Rwanda Part III – The last three days

After a pleasant enough stay at the Kinigi Guest House we set off for Lake Kivu on Saturday 25 July.

Running along the Congolese border for 90km, the 2,370km² Lake Kivu is one of a string of ‘inland seas’ that submerge much of the Albertine Rift floor as it runs southward from the Sudan to Zambia.

It is very a beautiful lake, hemmed in by steeply terraced escarpments containing several peaks of 2,800m or higher, including the smoking outline of volcanic Nyiragongo in the far north, and it has long served as a popular weekend getaway for residents of this otherwise landlocked country. Kivu has a smaller surface area than the two most expansive Albertine Rift lakes, the more southerly Tanganyika and more northerly Albert. Nevertheless, a maximum depth of 480m and total water content of 333km3 places it among the world’s 20 deepest and 20 most voluminous freshwater bodies. In addition, the 285km² Idjwi Island, which falls entirely within Congolese territory, is the second largest inland island in Africa and tenth largest in the world.

Kivu supports an impoverished fauna by comparison with other large Rift Valley lakes, as a result of an unusually high level of volcanic activity. The geological record suggests that the release of methane trapped below the lake’s surface has resulted in regular mass extinctions every few thousand years. As a result, fewer than 30 fish species are known from the lake and, while this does include 16 endemics, it pales by comparison with the many hundreds of species recorded from Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika.

High methane levels probably also explain the complete absence of hippo and croc, and are also cited by those who claim that the lake has no Bilharzia (a claim contradicted by certain anecdotal reports from expatriates). Kivu’s attractively irregular shoreline, with its verdant slopes and sandy beaches, is served by three main resort towns. The most northerly of these, Rubavu/Gisenyi, has the best tourist facilities, partly because of its proximity to Volcanoes National Park.

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Once we arrived in a small town on the lake, Rubondo, we started looking around for accommodation. The places that made our shortlist with the help of our Bradt Guide, didn’t offer camping anymore, or their camping was inaccessible with our outfit. While looking at a room at one of the places we heard someone calling out to us. It was Aussie Gail that we met in Kapishya Hot Springs in Zambia in June. She told us she and husband Rob were camping at Eden Garden and that it was the only place they could find to camp at. We joined them there and stayed two days. Not because we enjoyed the camping grounds or the cold showers, but because it was so nice to see familiar faces.

We’ve been having problems with the electricity and charging system in the trailer and had to transfer of frozen items to the fridge/freezer in the car. At Eden Garden Hugo finally worked up the energy to have a look and found a few loose wires. In a place where only the children could get to, but that wouldn’t work. Rob, being substantially smaller than Hugo, volunteered to play Houdini and twisted himself into a knot and into the trailer. Thanks Rob, your help has sorted out our problems.

Saturday 25 July also marked my brother’s wedding to a lovely young woman, Natasha. Our family not only gained her, but also her gorgeous children, Kaylee and Ethan. We were very sad to have missed sharing in the joyous occasion and it helped to have company.

On our first morning here we woke up with a soaking wet tent and a dam of water on the floor. We think we have used enough swear words by now thanks to Henk Bannink and his Ultimate Overland that he must be walking around with a permanent pain in the butt. So many of the things they have done were pathetically designed and have failed, we have lost count. Lesson: please do not use them if you value your sanity.

From the lake we took the shortest road back to Kigali, and drove straight to La Galette for lunch and fresh meat for the freezer. Then we took on DHL, another episode in the laptop-saga. We spent our last night in Rwanda at the Civitas Hotel, they had good food, spacious rooms and a decent breakfast.

The friendly staff at the hotel called our room late that evening to tell us that we must please bring our car into the courtyard. It was standing outside in the street and the courtyard is used by the bar and restaurant, but everybody has left for the night and they thought it would be safer inside.

In the morning we went back yet again to DHL and then left for Kenya via Tanzania.

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