The road to Nyamyumba hot springs meanders on a hill alongside the lake, stretching 7 kilometers south of Rubavu District’s headquarters. Popularly known as amashyuza among members of the local community, the hot springs are believed to be endowed with healing power.
Nyamyumba hot springs are created by underground water that bubbles its way to the surface of the earth through porous rocks. The mineral-rich hot water is gathered into two ponds attracting a good number of people everyday. Some of those who have discovered the puzzling fountain don’t see the need to consult doctors anymore. However, Rubavu District officials have been quoted repeatedly by different media agencies sensitising people to seek medical care from licensed health centers and hospitals.
My Rubavu-based tour guide, Desire Izibyose is a firm believer of the curative effects of the hot springs. Many residents of Nyamyumba Sector share his belief. According to them, amashyuza cures back pain, headache, flu and skin diseases among others. They also credit the hot springs for strengthening weak muscles and removing toxic substances from the body. When consumed orally, many believe this mysterious water heals sore throat, hangover, constipation and urinary track infections.
Although I doubted this healing notion, I chose to indulge in amashyuza spa experience and the insoluble heat lifted my moods on that chilly day. Near boiling point water was being discharged from the ground a few feet from my baffling hot tub. This is where orally administered water is fetched by those who embrace its medicinal tenet. The bubbling water is also used to boil eggs and simmer potatoes, bananas, fish and other types of foodstuff.
Where does this water come from and what makes it hot? Let me try to break down this phenomenon without sounding as scientific as your boring Geology professor. When rain water enters the ground and sinks deeper towards the mantle of the earth, its temperature rises. The deeper this water goes, the hotter it gets. This is because there is a very hot fluid substance down there. Your old teacher used to call this fiery molten stuff magma. As the heat gradient rises with depth, it builds steam pressure which in turn pushes geothermally heated water through faults back to the surface of the earth. In volcanic areas like the Kivu basin, discharged water is often at or near boiling point.
Societies in different parts of the world have demonstrated confidence in the healing power of these springs since time immemorial. There are numerous folklore testimonies linking hot springs to therapeutic benefits. May be this is just a myth but converts claim hot springs therapy is backed up by credible studies.
In ancient Roman and Greek communities, soaking in hot springs was considered highly beneficial health wise. In 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt of the United States built what was popularly known as the Little White House at the hot springs of Georgia. The President used to pay frequent visits to the area for treatment of his paraplegic condition. In Japan today, hot springs are flocked by numerous health freaks seeking to improve their blood flow and metabolism. Commonly known as onsens, the Japanese hot springs cure digestive disorders, constipation, diabetes, gout and liver malfunctions too, according to believers. In many other parts of the world, hot springs have been used as sources of natural medicine and prevention for centuries.
I am not in a position to agree or disagree with supporters of this remedy. What I can testify is that amashyuza spa has a relaxation effect. May be that’s all I needed to treat my sore body after hours of hiking in the mist the day before.
Whilst appreciating the good work done by a local cooperative in charge of maintenance and management of Nyamyumba hot springs, I saw the need to upgrade amenities and give the facility a much needed face lift.