Seeds of Peace at Lake Muhazi

Lake Muhazi is 60 km long but nowhere is it wider than 5km. Its serpentine shape is broken by numerous spidery tendrils stretching along former tributaries. It is a pretty, if not beautiful, lake with abundant bird wildlife (or words to that effect so says the Bradt Guide).  

The eastern end of Lake Muhazi is just under two hours north-west of Nyakarambi by express  mini-bus and about  three  hours  normal service as Mark and I  found to our cost on the return journey.

Saturday morning dawned dull and threatening but we set off around 8.45 and headed for our appointed rendezvous, with four fellow volunteers, at Kayonza bus station, about 8km from our final destination.

The Bradt Guide is less than flattering in its description of Kayonza; “this small, rather scruffy settlement …situated 78km from Kigali” which “serves as a passable base for exploring Lake Muhazi and Akagera National Park.”     

I would agree that it falls into the unremarkable category but ‘scruffy’ is harsh. Rwanda is an incredibly clean and litter free country and I haven’t been anywhere that warrants that epithet.

Our weekend companions were running late (the ladies had problems with their packing!) so there was time to discover the small unprepossessing but clean Café Al Rahmaan, run by a very pleasant and welcoming Muslim gentleman.

We ordered a late breakfast of tea and amandazi. Amandazi approximate to doughnuts but without any sugar-coating or jam in the middle. Let us say they are substantial, suitable for dunkin’ and fill a hole. 

African tea is an acquired taste and not to my liking. It is made with hot milk, sugar and ginger served in a huge thermos, as do all hot drinks. Some flask manufacturer with an eye for the main chance made a killing out here.

It took me three attempts to get unadulterated tea made with hot water, no milk, sugar or ginger, but we got there in the end. When the bill arrived it was itemized as dry tea!   

As soon as our friends clambered off the bus from Kibungo we immediately hopped on board another for the ten minute drive to the lake and our accommodation at the Seeds of Peace Centre. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but the centre had come well recommended and it didn’t disappoint.

It was situated directly on the lake shore. Mark and I shared a well maintained, recently decorated rondawel style chalet, with a large living area, separate bedrooms and a bathroom with a hot shower.  A veranda offered extensive views across the lake and was ideal for bird watching. One night with breakfast cost us the princely sum of 10,000 RWF (£10.00) each!

Lake Muhazi is a twitcher’s paradise and during the course of the weekend we saw kites, a grey crowned crane, pelicans, numerous pied kingfishers, and bright yellow weaver birds that make the most delicate of nests which hang from the branches like Christmas decorations.

We also spotted, spotted neck otters gliding and diving backwards and forwards from the reedy shoreline.

The ‘Seeds’ or ‘Pipes of Peace’ as we rechristened it, after a memorably dodgy number from the McCartney catalogue, is run by the Episcopal Church and the people were extremely friendly. Unfortunately it was dry.

However we had done our homework and a couple of hundred yards down the road was the Jambo Pleasure Beach where we were welcomed by two large wooden giraffes framing the gateway to a lakeside bar and restaurant with a penchant for country and western music. I lost count of how many times I heard Joline and Coward of the County!   

The weather could have been better. There were several downpours but Sunday morning was bright and sunny for a couple of hours. It was long enough for a leisurely walk around the fringes of lake, where the locals were fishing, doing their laundry, or following the strange muzungus and trying to engage them in conversation.   

Finally, there was just time for a Jambo special toasted cheese sandwich with chips coated in spicy tomato sauce and one last ice-cold Mützig before we made tracks back to Nyakarambi. It had been a very pleasant, and indeed peaceful, weekend, enjoyed by all.


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