Countdown: It’s only four days to the Tour of Rwanda, an international cycling competition, now in its twelfth edition.
There has never been such excitement, discovery of Rwandan beauty along the eight routes, and behind the scene.
From the most known Mountain gorillas in the mist and the lodges meant for visitors who opt for a night in the kingdom of gorilla silverback to the canopy walkway of Nyungwe National park and beyond, so many awaits tour du Rwanda fans.
In the first stage, Kigali-Rwamagana-Kigali, tour du Rwanda will start at forthcoming Kigali Sports’ village which include the magnificent Kigali Arena, Amahoro Stadium which is set to be facelifted to increase its capacity to 40,000 people from current 25,000 sitting capacity among other infrastructure.
All along Cumi na Kabiri-Kabuga-Rwamagana road, a beautiful scenery that directs the eyes deep into the quick growing residential neighbourhoods of Masaka, Kabuga and Gasogi is all that welcome travellers.
In fact, leave alone visitors, some Kigali residents might not be aware that the capital city-Kigali has got a ‘natural lake’ below Inyange Industries-commonly known as ‘Kuri Cumi n’Icyenda.’
Exiting the city by Kabuga gate towards the Eastern province, you will revive the appetite to become a farmer. Beautiful farms will tell you that you are in the land of pastors. That view accompanies you up to Rwamagana.
Depending on the visitor’s schedule, they can choose to come earlier with the caravan and spend a night in Rwamagana, at some of the beautiful hospitality facilities like Dereva Hotel.
On 23rd February, it is advisable to follow the cyclists and spend the night in Kigali for the following stage of Kigali – Huye. The stage is very important because it takes you through Kigali and two of the six secondary cities of the country.
Muhanga, the first secondary city is across river Nyabarongo and it comes after Kamonyi, a small centre where Saint Pope John Paul II visited and encouraged the youth to work hard during his visit to Rwanda in September 1990.
The country is putting more emphasis on the six secondary cities which include Muhanga, Huye, Musanze, Nyagatare, Rubavu, Rusizi.
Thus, like its pears, Muhanga is a quick growing city.
Leave alone the fact that it hosts one of the ancient catholic church- Kabgayi Basilica, it is also seeing a booming business, for the simple fact that it is at a couple of kilometres from the capital Kigali.
Some people who work to Kigali have home in Muhanga and vice versa. No wonder, a reliable transport eases the mobility between both cities.
Between Muhanga there are two other average cities including Ruhango and Nyanza, but for now, let’s focus on the latter.
Nyanza was the ancient king palace in the traditional Rwanda. It is the only remaining with rich, concentrated heritage that shows the legacy of the kingdom in ancient Rwanda.
In fact, the last king was in Rwanda in early 1960s before abolition of monarchy, an incident which was bloody, unfortunately.
In Nyanza, this rich history is documented in the King Palace Museum located in Rukali. This palace by Mutara III Rudahigwa dates way back in 1930s while another one- Rwesero gallery museum was built later on by the same king before he died a mysterious death in Bujumbura, the capital of the current Burundi.
King Mutara III Rudahigwa introduced the concept of modern stockage. So, when they say ‘I Nyanza ku Bigega’, they mean the warehouses that have capacity of hundreds tons on the road Nyanza-Huye.
Last but not least is Huye, the former Astrida which also has a rich history of the catholic church, and the King.
It was the last home of the last queen of Rwanda Rosarie Gicanda who was killed during the Genocide against Tutsi in 1994.
Her husband-King Mutara III Rudahigwa who was known for being nationalist is said to have slapped a colonizer who wanted to segregate Rwandans in the nearby Hotel Faucon. The hotel still stands and never changed the name.
Huye hosts the ethnographic museum and the headquarters of Institute of National Museums of Rwanda in a beautiful architect that was designed by a Belgian architect back in 1980s.
