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Camping in the shadow of the volcanoes

Camping in the shadow of the volcanoes

When I unzipped my tent in the morning, I gazed at Mount Bisoke and felt the temptation to climb it. I was camping at Bisoke Beer Garden but hiking wasn’t part of my itinerary.

The mountain was calling. It was hard to ignore that call. I felt like putting on my hiking boots and pursuing the trail that leads mountaineers to Bisoke Crater Lake. Yes, there is a lake on top of this volcano.

Before I slept, I had a conversation with one member of the local community. He spoke to me on condition of anonymity because he didn’t want to be responsible for the statements made after emptying several bottles of Virunga Mist. It started as small talk around the campfire over a drink. Eventually, our discussion started revolving around Mount Bisoke and its stunning crater lake.

I wanted to know when and how Bisoke Crater Lake was formed. According to Wikipedia, the lake was formed in 1957. Many tour companies’ websites seem to trust this source but I once met someone who disagrees. It has been three years since I spoke to him. His name is Fidele from Bisate area, outside the park. He told me with conviction that he swam there in 1954. Fidele means ’always faithful.’ Faithful people always tell the truth, don’t they?

As mentioned above, my encounter with Fidele happened three years ago but I still have a clear recollection of our conversation. I remember telling him that it’s not allowed to swim in that lake. "Well, swimming was allowed in 1954." He responded.

Fast forward to 2020, the anonymous friend with whom I shared a drink by the campfire didn’t want to agree or disagree with either Wikipedia or Fidele. Unlike Fidele, he wasn’t there in the 1950s. He honestly admitted that he didn’t have an answer to my question. However, based on the stories heard from his father, he guessed the lake was older than what its Wikipedia page claims. That brought us to my second question: How was it formed?

How was Bisoke Crater Lake formed?

I don’t know but I can guess.

Go ahead, guess.

When the volcanic eruption took place many years ago, the vent through which lava was emitted created a basin on top of a massive heap of volcanic soil. Over time, rainwater filled the basin and formed the lake.

My anonymous friend is very thoughtful but he likes to play it safe. Before he answered every question I threw his way, he said, "I don’t know but I can guess." Maybe, Wikipedia should put a disclaimer "I don’t know but I can guess" on every page. After all, the platform uses anonymous contributors.

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