Muzimu Trail

Muzimu at the remote northeastern Nyungwe.
From Gisakura, the drive alone would be a four hour
round trip. From the Gisovu trailhead, the Muzimu trail is
reached after a 20 minute drive through a buffer zone
of pine and eucalyptus plantations. This relatively short,
easy hike climbs through pine forest to a ridge of rounded,
exposed summits.
The trail begins in the forested buffer zone and soon exits
out into the open. Those familiar with other trails in the
park may immediately notice the absence of large rainfor-
est trees. Instead, the rocky, shallow soils support a small-
leaved heath community with occasional taller, large-leaf
vegetation in pockets of deeper soil. Much of the trail
is quite open and thus has many spectacular views. It is
worth looking over your shoulder at regular intervals to
see the many fine views, which only get better as you as-
cend. The lack of big canopy trees makes it easier to see
some of Nyungwe’s fantastic bird species and there is an
unusually great variety of sun-tolerant wildflowers. Pines
are occasionally encountered along the trail although the
park has a program to remove pine and other exotic trees.
Bracken fern, while native, is a pest of the trail. Don’t hesitate
to trample it. You may see signs of civet cats (scat) and francolin
(digging) in the path.
At about 0.5 km from the trailhead, there is a spur to the right,
with 270-degree views of the forest. At 1.6 km, hikers reach
the first and highest of two summits, with a 360-degree pano-
ramic view of the majestic Nyungwe National Park. The mas-
sive Mt. Bigugu is to the south and Mt. Ruhindu, on the Congo-
Nile Divide, is to the southeast. Lake Kivu and Idjwi Island in
the DRC are to the northwest.
The trail continues past the first summit, then down to a small,
forested mountain pass, followed by a nearly 50 meter ascent
to the second summit. On both summits, the plants are only just
above knee-high and either summit would be an ideal picnic
spot in dry weather.
Among the flowers to be seen along the trail are heaths, blue
and yellow Commelina species, morning glories, wild gerani-
ums, yellow starflowers, doll’s powderpuff, yellow Senecio,
ground and epiphytic orchids, a small pink flowered shrub and
aromatic everlastings.
The descent of Muzimu can be pure joy. Most of the uphill
work on this trail is done, the traction is excellent and now the
grandiose views spread out in front. As hikers re-enter the buff-
er zone, footsteps muffled in drifts of pine needles, you may
notice how eerily silent and still the monoculture of the pine
plantation is by comparison with the rich diversity of the park.
On the way to or from Muzimu, visitors may travel close to
the Kivu lakeshore. In clear weather, the strikingly handsome
peaks of Volcanoes National Park, world famous for it thriving
population of mountain gorillas, can be seen to the north. In the
near-distance, you can see the extent of the tree plantation
buffer zone, the long, winding roads that must be negotiated
to get here, and the steep hillside cultivation of mountain vil-
lages. Some garden plots are so tilted that it is a wonder that
villagers can hoe, weed, and harvest them, without losing their