gorillas that most visitors come here to see – and they do provide a magical experience – but there is so much more to this tiny, lush, land-locked gem.

For much of the post-colonial era the country faced relentless social and political upheaval, culminating in the 1994 genocide. But over the past two decades Africa’s most densely populated country has embarked on a remarkable journey, winning global acclaim for tackling ethnic divisions and dragging millions off the poverty line.

The population is young and a stable government has helped develop roads, create accessible and affordable broadband, and fed a budding private sector economy that is seeing increasing foreign investment. Crime and corruption levels are some of the lowest on the continent. In various independent surveys in recent years Rwanda has been named the safest country in Africa, and Kigali the cleanest and most liveable city on the continent.

You’re likely to notice such traits during your time in Rwanda but in the end we’re confident it’ll be the people, and the extraordinary land they call home, that will live long in the memory.

And if you’d like to know more in the meantime, here are some stats to keep you going:

  • In an effort to align itself with the East African Community and
    Anglophone world, Rwanda changed its official language from French to
    English in 2008 and a year later became a member of the Commonwealth.
  • Many cities have been officially renamed in recent years, which can make
    map consultation tricky! For example, Musanze is now Ruhengeri, Gisenyi is
    Rubavu and Butare is Huye. We’ve used the new names in this document.
  • In September 2008 Rwanda became the first nation in the world to elect a
    majority of women MPs: 45 out of 80 MPs.
  • 1 million Rwandans emerged out of poverty between 2007 and 2012 (out of a
    population of 11 million).
  • In 2012 the World Bank ranked Rwanda the 45th easiest place for doing
    business in the world, ranking top in Africa.

Flights

Flights are not included in the price of the Kigali To Congo trip. You are therefore responsible for booking your own flight. We recommend Brussels Airlines and KLM, both of which operate flights that land in Kigali at a reasonable hour each evening. Turkish Airlines often have good value flights. You can expect to spend anything from £500 – £800 return from the UK. Please check with us that the trip is guaranteed to run before booking your flight.

Support & Guides

The Kigali To Congo ride is fully-supported, meaning not only that your bags will be driven to your next overnight stay each day, but also that a vehicle will often be nearby to give you a lift if you really need one.

We know that guides can make or break a trip like this, which is why we are so pleased to work with Michael Newhouse, our regular host in Rwanda. Michael is an engineer and bicycle mechanic from the UK. He has made East Africa his home since 2012, currently living in Kigali, and has recently supported Team Rwanda as a mechanic. He will be supported by a fantastic team of local cyclists, guides and drivers – including at least one member of Team Rwanda, the national cycling setup – with a broad range of skills from cultural knowledge of Rwanda to technical support and a sense of fun and adventure.

Terrain & Bikes

The terrain on this Kigali To Congo journey varies from smooth tarmac to narrow dirt trails. However, the vast majority of the ride will be on wide red dirt roads and the best bike for the job is a mountain bike. We use excellent hardtail mountain bikes that are perfect for the terrain, and carry spares and parts at all times.

Ability & Fitness

This challenge does not require advanced technical mountain biking ability although experience riding on rough surfaces up and downhill will be helpful. Far more important is your fitness. You will definitely need to train for this challenge and by the time you join us in Rwanda you should be happy spending long hours in the saddle for three or four days in a row, climbing in excess of 1,000 metres each day on a variety of surfaces. Lastly, remember we are The Slow Cyclist. That means we don’t rush, we wait for others in the group and we work as a team.

A Flexible Approach

There are very few people who know the hills of Rwanda better than our guides. This brings many benefits, but something we are particularly proud of is our ability to be flexible. We believe that travel is at its best when flexible and so we ask that you treat this itinerary as a guide to how you will spend your time with us, rather than as a rigid framework. You are bound to have experiences, see places and meet people that we haven’t listed here. Equally, there may be occasions when we cannot, for good reason, fulfil every detail in this itinerary. Finally, please treat distances as estimates because we will sometimes make route changes in the hope of giving you the best holiday possible.

Gorilla & Golden Monkey Trekking

For many visitors to Rwanda, a close encounter with a family of mountain gorillas is the wildlife experience of their lives. With that in mind, we have allowed for a day out of the saddle to trek into the Volcanoes National Park and track one of nature’s most majestic creatures.

The cost, including 4WD transport, guides and porters, is £775 per person and must be paid in full at the time of booking. If you do not let us know at this point in time we cannot guarantee you will be able to track gorillas. But before deciding whether you would like to go for it, it is important that you understand what is involved. We hope this information helps you make an informed decision:

The gorillas you will track in Volcanoes National Park belong to one of ten habituated family groups. Permits to visit the gorillas are in short supply, with a maximum of eight per day issued for each group. For many years, the gorilla groups have undergone an extremely delicate process that has gradually got them used to the presence of humans and allowed a few privileged visitors to interact with them in the wild. These are not tame animals by any means. They are completely wild, and even now only tolerate human presence for an hour a day at most.

