God bless the internet, it lets me keep in touch with all the great people I've met from around the globe. A woman I met in Sri Lanka two years ago has recently relocated to Rwanda, and we've reconnected while I'm here. In fact, she kindly extended an invitation for me to join her and some friends a Lake Kivu this weekend. Let's hear it for making awesome friends!
Lake Kivu sits between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. "Kivu" actually means Lake, so the lake is effectively called "Lake Lake" (much like East Timor is really called "East East"). There's some remark to be made hear about duplicity in English naming conventions, but I'll let it lay. I'm not sure how big (on what scale) size-wise it is in the world, but it's quite deep and holds the 10th largest island.
But that's not the coolest part - according to our friends at Wikipedia, Lake Kivu is one of the worlds "exploding lakes" . Because it sits on one of Africa's seismic hotspots (the Rift Valley), Lake Kivu is sitting on enormous amounts of volcanic gas - mostly made up of methane and CO2. Scientists are afraid that triggers, such a landslides or seismic shifts, can upset the delicate balance of CO2 in the lake, causing it to reach saturation point and one day release enormous clouds of the stuff into the air. (It's happened two other times - in different lakes). As we've learned from climate change 101, massive amounts of carbon dioxide, of course, are suffocating. So far, nearly 2,000 people have died from other lakes - the time is ticking on Lake Kivu (which has many, many more people living around it).
Luckily, none of this happend while we were there. But still, the concept of a killer lake is pretty cool.
There are may points on the lake for visitors, but we chose to stay in Kibuye. The drive from Kigali is about two hours, on good - but windy and mountainous - roads. We left the capital city and found our way north-west, past mud homes chiselled into the hills, scraggly maize plants fighting for height, and streams of pedestrians. The weather has been hazy, with intermittent showers that kick up pollen (causing my nose to go haywire), but the sun peeked out now and again, welcoming us up north.
The lake itself is a deep teal, and surrounded by steep hills (much like all of Rwanda!). I hear there are beaches in Gisenyi, another point along the lake, but in Kibuye the shores are rocky, and covered in what looks like white-washed volcanic stones. The weather is cloudy, grey, but still warm - and still better than Minnesota.
We arrived mid-afternoon at the Bethane Presbyterian Lodge. For $10 a night, we each got a lockable room, twin bed, commode toilet, clean towels and a mosquito net. While waiting out (another) intermittent (and hardpouring) rainstorm, we had a late lunch (fish kebab and chips) and some enormous Primus beers. After the rain lifted, we wandered down to the shore and hired a boat to take us out to Amhoro ("Peace") Island, where we met Mama Josephine, and had sundowner beers on the beach. (I also got chased by a cow).
Dusk fell like a fleece blanket, warm and comforting. Too cloudy for stars, we hung on to the receding sunset, chatting and thinking about life. After the last light had leeched from the day, we headed back to the Bethane, lulled by the dull roar of the outboard motor.
More beer and some public readings of "Auntie's Guide to Being an Obedient Wife" left us in stitches until bedtime (some highlights include: 'don't mess with Rastas' and 'All young women are shameful'.) In the morning, we had continental breakfast on the terrace (during another intermittent rainstorm). After breakfast, we explored the other areas around the Lake and had lunch at the Cormoran Lodge. We were back in Kigali in time to catch some late afternoon weekend sun at the (normally non-lethal) pool.