Ever since I started hearing about the Nyiragongo Volcano from other travelers in East Africa and seeing the images I knew it was something very special. However, it is located in a country that doesn’t have the best reputation, The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As I am from Colombia and I know all too well about countries with bad reputations (often based on outdated or biased information), as is the case with Colombia, I decided to go to DRC!
I crossed the border from Rwanda in the morning and encountered my first taste of the DRC in the border town of Goma, which was actually destroyed and buried under lava from the eruption of the Nyiragongo Volcano in 2002. The town itself has traces of this event as some streets were never repaved, next to developed avenues and neighborhoods and you even see volcano danger level boards like some other places have around the world for SPF warning.
Less than an hour drive away from Goma you reach the starting point of the trek where you show your permit and get briefed and you meet the rest of the people climbing with you. From this starting point to the top of the Mountain is about 5 hours of mostly volcanic rock trail, with occasional dirt and mud trails surrounded by lush green and beautiful vegetation. I came in the rainy season so there was intermittent rain and beautiful mist and clouds and beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Kivu in the distance.
When you reach the top of the mountain you are rewarded with an amazing view of the crater of the active Volcano and you get to see from nearby the amazing lava that bubbles, smokes, makes noises and constantly moves and looks different. At the top is also a camp where you spend the night in a type of cabins/or permanent structure tents.
The best time to appreciate the volcano crater is at night when the contrast is bigger between the darkness and the mesmerizing colors of liquid fire and magma.
What to pack for your Volcano Trek
-Hiking footwear or sneakers/trainers
-Rain jacket or poncho or things to keep you dry in the rain
-A set of dry clothes to change into when you get to the top as you’ll probably be wet when you get to the top
-Clothing for cold weather as it was cold at night (even hats, gloves, if you have)
-Sleeping bag, that the tour company you arrange with should provide or you can rent
-Food and snacks if your tour doesn’t provide it
-A headtorch/headlamp/flash-light is always useful
-A camera if you want to document your experience
-A powerbank if you need as no places to charge your things during the trek.
How to get to Goma
The town is situated on the border with Rwanda and the border city there is called Gisenyi. The border opens as early as 6am, but if you need a visa you must wait until 8am to get your visa if you don’t have one and cross into Goma. While in Goma you can get around by motorcycle taxis that are affordable.
What to do in Goma
Visiting Mount Nyiragongo and seeing the gorillas are the best activities to do in this region. I did my volcano trek with Ubuntu Voyages and I had a wonderful experience with them. The owner is also a really special guy and his way of sharing his country with others and he’s an example of the concept of ubuntu. While it is usually just the place people pass through or as their base for the Volcano trek and the Gorilla Tracking, it is a really colorful place to explore. I stuck around a few days to walk around and explore and my favorites were the market surrounding the mosque near the city center. It is incredibly raw and colorful . People are selling charcoal with the soot on their faces, next to the people selling grains and spices and even selling live chickens they hold by their legs.
Where to stay in Goma
There are several accommodation options in Goma, but most are not so budget friendly. I was terrified before going as people said you couldn’t find anything for less than $50 USD. However I found that wasn’t the case. Tony’s Guesthouse which is the most affordable option I found ($15USD for a room with external shared bathroom), and for something nicer Bravoure Hotel which has good rooms with private bathroom starting at $30 USD.
My stays in the aformentioned Guesthouses were sponsored, as was my volcano trek, but of course all views are my own.
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