Experienced guides, many of whom have been involved in the habituation process themselves, will give you an early-morning briefing on ‘gorilla etiquette’ before driving you to the start of the trek. They will then accompany you as you track the gorillas through dense vegetation, along steep trails and at an altitude of 1,800 metres and more. It can be tough going. The gorillas cover large distances each day and they are never constantly in one area. The guides use their knowledge of the gorillas’ habits and information from the previous day to locate each group’s whereabouts. Because of this, the time taken to track the gorillas varies enormously, from as little as an hour to as much as eight hours before returning to camp. Once the group has been located you will be allowed a maximum of one hour with them. After this, you will return to the park headquarters.

As a cheaper alternative to the gorillas, a trek to see golden monkeys is another highlight of a visit to Volcanoes National Park. Each trek varies in length depending on the location of the families, but once you’ve found them you are allowed to spend an hour in their company. The cost, including guides and transport to the edge of the forest, is £150 per person and must be paid in full at the time of booking.

Climate & Weather

Although Rwanda is located only two degrees south of the equator, its high elevation makes the climate temperate. The average daily temperature near Lake Kivu, at an altitude of 1,450 metres, is 23 °C and this is relatively typical of temperatures across the country all year round. During the two rainy seasons (March to May and September to December), heavy downpours occur almost daily, alternating with sunny weather. Apart from April, when the country comes together to remember the 1994 atrocities in a month of mourning, there really is no bad time to visit Rwanda. July and August are hotter than other months.

DAY 1 – SATURDAY, ARRIVAL IN KIGALI

We recommend you land in Kigali this evening. We will be there to greet you and drive you the short distance to your hotel in the heart of the old Belgian quarter, where you will spend two nights. We haven’t included dinner as you will have just been fed in the air, but you’re welcome to head for a late bite. N.B. flights are not included. Please see Booking Your Flights section for further details.

DID YOU KNOW? On the last Saturday of each month Rwandans takes part in ‘Umuganda,’ which can roughly be translated as ‘coming together in a common purpose.’ Shops close, roads empty and people all over the country return to their villages to work for the good of the community, repairing, building and cleaning.

DAY 2 – SUNDAY, DAY IN KIGALI

A day in the capital to acclimatise and all activities are optional. After breakfast we will visit the Genocide Memorial Museum, a harrowing but must-do experience for any visitor to Rwanda. Lunch and an afternoon spent exploring Nyamirambo, the city’s vibrant Muslim quarter, is a great way to experience the real Kigali. In the evening we will have drinks and a briefing on the adventure ahead, before dinner at one of Kigali’s most popular Sunday night restaurants.

DAY 3 – MONDAY, KIGALI TO KINIHIRA

Cycling Distance – 45 kms (optional extension) Ascent – 1,250 metres; Descent – 1,330 metres
Surfaces – Dirt roads & paths Duration (incl. breaks) – 6 to 8 hours
Your adventure really begins today, and you can either start from your hotel in the city, taking on your first big hill straight away, or be transferred to the top of Kigali’s highest peak, Mount Jali. Up high it’s often shrouded in mist early in the morning and it makes for a magical start to your journey as you ride a series of ridges dotted with villages and views around every bend that will characterize much of the day’s ride. You’ll have a barbecue lunch in a village en-route before a long descent into lush tea plantations. Then it’s one final climb up to Sorwathe (pictured right), one of Rwanda’s most charming tea estates, and your home for the night.

DID YOU KNOW? The first tea bushes were planted in Rwanda in the 1950s. Sorwathe has just started supplying Marks & Spencer and Rwandan tea is increasingly considered some of the finest tea in the world.

DAY 4 – TUESDAY, KINIHIRA TO LAKE RUHONDO

Cycling Distance – 50 or 60 kms (6 or 8 hours)
Ascent 1,060 metres; Descent 1,000 metres
After breakfast we will have a chance to witness what goes on behind the scenes at Sorwathe tea plantation. Then it’s back in the saddle for a fantastic descent into tea fields before a steady ascent to the shores of the Twin Lakes, Burera and Ruhondo. It’s a day packed with breath-taking views but we will have to work hard in the saddle to achieve them. Our overnight stay is at a lakeside guest house with great views of the volcanoes across the lake, and if it’s a clear evening we’ll be able to see the smoking, active Nyiragongo volcano in Congo.

