The Shock of Mount Kabuye

I looked at the mountain again and again during commutes from my Musanze home to Rwanda’s capital Kigali… It was marvellous. It was also as imposing as it gets, so it wasn’t difficult to identify it on the map: its name was Mount Kabuye. There were claims on the internet that it was the the highest non-volcanic peak in Rwanda that I didn’t take seriously — but 2,700 metres (8,800 feet) was a decent altitude.

For some perspective: I was born in an Alpine country in Europe called Slovenia where the tallest peak, the one proudly featured on the national flag, only raises to 2,864 metres. When a group of people decide that a mountain is going to be their symbol, you can probably imagine that they like hiking. For a Slovenian, it is near impossible to see a hill and not want to climb it. The benefits are obvious: great views, exercise and hopefully some peace in a pristine natural environment.

As I hiked up Mt Kabuye, I wondered who would go to the trouble of putting metallic signs and even toilets for hikers… The local government? The Beyond the Gorillas Experience guys? The Musanze-based company had been known for bringing tourists to Kabuye — but they wouldn’t need all this infrastructure… Intriguing.

Allow me to take you back to the Slovenian mountains. I said that being alone in nature was one of the bonuses, but there is another side to it: the huts, the drinking and eating places, even hotels high in the hills. Such places enrich your mountaineering life and I always miss them in East Africa. … So imagine my shock when I reached the wooded top of Mount Kabuye, and there were tents pitched around a permanent building! I did NOT expect that, there was NO mention of that on the signposts!

I was fortunate to run into Theodore Nzabonimpa soon afterwards. He was helpfully moving around with a plate full of tasty little fish mixed with vegetables, a wonderful appetiser to prepare his guests for lunch. Theodore invited me back to Kabuye some weeks later, with my full team, equipped us with his guide Francis and shared everything they had learned about the place thus far. To top it all, we were welcome to spend the night in his tents.

I could go on and on about the beautiful crafts we encountered on the way, about the fascinating king’s cave Francis showed us, about several more interesting sites we explored, about the dancing troupe, about the amazing food we ate…  But the main takeaway is simply: customer service with extreme attention to detail. Theodore is one of those people who were born to be hosts, who actively look for more ways to impress. One example: he sends a water container with his staff to the craftmakers’ place, just to help his guests refill their bottles. There is no dire need for that but it makes a hiker happy, and that’s what matters.

Mind you, Theodore doesn’t live on Mt Kabuye and it doesn’t make economic sense for him to always be around, or come with an experienced chef. His people are nearby and no matter when you do Kabuye, somebody will be on the top to serve you some drinks. But it is essential to announce yourself in advance — call/message him on +250 788 495 604.

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Responses

  1. Reading all these beautiful stories makes me want to come immediately. Am looking for a partner to travel with me when my country’s closed borders/quarantine policy ends, so hopefully sooner than later!!!

    1. Thank you for your kind feedback! I was actually wondering if this particular story would interest anyone beyond Rwanda-based expats, I’m glad it worked for you.

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