Last week, I sailed around different islands found in Nyamasheke District. These include Kirehe, Kihene, Tareri and Mushungwe. Some of these islands are inhabited. Their residents rely on boats to move from one island to another and use the same mode of transport during their frequent trips to the mainland.
My boat operator, Kaneza Jean Claude, has been ferrying passengers around the lake for over a decade. While most islanders use public boats, some make or buy their own small canoes and paddle their way to the destinations of their choice across the lake.
Canoe owners are like private car owners back in the city. They don’t need to board buses. Instead, they use their own rides. Unlike those who rely on public transport, they have the freedom to dock and set sail conveniently.
Contrary to popular belief, islanders are busy people. Some residents wake up at dawn and paddle their small vessels to different fishing spots. Then they buy fish from fishermen and proceed to the market.
Canoeing is physically taxing but these experienced paddlers do it effortlessly. It’s amazing how easy their strokes look. I was surprised to see them traversing the lake without life jackets. I know their swimming prowess is off the charts but I thought the regulations enforced by the authorities elsewhere apply to them too.
Canoes are engineless. They are propelled by their users’ physical strength. Canoeing is healthy and environmentally friendly. Canoe riders exercise while steering their vessels from point A to point B. This activity improves cardiovascular fitness and strengthens different parts of the body.
The author is visiting all 30 districts of Rwanda. His tour of Nyamasheke is sponsored by Nyamasheke District, The Click Creations, Tec Global Ltd, Elimo Real Estate Ltd and Exposure.