In this latest series, I will be going through all the countries I’ve travelled to on my mission to visit every single country in the world. In this article, we will be covering country #82: The Democratic Republic of the Congo. If you haven’t gotten a chance already, read this story first to find out why I’m trying to visit all 193 UN-recognized countries.
When people think of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they think of Ebola. But is there more to this country than a deadly virus?
VIDEO – Country #82: the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Blog post on the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Complete 9 Days Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda Spending Breakdown
- 9 Days of Travel To Rwanda, Uganda, and Democratic Republic of Congo
- Mount Nyiragongo Volcano Trek – Hiking Up An Active Volcano in Democratic Republic of Congo
Crossing from Rwanda to the Democratic Republic of the Congo
We were feeling nervous about the idea of crossing over to the DRC. Back in 2018, a British couple got kidnapped and was held for ransom in the DRC. Virunga National Park ended up paying for the hostage to be set free. Since then, they’ve bolstered security for tourists going to this country.
Crossing over from the Rwanda side was painless; but now, we would be walking through no-mans-land towards the DRC side of the border.
In the middle of the pathway to the DRC immigration office was a large handwashing station equipped with a megaphone. In Swahili, the megaphone was saying “wash your hands or die of Ebola”.
After washing our hands on the ominous hand washing station, we entered the DRC immigration office.
Surprisingly, we got through immigration without any problems. We expected corruption and an attempt to shake us for bribes but the officers were professional. This is a good sign so far.
As soon as the Virunga National Park office opened up, we entered to fill out the necessary forms and waited for the jeep to take us into Goma.
Driving through Goma
Not long after, they loaded us in the Virunga National Park jeeps. From there, they would be taking us to the Virunga National Park office where we would meet the armed rangers who will be escorting us on the drive towards the base camp of Mount Nyiragongo.
Driving through Goma was a surreal experience. This place is real Africa and not many tourist pick this as their first travel destination.
I felt emotionally moved by this whole experience since DRC is very high up on my travel bucket list. The last time I felt this way was when I saw the Pyramids of Giza and when I witnessed Angel Falls.
After reaching the office, we met the armed guards and who escorted us all the way to the Mount Nyiragongo basecamp via the company jeeps.
The brutal trek up Mount Nyiragongo
As soon as the rest of the trekking group have gathered together, we began the ascent up Mount Nyiragongo. At first, the trek was deceivingly easy as the incline was not drastic.
Not long after, we started descending up the mountain and the incline started to affect my mind. To make matters worst, it started raining and we were drenched. The ponchos did little to shelter us from the downpour.
Massive headaches plagued me the higher we hiked. I was the last person in the group because headaches were slowing down my progress. I don’t respond well to high altitude it seems.
After 4.5 hours, I finally made it to the top. I had to rest in the huts at first to gather myself. The pain from the headache was brutal.
Great view of the Mount Nyiragongo crater during the day
Once I felt like I have recovered, I made my way to the summit to witness the crater. Smoke was coming out of the lava cake and you can see lava pouring from a mini-volcano on the side.
My sister then informed me that it was time to eat and so we gathered in a nice, warm, and toasty hut.
Delicious food on the summit
It was freezing on the summit of Mount Nyiragongo and I welcomed the warmth of the kitchen. One by one, we all removed our socks to dry by the fire. Simultaneously, the cook for the trek provided us with warm soup and rare steak.
The steak was difficult to eat and we requested the cook if he can cook it longer. The friendly young cook complied and tried to cook the steak until it was medium rare.
Breathtaking view of the Mount Nyiragongo crater at night
When the sun came down, we went back up the crater to enjoy the view of the volcano.
The lava lake was beautiful and we were in awe as we witnessed the eruption of the small volcano to the side of the lava lake.
Nico, the German trekker in the group and the man responsible for the beautiful picture of the eruption mini-volcano also began taking pictures of the star and the city of Goma.
It was a magical night in one of the greatest adventure travel I have ever done in my life.
Sleeping in huts
At night, Karen and I did our best to make ourselves comfortable in the hut. Despite the hut being clean and warm, we still felt cold because our clothes were wet from the rain. Sleeping at high altitudes also proved to be difficult. We did our best to close our eyes and rest up before the big trek down the following day.
After everyone took turns using the open-concept outhouse overlooking Goma, we ate a quick breakfast and began the descend.
Hike back down
The hike down was nowhere near as bad as the hike up. The further down we got, the better I performed.
In what felt like record time, we got back down to base camp in half the time it took to get to the top.
We took a few group pictures with the porters and rangers before we said our goodbyes to our fellow trekkers.
Trouble in Goma
On the drive back to the DRC and Rwanda border, we had some unexpected problems come up. At one of the toll gates that the locals are manning, they refused to let our vehicle through. He claimed that Virunga National Park failed to pay them when in fact, he is just being greedy trying to extort money from the park rangers.
It took about 20-30 minutes of them arguing before the jeep finally got through and we were on our way back to the border.
My sister and Karen purchased some local currencies as a souvenir and from there we proceeded to cross back to Rwanda.
Travelling to the Democratic Republic of Congo is hands down one of my most favourite travel experience ever. At the very least, it’s in my top 5 most favourite adventure of all times. Virunga National Park is one of the oldest national parks in the world and is well worth the visit.
My only regret is doing my gorilla trekking in Uganda as opposed to the DRC. I really wished we had done our gorilla trekking here instead. If you ever travel in this region of the world, please don’t make the same mistake as me and get the package to trek Mount Nyiragongo and do the gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park. You won’t regret it.