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Returning to Lake Ruhondo

Returning to Lake Ruhondo

I left Kigali at 10:30 a.m. and made it to Musanze at midday. After grabbing something to eat from Crema Café, I proceeded to Ntaruka hydropower plant in Burera District. From there, I charted a boat to My Hill Ecolodge on the Musanze side of the shore. While at My Hill, I spent some time soaking up the view of the lake, its islands and the surrounding hills.

I was hoping to take photos of the volcanoes but it was foggy up there. A thick cloud-like obstruction covered the mountains. The only consolation was Mount Muhabura’s visible summit soaring higher than the thick blanket, more than 4,000 meters above sea level. Muhabura is the second tallest mountain in Rwanda behind Karisimbi.

Before I left the area, I hiked the hill found between lakes Ruhondo and Burera. The ’Twin Lakes’ moniker is often used to refer to the two water bodies. While standing there, I had a clear view of both lakes. On a good day, one can see all the five volcanoes but this wasn’t a good day.

Tourism has finally been reopened but I guess the new guidelines will further enforce the pre-existing social distancing between tourists and the mountain gorillas inhabiting the slopes of the volcanoes. After surviving decades of poaching and gorilla trafficking, the last thing these endangered great apes need is a possible exposure to the coronavirus. Forget the gorillas for now; all I needed was to see the volcanoes. I had traveled all the way from Kigali to see the Virunga Massif but they were nowhere to be seen.

The volcanic mountains I wanted to see usually "appear and disappear" depending on the weather. The first time I strolled around the manicured tea plantations of Nyabihu, I was awestruck by the view of Sabyinyo, Bisoke and Karisimbi. When I returned to the same area months later, none of those mountains was visible. Similarly, last time I visited the Twin Lakes area, I was astonished by the view of Muhabura and Gahinga. This time round, the two volcanoes could not be seen. Hopefully, on the day of my scheduled Muhabura hike next month, the rest of the volcanoes, the Twin Lakes and the surrounding landscape in Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC will be visible.

Lake Burera is higher altitude wise. A drone shot of the two lakes will give you an impression that Burera pours its content into Ruhondo. Turns out, the former indeed feeds her twin sister via a straw, the pipeline set up to drive the hydropower plant’s turbine. Apart from this inclined pipeline, nothing else connects the two lakes physically.

The past decade has seen massive investment in the energy sector with hydropower recording impressive growth. According to Rwanda Energy Group (REG), overall capacity is currently 226.7 MW. Hydropower contributes 48.3%.

The Twin Lakes area is a hiker’s paradise. Visitors can also indulge in boating, fishing, swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding. Accommodation facilities range from high-end to affordable options. There is something for everyone. Many refer to the two lakes as the hidden gems because they are relatively less popular. Gervais Hafashimana, the owner of My Hill Ecolodge, sees a lot of potential in tourism despite all the uncertainties in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. "It’s just a matter of time before this area becomes a tourism hotspot." He says confidently.

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