DAY 5 – WEDNESDAY, LAKE RUHONDO TO RUHENGERI

Cycling Distance – 40 kms (5 to 7 hours)
Ascent 1,000 metres; Descent 900 metres
After a short boat journey, today’s ride will begin on the northern shore of Lake Ruhondo and it’s a tough morning as we climb steadily, pausing only to visit a couple of interesting local projects. Lunch is at Virunga Lodge. In the afternoon we will ride towards Kinigi, where we will visit the home of the Rwandan national cycling team. From Kinigi it is downhill to the frontier town of Ruhengeri, where we will spend the night with our friends Elaine and Kavos, an English-Congolese couple who have made northern Rwanda their home.

DAY 6 – THURSDAY, GORILLA TREKKING

Today is our chance to trek into the jungle to spend time with some of the last remaining mountain gorillas on the planet. Alternatively, you can visit golden monkeys or our guides are available to show you some of their favourite things around Ruhengeri.

DAY 7 – FRIDAY, RUHENGERI TO RUBAVU

Cycling Distance – 95 kms (8 to 10 hours)
Ascent 1,500 metres; Descent 1,900 metres
It’s our last day on bikes and it’s a big one. Our final destination is Lake Kivu, one of the deepest lakes in the world and a socalled Great Lake of Africa. To get there we will cycle along the base of the chain of volcanoes, through bamboo forests, remote villages and banana plantations before pausing for lunch at the beautifully situated home of American former humanitarian and author Rosamund Carr. From there it’s a thrilling 35 kilometre descent on dirt roads through bustling villages towards Kivu, where we will spend the night after a celebration dinner overlooking the lake.

DAY 8 – SATURDAY, DEPARTURE

After a morning recuperating and relaxing by Lake Kivu you will be transferred 3 hours by minibus to Kigali for your onward journey. For those catching an evening flight out of Rwanda we will drive you to Kigali International Airport.

The tour package inclusions and exclusions at a glance
What is included in this tour?Items that are included in the cost of tour price.

• Airport transfers
• Support vehicle
• Slow Cyclist host
• English-speaking local guides
• 7 nights’ accommodation
• Most meals (see itinerary for details)
• Snacks & soft drinks
• All activities & entrance fees
• Bicycle & helmet hire
• 24 hour emergency helicopter rescue
• 100% financial security through Travel Vault

Whats not included in this tour.Items that are not included in the cost of tour price.

• Flights
• Gorilla/golden monkey trek
• Visas (required for UK citizens)
• Alcoholic drinks
• Travel insurance

  1. DAY 1 SATURDAY, ARRIVAL IN KIGALI

    We recommend you land in Kigali this evening (see Travel Options section). We will be there to greet you and drive you the short distance to your hotel in the heart of the old Belgian quarter, where you will spend two nights. We haven’t included dinner tonight.

    DID YOU KNOW? On the last Saturday of each month Rwandans takes part in ‘Umuganda,’ which can roughly be translated as ‘coming together in a common purpose.’ Shops close, roads empty and people all over the country return to their villages to work for the good of the community, repairing, building and cleaning.

  2. DAY 2 SUNDAY, DAY IN KIGALI

    A day in the capital to acclimatise and all activities are optional. After breakfast we will visit the Genocide Memorial Museum, a harrowing but must-do experience for any visitor to Rwanda. Lunch and an afternoon spent exploring Nyamirambo, the city’s vibrant Muslim quarter, is a great way to experience the real Kigali. In the evening we will have drinks and a briefing on the adventure ahead, before dinner at one of Kigali’s most popular Sunday night restaurants.

  3. DAY 3 MONDAY, KIGALI TO KINIHIRA

    Cycling Distance – 50 or 65 kms (6 or 8 hours)
    Ascent 1,450 metres; Descent 1,330 metres

    Our adventure really begins today, and you can either start from the hotel in the city or be transferred to the top of Kigali’s highest peak, Mount Jali. Up high it’s often shrouded in mist in the morning and it makes for a magical start to the challenge with views around every bend. We will have a barbecue lunch in a village en-route before a long descent. Then it’s one final climb up to Sorwathe, one of Rwanda’s most charming tea estates, and our home for the night.

  4. DAY 4 TUESDAY, KINIHIRA TO LAKE RUHONDO

    Cycling Distance – 50 or 60 kms (6 or 8 hours)
    Ascent 1,060 metres; Descent 1,000 metres

    After breakfast we will have a chance to witness what goes on behind the scenes at Sorwathe tea plantation. Then it’s back in the saddle for a fantastic descent into tea fields before a steady ascent to the shores of the Twin Lakes, Burera and Ruhondo. It’s a day packed with breath-taking views but we will have to work hard in the saddle to achieve them. Our overnight stay is at a lakeside guest house with great views of the volcanoes across the lake, and if it’s a clear evening we’ll be able to see the smoking, active Nyiragongo volcano in Congo.

