By Donozius Byamukama
Nyanza in the Southern Province is truly a great place. It’s a place of warmth, reverberance, history and culture. In fact, it’s one of the few places in Rwanda that offer an array of haunting experiences.
The sun may have set on the Rwandan monarchy, but Nyanza still offers the feel of a royal town steeped in the country’s traditions and customs. Most travellers to Nyanza usually visit the King’s Palace Museum, the National Art Gallery and the King’s Lake, among other popular attractions.
However, one of the most memorable experiences for visitors to Nyanza is hiking Gacu Hill. Gacu is Kinyarwanda for “little sky”. It is one the three famous hills in Nyanza, the others being Rwabicuma and Mpanga.
I first got the desire to climb Gacu Hill last December when I went to Nyanza for the district’s annual cultural event called ‘I Nyanza Twataramye’, which showcases Rwanda’s culture and heritage.
But it was not until recently that I got the opportunity to climb this natural wonder. I was sitting on the terrace of one of the hotels in Nyanza town when I caught up with an old friend of mine who is now loving his laidback, stress-free life here.
I asked him to come with me the next morning for a trip to Gacu and he obliged.
On arrival at the foothill of Gacu, which is not far from the King’s Palace Museum, we were welcomed by a guide who took us through the different levels of climbing and safety measures.
It normally takes between 60-90 minutes to reach the peak of the hill depending on the swiftness of the climber. For climbers who have heavy luggage, there are people on hand to offer some help – at a fee.
During the trek, we stopped three times to have some rest and refreshments. We rested for about 15 minutes in a pine forest, whose fresh air helped us recharge our butteries.
Yes, the trip up the hill is quite exhausting, but the moment you get to the top you realise that it’s really worth it. It’s a truly spectacular sight that makes you feel as if you are somewhere near the sky.
At the tip of the hill, one gets 360 degrees panoramic view of almost the entire Southern Province – numerous, magnificent hills unfolding into infinity. It is a breathtaking scenery here, an ideal location for camping due to its silence, striking beauty and clear, windless air.
Travelling from Kigali to Nyanza takes approximately two hours if one opts for public transport, but you can get there in about one-and-a-half hours if it’s a self-driving trip.