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Discovering the Southern Flank of Lake Kivu

Discovering the Southern Flank of Lake Kivu

I was marveling at the view of Lake Kivu and the Congolese city of Bukavu from the balcony of my room. I had spent the night in the church-owned Centre Diocesain de Pastorale Inshuti. Rusizi people refer to this investment as simply Pastorale.

After breakfast, I strolled around on foot and observed more than what this post can possibly highlight.

For starters, I visited the port. A number of ships, bearing female names, had docked. The said ships included MV Claudine, MV Denise and MV Nathalie.

Months before this particular Rusizi trip, I had spoken to a gentleman namely Callixte Muganga, an assistant captain of a ship baptized MV Francine. Callixte revealed to me that the vessel he co-steers was named after an important woman in his employer’s life. I had heard such a story before. While visiting Mombasa five years ago, I learned from a gentleman working aboard MV Jolly Cristallo that the woman the cargo ship is named after occupies a special place in the heart of its owner.

People have been naming their ships after women for centuries. There are two prominent theories regarding the tradition of naming ships. The first hypothesis is linked to the era in which boats were named after goddesses. When societies began losing faith in gods and goddesses, the practice shifted to their female legends.

The second theory has something to do with the grammatical components of European languages. In German and French languages for example, objects are categorized as masculine or feminine. Old English was also characterized by masculine and feminine nouns. Many inanimate objects, including boats were feminine. As English evolved and got rid of this pattern, the feminine tag attached to ships was maintained.

Fast forward to 2019, ships are still being named after women. In modern societies, names are usually derived from important women in the owners’ lives — the likes of Francine and Jolly.

In other communities, ships are given names of powerful women featured in their folklore. Naming is done before the ship’s inaugural voyage following a special ceremony believed to ward off bad luck. Before the ship casts off, the chosen name is written on it and blessings are given. Carefully selected names are credited for safety and protection.

Back to Rusizi port, a group of young men were unloading crates and crates of beer from MV Denise. The consignment was shipped from Rubavu. MV Nathalie on the other hand was being stuffed with bags and bags of cement. The latter was scheduled to set sail in a couple of hours.

On the other side of the port, a middle-aged man who introduced himself as Papy was busy at work. Papy and his colleagues are shipbuilders. Details of my experience in Papy’s shipyard will be shared in one of my upcoming posts.

After learning one or two things about naval engineering, I walked to the border post. There is a bridge connecting Rusizi and Bukavu. It is here where the source of Rusizi River is traced.

When volcanic eruptions formed the Virunga massif many years ago, Lake Kivu’s northern outlet toward Lake Albert was blocked. As a result, the level of its surface rose and eventually the water surged over the edge. New altitude levels on the northern part of the lake reversed the flow of its outlet.

Rusizi River flows southwards toward Lake Tanganyika, spanning the distance of 117 kilometers. Its steepest gradient can be seen within the first 40 kilometers of its course. Along the way, it forms part of the border between Rwanda and the DRC. Farther downstream, it borders Burundi and the DRC.

Volcanic action responsible for the formation of the Virunga chain of mountains erased one river from the surface of the earth and formed a new one. The turmoil got rid of Lake Kivu’s gateway to the Nile water catchment area and created a new connection to the Congo River drainage system.

After touring the border post and the river bank, I returned to Pastorale and had lunch on the hotel’s rooftop restaurant. From the restaurant, I had a clear view of Karambo Peninsula and the islands of Gihaya and Nkombo. A visit to these islands is highly recommended.

The author is an adventurer on a mission to discover what Rwanda has to offer. Follow his awe-inspiring journey on this blog and

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