Lake Kivu is located on the border of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, in the town of Gisenyi. The bed is a part of the rift valley and is slowly being pulled apart, which also makes the lake really deep (480m). Goma is the most prominent town on the lake in DRC while Gisenyi is a big town in Rwanda. Both the towns overlook each other and you can easily see the houses and sometimes even people taking a walk.
My visit to Kivu was completely unplanned. To visit the mountains and Volcanoes National Park, I had made Musanze as my hub. I had a day with no planned activity and that's when I asked some locals in town to suggest me a place where I could swim. I heard the name of the lake a few times, but was convinced when one shopkeeper told me that it was truly an International lake :)
I did absolutely no internet research and decided to give it a try. The fact that it was reachable by bus and was only an hour away also made it very lucrative (bus travel is very affordable in Rwanda). I woke up early, had my usual breakfast and at seven was already on my way to Gisenyi.
To take a bus to Gisenyi, you need to go to the main bus stand and buy a ticket there. It costs only RFr 1100 ($ 1.6) for the beautiful one hour long drive. For the initial part the bus drives around the volcanoes, with green tea gardens on the other side. The view was breathtaking, but I couldn't really take a picture as the bus never really stopped. It does stop in some towns to pick other passengers.
Its best to get dropped off at the main bus stand in Gisenyi, take a bike taxi and go to the beach. It costs RFr 300 ($ 0.44) for the fifteen minutes ride.
The lake is huge and looks like sea in every way possible, including the waves. The fact that its 2700 km sq also helps :)
When I saw the beautiful clean waters, I immediately regretted my decision to come here unprepared for a swim. There were many groups of young guys and some girls splashing around in the water. At first I was simply happy making some slo mo videos of jumps and splashes, but I was already itching to get into water.
I have had rather embarrassing experiences of swimming in tight whites in the past (if you have also done it, you will know), so was extremely reluctant to do it again in a new country. Anyway, long story short, I got over all my inhibitions, stripped down to almost nothing and dived into the cool and soothing fresh water of the lake. The relief was instant and I was soon floating away to happiness.
When I came out half an hour later, I was welcomed by a bunch of young kids who wanted to have their pictures clicked with me. I reluctantly obliged but don't be worried, I won't torture anyone here with those very revealing pics (of me) here :)
It was super fun talking about technology with them, they all knew about iPhone 6 and its features and so on. Also they had questions about India, and I had questions about Rwanda. We sat in the sun while I dried and wore clothes again, and they told me all about their girl friends. They were surprised that I was not yet married, and were very keen to be invited to my wedding in India! By now, I was in mood for coffee and so took leave.
Finding a cafe is always easy in Rwanda, and I was directed to this place by the first guy I met on the street. I tried looking for a name, but couldn't find one. The coffee was good, the lady at the counter spoke beautiful French, and I had the place all to myself. It was close to noon when I decided to head out to the market and then back to Musanze. My one mug of coffee was RFr 1000 ($ 1.45)
There was more drama in store for me though. I met this fun bunch of kids and sat down on the street to take their pic. Even before I clicked, I heard some commotion and saw a policemen beating up a rouge looking guy. I decided to get back to my shot but the policeman came to me and gave me my wallet. I was too shocked to react and barely said thank you! My savior simply smiled and went away to save more poor (and foolish) souls like me. I took the shot, walked around a bit but somehow I didn't want to spend too much more time in the crowded market anymore.
The bus ride back home was fun but I had resolved to be more careful with my stuff now. Rwanda was certainly very safe and this incident hadn't changed my perception of the country, but I realized it was very important to be more pragmatic of a new country.