I have always wanted to climb a mountain and at the same time, I am hesitant about it. I couldn’t be sure enough if climbing was my thing.
So I decided to give it a try. I mean, you never know until you try right?!
After reading BeMyTravelMuse’s post on Rwanda, she recommends to climb Mount Bisoke. I thought that this would be a perfect trial, a day climb and the permit is reasonably priced at 75USD.
Mount Bisoke is one of the eight Virunga mountain ranges and shared between Rwanda and Congo. In the photo below, Bisoke is the second from the left.
It stands with a height of 12,175 ft (3,711m) above sea level.
To be honest, I doubted my stamina and strength considering I haven’t worked out in over a year.
I read so many reviews of visitors turning back around and not reaching the peak due to the difficult terrain. I just stopped reading because it only built up more worries. I did not have the proper gears. The only thing I had was hiking shoes. I didn’t have any gaiters, warm jacket, or gloves as what other reviewers have mentioned as a must have!
I was dressed pretty casual as you can see.
How it went
I got to Volcanoes National Park at around 7am where they serve complimentary coffee and tea.
The park organizes a briefing with all their guides and then they allocate the visitors to the assigned guide for each activity.
After that, our guide briefed us on what to expect, what we need to do and shouldn’t do. Then we got back into our 4×4 for a 45 minutes bumpy drive to the starting point.
Once we reached the starting point, there was a line of porters ready to be hired if you need one. I HIGHLY recommend one. It costs 10USD. He will pull and push you when needed, especially when there’s a slush of mud.
Then we set off to begin the climb with our guide, porters and rangers equipped with their AK47.
We walked for about 10 minutes past a farm and into the jungle. I thought we had begun our trek as we walked through the jungle, but nope! We needed to get to the base of the volcano.
There is a break spot with benches at about 2,700m above sea level. Only 1! Other than that we get only water breaks that last about a minute or less. Of course I had to take so many of them and mine would last at least 3 minutes. 😛
The ascent is an unrelenting uphill with slushy and slippery mud. It had rained just the day before the climb.
The others went way ahead of me with a guide while my porter and 3 rangers stayed back with me.
They were very understanding and advised me to take it slow, POLE POLE as they like to say 😀 It means slowly slowly in Swahili.
The climb is very steep and muddy. As we got higher, the terrain changed to a rocky one which only means bigger steps and pull ups.
I took more breaks but I found a weird trick that helped me push myself through. Smile! I tried to keep a positive mind, think happy thoughts and just smile as wide as I can. I probably looked so weird but it distracted me from panting and taking breaks. It kept me going. 😀
Once you start to see these vegetations, know that you are almost there!
I read a lot of reviews where those who climbed Bisoke couldn’t see the lake. I went on a pretty sunny day but the clouds were coming in. The rangers kept pushing me to go faster so I could see the lake. I climbed to see the lake, I MUST SEE THE LAKE!
I made it just in time to see the lake. Once I saw the lake; shortness of breath, increased heart rate and what not disappeared. I was happy; the kind of happiness that blooms from within.
I quickly asked the porter to take some photos as the clouds were coming in. Few minutes later, the lake was covered. We sat down and had some snacks while celebrating our accomplishment.
It’s a breathtaking view once you’re at the top and overlooking the lush green province of Musanze.
It’s pretty chilly up there but not too chilly. When it was time to descend, I ran my way down. Descending? No problem! I didn’t need a single break to descend.
The trek must be escorted with rangers as it is the habitat of wildlife animals and the endangered mountain gorillas. Don’t expect to see any wildlife so when you do see them, it’s a great plus to the climb!
Some has seen mountain gorillas while I encountered a bushbuck. Don’t worry guys, animals are afraid of human. They won’t attack you for climbing up Bisoke.
What you need
1. 2 Liter of water
3. A jacket – This is only needed when you are on the peak. Other than that, it’s not needed at all.
4. Walking stick (optional) – I ditched mine. It was weighing me down. I used the trees and vegetations around me to assist me if needed.
5. Gloves (optional) – There are nettle leaves which stings for about 5 to 10 minutes but then you’ll be fine. I didn’t use any, got stung twice but it’s all good!
Permit: 75 USD
Porter: 10 USD
Experienced: 3 – 4 hours
Inexperienced: 6 – 7 hours – I completed in 6 hours and a half.
1. Check the weather! – Make sure it’s a clear day
2. Get to the peak before the clouds come in. The best time would be around 12 noon.
Will I climb again? Maybe. Is climbing my thing? I don’t think so haha!