The Congo-Nile Trail is located on the Western side of Rwanda, along Lake Kivu which separates Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. In March, my dad joined me while I was on a work trip in Rwanda to ride part of the trail.
The idea to ride the Congo-Nile hatched last year as I was doing some research for work about bicycles in Rwanda. In one interview someone mentioned that Western Rwanda was a popular bikepacking destination, and I remembered that my friend Derek rode the trail some years ago (check out his far more beautiful photos and thoughts here). I began to do a bit of research and had the rough idea that I’d take some vacation while in Rwanda for work and ride part of the trail that the internet warned me was intoxicatingly beautiful and hillier than any terrain I’ve ever ridden.
When I told my dad about the idea he responded without hesitation, “Can I come?” My dad is approaching retirement, maintains an admirably YOLO attitude towards life. He is down for any adventure, especially if it involves mountain biking. He wasn’t thrilled with my vague plan to buy a bike in country and figure things out along the way, so we instead hooked up with Rwandan Adventures who connected us to a guide and booked places to stay along the way. As luck would have it, our guide, Rafiki, is a retired pro cyclist from the infamous Team Rwanda, and we couldn’t have asked for a better companion on the trail.
The internet was not joking about the hills. In truth, in our 3 days of riding I don’t think we ever rode on a flat trail for more than 10 feet. We were always going up or down. Most of the trail is wide, rocky dirt roads, connected by single track trails. Before hitting the final section of pavement that brought us to the finish in Kibuye, we passed 3 or 4 cars the entire time.