The end for my 4 day Rwanda gorilla trekking tour is the Virunga Safari Lodge, around seven kilometers from Kinoni and 36 from the Volcanoes National Park. The location, on a peak between Lake Burera and Lake Ruhondo, superb inland seas untouched by tourism, is enchanting. The five-kilometer road up to the lodge is severely rutted and the rain has caused mudslides; children appear as though from nowhere to wave and call out as we slow yet steady progress up the mountain. The roads may be in bad condition, but it is a great feat of designing, now and at times carved into the sheer mountainside.
‘Welcome to the highest point of the world,’ says David Magyezi, the Virunga Safari Lodge general manager, as he welcomes me on arrival.
The top of the world is an extremely socialized place with excellent, landscaped grounds continually encompassed in mist. The main lodge, with its bar, dinning room and wide, wraparound verandahs, is made of stone like some invigorated castle; from it there are commanding views of five of the national park’s volcanoes, impertinent-looking peaks lined up in a grand parade. In the early morning, voices rise up from the misty valleys below as villagers get ready to work their plots of land before the heat turns out to be too fierce. Up here on the top of the world, it is always cool and wonderful.
My room is one of just eight self contained cottages with hand-carved wooden windows and private verandahs. With no power (there is solar power in the nighttimes), TV or radio, and poor cell telephone reception, it quickly becomes a calm sanctuary from the rest of the world.
Everybody staying at the lodge (the average is a few nights) is here to see the mountain gorillas, which adds a feeling of shared purpose to dinner at the candle lit, public table. Most of the visitors are American, the youngest honeymoon couple from Texas, the eldest a great lady in her late eighties from Florida. For every one of us, this is a trip of a lifetime, for many the realization of a lifelong dream.