wandans are slowly but surely embracing the trend of trekking long journeys just for the fun of it. Among many benefits, long distance walking events are said to be a great way to motivate yourself or give yourself and your fitness a new boost of energy.
With this and a lot more in consideration, at the end of 2021, three friends—Bertin Ganza, Armand Kwitonda, and Kamaro Bukoko Uwampojeje—set out to travel from Kigali to Rubavu on foot.
With the year ending, the trio decided to end it in style by doing something out of the ordinary. The intention was to tour and explore the country, albeit differently.
The three chose to travel, seek adventure, and do sports at the same time; like a road trip, but on foot. It was a great idea; they all agreed and set out for their anticipated four-day trip.
Walking is a beautiful sport by the way, for those who have never considered it. It’s a haven on its own, especially when accompanied by awesome music, an inspiring podcast, or a sermon.
It’s also entertaining, engaging, and energizing in spirit, body, and mind.
Ganza agrees for he accounts how much of a learning experience that journey was for him.
It was an exercise and a treat that was unveiling of our potential, he says. “It was a battle between the mind, heart, and body. The heart pushed the mind, which pushed the body for it to press for our intended destination.”
As they moved, they passed through Rulindo, Gakenke, Musanze, and Nyabihu districts.
Their first day was from Kigali to Nyirangarama, Rulindo, and they traveled from 7 am till 6 pm in the evening.
On their way
They would make stop-overs once in a while for refreshments from places such as the famous Sina Gerald’s Nyirangarama. They also made it a point to visit different places, learn about them and the life there, as well as engage with the locals.
“It was exciting and a whole new experience for us. My heart was full of joy; it was tiring but the eagerness kept pushing me, Ganza recalls. He recalls his feet hurting badly at some point; he had to buy new shoes.
“I also got allergies because of the sun. It was the longest and hardest I have ever walked but it was fun and a great milestone. I got to remember that I can always go for more than what my mind can think of. I met people and made new friends and learned about life from different parts of the country,” he says.
For Kwitonda, the adventure was one he will always remember.
“The experience was fantastic as I was doing something extraordinary, walking 148 kilometers is a milestone which I thought was impossible to reach, the experience was simply amazing,” he says.
Aside from the fun, they had along the way and at their final destination, Kwitonda says they learned very many important lessons.
“I felt incredibly good like I was invincible. I felt that nothing is impossible if you set your mind to do it. I was inspired by the Latin proverb ‘Nemo Residió’ which translates to ‘leave no one behind.’ Whenever my friends were behind, I would not leave them,” he says.
He reveals that the only challenge he faced was the rain along the way, though he says to have adapted eventually. For him, the challenges became opportunities for lessons.
“As it rained on us, our bodies were then able to cool down after long exposure to the sun, so I saw that as a solution to that problem.”
The three had booked rooms at Nyirangarama and chose to spend a night when they reached there; they headed to Musanze the following day, and that marked their second day.
Kwitonda says one of the reasons they took this journey was to explore the country but most importantly, to inspire the youth in doing sports.
“Another major inspiration was that we wanted to end the year in a perfectly fit condition, as well as defying what other people call impossible,” he adds.
Kwitonda and Bukoko are members of Intarumikwa, a running and walking club. They have participated in two Kigali Peace Marathons so far. So when it came to this trip, Bukoko agreed fast and easily like the adventurer and athlete he is.
Bukoko remembers vividly the first night they went to bed without being sure if they were to continue the next day, considering how tired they were. To increase their chances, they bought and applied body pomade for inflammations hoping to wake up in better shape.
Luckily, it worked and when they got up, they decided to continue the journey right away and dropped the idea that had come up of spending the day at Nyirangarama resting.
“It rained on our way but we did not stop, we would take strategic pauses along the way to stretch, drink water, or eat something. Day 2 was way more challenging than we thought, our bodies were not as fresh and it took us longer to walk the same distance we had done the previous day.
“Three hours in, Ganza was in so much pain because of his shoes, he was fine at the beginning though. But the thing about extreme sports is that every single detail matters for the partakers to succeed, the pain in his toes kept getting worse and worse yet he and I had been carrying a heavy bag that had our things,” Bukoko narrates.
They endured nonetheless. Burana hill in Nyabihu District was particularly challenging for them because of how long and sloppy it is. But when they got to the peak, their spirits were high as they knew they would make it to Musanze.
“We entered Musanze District around 6:30 pm,” Bukoko recalls. “We absolutely could not contain our joy when we saw the Musanze District board, it was surreal. By then it was already dark and we decided to go to a motel.”
They stayed at Red Rocks, an eco-friendly motel that is very warm and welcoming.
When they reached there, they set in motion the recovery process like they did the first night. They called friends and family to tell them that they had reached.
“No one wanted to believe us, we couldn’t believe it ourselves. That is why it was beyond crazy when that morning, as we were having breakfast with Berabose (a friend we coincidentally met in Musanze), we decided to continue all the way to Rubavu. As much as I was excited to go all the way to Kivu, I couldn’t make it there because of a work emergency that prompted me to come back to Kigali, but Kwitonda and Ganza represented and went all the way.”
The journey was something that pushed their limits, and it was very motivating for them to see that they could actually achieve that.
“We hope to do even more challenging adventures in the future, and hope that whoever will read this gets inspired to try something new, take care of their physical and mental health by walking and exercising as much as they can, and try out big adventures every once in a while,” Bukoko says.
Their final destination was Kivu Lake; when they reached it, all they wanted was to go to the lake and celebrate the achieved milestone.
They played in the sand and did boating alongside other activities. They breathed and enjoyed that fresh air from the lake. They went to the DRC border, the methane gas power plants and enjoyed the wonderful weather in Rubavu to the maximum.
Their biggest lesson was how anyone can do anything as long as they set themselves to do it.
“When you set yourself to do something, you definitely have to do it until it is done. I used to set milestones and would somehow lose track, but this journey showed me that I have to keep going until I reach my destination or the desired results,” Kwitonda says.
Life is about doing what others think is impossible, it’s about going that extra mile despite the challenges. Discouragements might come along the way but you have to keep going until you win, the boys say.
Original story on The New Times