  5. DAY 5 WEDNESDAY, LAKE RUHONDO TO RUHENGERI

     

    Cycling Distance – 40 kms (5 to 7 hours)
    Ascent 1,000 metres; Descent 900 metres

    After a short boat journey, today’s ride will begin on the northern shore of Lake Ruhondo and it’s a tough morning as we climb steadily, pausing only to visit a couple of interesting local projects. Lunch is at Virunga Lodge. In the afternoon we will ride towards Kinigi, where we will visit the home of the Rwandan national cycling team. From Kinigi it is downhill to the frontier town of Ruhengeri, where we will spend the night with our friends Elaine and Kavos, an English-Congolese couple who have made northern Rwanda their home.

    DID YOU KNOW? The Rwandan cycling team were the subject of award-winning 2012 documentary Rising from Ashes, narrated by Hollywood actor Forest Whitaker. It tells the story of their bid to represent Rwanda at the 2012 Olympics and in doing so, to become a powerful symbol of hope in a post-genocide nation.

  6. DAY 6 THURSDAY, GORILLA TREKKING

    Today is our chance to trek into the jungle to spend time with some of the last remaining mountain gorillas on the planet. Alternatively, you can visit golden monkeys or our guides are available to show you some of their favourite things around Ruhengeri

  7. DAY 7 FRIDAY, RUHENGERI TO RUBAVU

    Cycling Distance – 95 kms (8 to 10 hours)
    Ascent 1,500 metres; Descent 1,900 metres

    It’s our last day on bikes and it’s a big one. Our final destination is Lake Kivu, one of the deepest lakes in the world and a socalled Great Lake of Africa. To get there we will cycle along the base of the chain of volcanoes, through bamboo forests, remote villages and banana plantations before pausing for lunch at the beautifully situated home of American former humanitarian and author Rosamund Carr. From there it’s a thrilling 35 kilometre descent on dirt roads through bustling villages towards Kivu, where we will spend the night after a celebration dinner overlooking the lake.

    DID YOU KNOW? Lake Kivu is home to 65 billion cubic metres of methane, an alternative source of energy that was a key factor in Heineken’s decision to start brewing there in the late 1950s. Heineken still operates on the shores of Lake Kivu, producing local brands Primus and Mutzig.

  8. DAY 8 SATURDAY, DEPARTURE

    After a morning recuperating and relaxing by Lake Kivu you will be transferred 3 hours by minibus to Kigali for your onward journey. For those catching an evening flight out of Rwanda we will drive you to Kigali International Airport.

cycling tourAccommodation

Lodging is based on twin sharing. We cannot guarantee single rooms because the places we are staying in are small, but please ask us if you would like us to try (a fee will apply). It is important to note that accommodation has been chosen for its charm and location. You will be travelling through a country that is, outside of the capital at least, lacking in tourism infrastructure. It’s one of the reasons we love Rwanda, but it does mean that accommodation tends to be basic so please do not expect 5* service.

Food & Drink

Every meal will be prepared freshly for you. Sometimes you’ll eat out in the open, at other times in small, independent restaurants and guest houses. Allergies and other preferences are all taken care of at the time of booking. Vegetarians can also be catered for.

The tour package inclusions and exclusions at a glance.
  • Airport transfers
  • Support vehicles
  • Dedicated UK and local guides
  • Mountain bike and helmet hire
  • Accommodation
  • All meals unless stated below
  • Beer and soft drinks at meal times
  • Bottled drinking water
  • Cycling snacks
  • 24 hour emergency helicopter support.
  • Gorilla trek and golden monkey trek.
  • A donation to the Genocide Memorial Museum
  • Visas ($30 in cash on arrival for UK citizens)
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Local airport taxes (if applicable)
  • Wine
  • Dinner on arrival
  • Tips for local staff
  • Entertainment & personal costs.

Activity Level: Moderate

Our Rwandan rides do not require advanced technical mountain biking ability although experience riding on rough surfaces up and downhill is helpful. Far more important is fitness. You will definitely need to train and by the time you join us in Rwanda you should be comfortable spending long hours in the saddle, climbing in excess of 1,000 metres in one day on a variety of surfaces. Rwanda is nicknamed the Land of a Thousand Hills and is one of Africa’s most mountainous countries. You may find the cycling tough but the views will offer just reward and remember, you can jump in the support vehicle at any time if you feel the need.

Overall Rating
5/5
DAVID JONES - 2016
Reviewed On 01/07/2017
5/5

“I’ve done a decent amount of guided riding and this is the best I have been on.”

MARK GRINONNEAU - 2016
Reviewed On 11/06/2016
5/5

“Impeccably organised. The trip of a lifetime.”

WILL HIDE - TIMES JOURNALIST 2015
Reviewed On 08/06/2015
5/5

“I think the word ‘unique’ is bandied about way too often in travel, but I really think that’s appropriate in this case. My head is overflowing with great memories.”

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