A test of Resilience
Climbing and hiking Muhabura Mountain in Kisoro district, south western Uganda is one adventurous and a worthwhile visit you should never miss.
Mount Muhabura is an extinct volcano in the Virunga Mountains on the border between Rwanda and Uganda. At 4,127 metres (13,540 ft) Muhabura is the third highest of the eight major mountains of the mountain range, which is a part of the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift. Muhabura is partly in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda and partly in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda.
The name Muhabura means "The Guide" in the local language, Kinyarwanda.
It is Uganda’s 3rd tallest mountain and provides hikers with a challenging ascent with its own rewards that include fantastic views of the surrounding countryside as well as wildlife including birds, Primates and Buffalos.
At Muhabura one has a choice to either hike the mountain after a gorilla tour in Mgahinga National Park or to do an independent hike.
How to Get There.
Accessing Mount Muhabura is not a hard task. Just take a car or bus and head toward Kisoro district in south western Uganda. Your destination is Kisoro town, which is about an hour and a half outside of Kabale town.
It is advisable for one who wishes to hike Muhabura to spend a night in Kisoro prior to the hike since it starts very early in the morning at around 7am.
In the morning, If you came by public means, then get any taxi or boda-boda to take you to Mgahinga national park headquarters. They are quite accustomed to trekkers coming out for a day hike. It is advisable to get the driver’s name and phone number so you can call him to come and pick you up when you’re finished, unless you want to make the long walk back to Kisoro to catch the bus, which your legs are unlikely to enjoy after hours of traversing steep terrain.
While travelling by car from Kisoro town pay some attention to the small village towns you pass as it is one of those small towns that you could easily drive right through without realizing it. Turn left on what is pretty much the only wide dirt road after travelers’ inn hotel that intersects the main road. Just look for the sign that directs you to the road to Mgahinga national park and take it.
Continue down this road for about 40 minutes. It will begin to narrow, but don’t worry, you are on the right path. Eventually you will come to the head office. Here is where you should park your car.
At the UWA offices
As you arrive, Uganda wildlife authority guides will spot you soon enough and they will come running out to you. You will be taken to the visitor center and assisted as requested. After paying for the activity, you will be given a guide to take you up to the peak of Mt. Muhabura and if you have a back packs then request for a porter who will help you carry your luggage.
Prior to your hiking, you will be subjected to a short briefing about the exercise you are yet to undertake.
The hike will typically take a full day. The trek starts at 07:00am from the park headquarters in Ntebeko, from where visitors will have to drive / be driven to the base of the volcano. Permits can be purchased on the day of the climb, no advance booking is necessary and porters can also be hired for the trek.
The Hiking experience
Mount Muhabura may not be as glamorous as other better-known tourist stops, but it certainly offers outdoor enthusiasts a fun, day long activity that’s near Kisoro and, best of all, it’s pretty darn cheap.
Climbing a mountain is pretty much like a marathon, it is wise not to begin with high speed. If you don’t adhere to this technic, you will soon start gasping for breath, yet there is a more demanding task still ahead of you.
The Muhabura climb is divided into two major stops before the peak, each with a resting hut. The first hut is at 3,116m above sea level. The second hut is at 3,855m above sea level. The peak is at 4,127m above sea level.
You will have to carry your food items for a picnic lunch on the mountain. If you are feeling weak better opt to stop their hike from there. It is not advisable to proceed the hike when your body cannot handle it any longer.
If you still feel the strength and stamina to continue the hike, please take on the challenge and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Beyond the second hut is when you need to draw out all the energy you can gather to keep going. At that point the mist does not help matters, and the cold may seem unbearable but with a persistent heart you can surely make it.
Getting to the summit will take between 5-6hours depending on the hiker's ability. At the top of Muhabura, one feels like he has overcome the toughest challenge ever.
From the top of the volcano one can enjoy fantastic views over the other five volcanoes and the “twin lakes”. There is a crater lake near the summit and the vegetation is usually drier than in other areas of the Volcanoes National Park, with giant heather thriving on the volcano’s slopes.
Selfies and group photos next to the Crater Lake are usually irresistible. It is also not a bad choice to relax and refreshen up as you prepare your mind for yet another tough exercise of sloping down.
Sloping down is usually advisable before 2pm so as to enable you get down before dark.
The return journey is not easy either. That is when one feels like flying so as to overcome the challenge but all in all the target is to get down.
At around 7 pm if all goes well, you will be gladly at the base of the mountain.
Why Hiking Muhabura is important.
Apart from the adventurous bit of it, a hike is also one health exercise you should consider. Physical fitness is one of the best ways of preventing diseases and regular exercises help in boosting your physical fitness. You will have all reasons to believe in your fitness if you hike Muhabura.
Kenneth Jogo Biryabarema, the Rubanda district chairperson who recently took on this hike says that such activities are good for office bearers who find it hard to do exercises on a daily basis.
“ Most officers spend hours seated on computers and doing their work. They find little time to walk, jog or either play other physical games. This trek would help them in burning a lot of calories in a single day which is good for their health,” says Biryabarema.
Trekking Muhabura gives you a champion feeling when you succeed. Most people would love to share pictures of themselves at the top of this mountain standing next to the crater lake. Since Tourism is an emotions inspired industry, the exciting feeling that comes with participating in such an activity is irresistible.
After conquering this Mountain in 2016, Hillary Chief Mugarura felt that he had all reasons to prove to his workmates and peers that he is a physically fit person.
“There was a lot of argument among my friends that I could not challenge this Mountain, to prove to them that I am a star, I had to undertake this great task,” says Mugarura.
Muhabura also offers thrilling views of the scenic beauty of its sorrounding in the cheapest possible way. The next time you think of where to spend your weekend from try out Mt. Muhabura hiking.