This will not be a return trip. Riders will sleep in Huye. There, you have so many choices between the famous Hotel Faucon and the recent giants of the place like Bonni Concili and Gallileo, Credo , Four Steps or former Petit Prince Hotel Barthos Hotel of the famous artist Jean Baptiste Sebukangaga and Casa.
Early morning, the riders will take Huye- Rusizi road via Nyungwe national park.
This is, no wonder, one of the most difficult ride along the 142 kilometer road, but of course, spectators will watch the best.
Well, the first excitement is to realise that Nyamagabe, a city that had just one storied house until the year 2000s is now a growing city at the Nyungwe national park belt.
Before entering Nyungwe, you admire large plantation of wheat and tea, to some extent, two specialties of the region. But the region is also the country basket of timber and charcoal. This tells the rest; Nyamagabe and the neighboring Nyaruguru are known for big forests.
Beware, government wants an alternative of the charcoal-but no plan as far as timber is concerned.
If you go this side also, do not forget to buy natural honey at Kitabi-just at the gate of Nyungwe.
Part of the Albertine Rift Valley, Nyungwe is virgin equatorial rainforest that survived the last ice age. As a result, it’s one of the oldest green expanses on the African continent, and is something of a ‘Lost World’ for rare and endangered species. It also spans several altitudinal bands, which facilitates its largely unparalleled biodiversity of both flora and fauna.
The man-made activities in the park-all to make a comfort of the tourists maximum include the canopy walkway, and luxurious lodge. The Most known is the One and Only Nyungwe House at the exit of he park in Nyamasheke district.
At the finishing of the stage in Rusizi district, you enjoy the best of the border communities of Kamembe in Rwanda and their Congolese counterparts in Bukavu as you enjoy the best views of the lake.
A night in that breeze is the best of its kind and no wonder, the diet will be the best ever. With a mixture of the Rwandese- Congolese communities, expect some good meals of isambaza and cassava paste.
On the 26th day of February, the riders will take the longest stage of all: Rusizi – Rubavu(206 kilometers). It will be the survivor of the fittest but a lot is there to watch along the Nyamasheke- Mu Ityazo – Karongi commonly known as Kivu belt.
The scenery of the lake welcomes the riders as they meander in the corners that give the best pictures to the cameramen.
The riders will sleep in Rubavu, another border city which has the biggest flow of business between both communities of Rwanda and DRC and petite barriere and the one stop border post of La Corniche.
If you want, Rubavu is another good place to do business, especially in food and beverages. If you are to choose food business, I Rubavu, butchery would be among the best ideas. The neighboring DRC community in Goma are the best clients because, meet is their staple food.
Of course, entertainment in Rubavu is also one of the best. Serena Hotel is the biggest in the area when it comes to hospitality. It ranks four stars, compared to the sister hotel of five star hotel in Kigali.
For a retreat, vacation or honey moon, Rubavu is among the best of the country.
From Rubavu, riders will proceed to Musanze, a shorter route which, apparently, was planned to help them relax.
The 84-kilometer stage will introduce you to the all time touristic city of Musanze.
The volcano national park offers a panoramic view to Musanze town and, in other words, gorillas look at the city from the top.
Imagine now sleeping in the volcanoes! There is that possibility to spend the night in that kingdom of gorilla silverback.
So many lodges are now available for tourists who don’t have budget constraints, but even for others, Musanze offers budget but beautiful hotels, too.
It’s unfair to leave Musanze without saying that it is the home to the best irish potatoes the country-even the region, can offer.
Locally known as Kinigi, the irish potato is amazing. There are so many other varieties, also tasteful.
Given its hilly terrain, Musanze is the host of Africa Rising Cycling Academy where the best riders of Rwanda are trained to win the races.
The three latest stages will reintroduce the riders back to Muhanga(Musanze-Muhanga) and usher them back to Kigali, the capital city where you have it all; entertainment, best hangouts and name it.
There is no best place to celebrate the yellow jersey than Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city.