What an experience. My dad and I started the trek at 8:30 in the morning. Slow and steady for about half an hour through potato fields and fields of pyrethrum flowers. It was mid-April and lots of the potato fields were full of men and women harvesting the Kinigi potato that the area is known for.
Eventually we reached the stone wall that marks the boundary of Volcanoes National Park. We crossed the wall, entered the park, and the magic began. Instantly the vegetation changed. While the land outside the park is heavily cultivated, the national park remains pristinely undisturbed; wild. Enormous hagenia trees dwarfed us as we began our trek upwards. Looking around, we felt as if we were in Avatar, the forest looks that other-worldly.
It being April and the middle of the rainy season, my dad and I were prepared to get wet. However, the weather was fantastic. Not a drop of rain fell the entire day, which was one of the only days that happened all month long. As we trekked up the volcano, we quickly shed all of our layers and enjoyed the sun that brought that forest alive with sunbirds all around us.
Despite having no rain, it was still slow going. The ground was wet from the rains the day prior and we had to slog uphill through quite a bit of mud and slippery vegetation. Because Jomi and I live at 8,650 ft elevation, I found the hike very manageable. My dad, however, said it was the most exhausting thing he had ever done. This is a man who has run 10+ marathons and works out every day. I haven’t worked out in over two years, and that isn’t an exaggeration. We quickly realized that the difficulty level of the trek has far less to do with fitness, and far more to do with acclimatization.
It took us just over 4 hours to reach the summit. When we reached the top, we were completely and totally overwhelmed. We knew that there was a volcanic crater lake at the top, but we had no idea what it looked like or how big it was. We were astonished by what we saw. An enormous lake just appeared out of nowhere that was easily 300 feet wide. Standing at the top of the volcano, looking out across the volcanic crater lake, you look at the Congo and have a stunning view of two other volcanoes in the area. We enjoyed our lunch packs, took a much-needed and well-deserved nap, and then began our descent. It took about 3 hours to get back down. A long, hard day, but one of the best days of my life. Greatly looking forward to doing it again, maybe this time in the dry season ;)