On part II of our forever journey from Uganda to the Congo our crew headed to Gisenyi, Rwanda on the coast of Lake Kivu. This rather large lake is one of the “Great Lakes” of Africa and lies just below Virunga National Park on the border of Rwanda and The-Motherfucking-Congo. This should be the official country name as far as I’m concerned because you can’t just casually drop ‘Congo’ into a sentence without giving people a bit of a heads-up. After the grueling 12-ish hour bus ride from Uganda to Kigali followed by our group cry fest at the National Genocide Museum it was a VERY long and sober couple hour bus ride to Gisenyi. We eventually arrived at the bus station and navigated through the crowd of ubiquitous money changers that seem to magically appear at every bus station or border crossing. We then somehow managed to find and organize a large group of motorcycle taxis to take us all together to our housing and off we went. As we twisted through the green hills from the bus station toward our tropical resort, the lake gloriously popped into view. I use the terms ‘tropical’ and ‘glorious’ because in the middle of Central Africa you don’t expect THIS…
OK bro you’re trippin’ with the color sliders in post-editing…you might be thinking. Nah man! Other than kicking up the surrounding green for accent purposes that was absolutely the color of the water!!!
Apparently this lake heard we were coming and just days before our arrival had what is scientifically referred to as a ‘whitening event’… #thanksDanny. In reading about the phenomenon I have determined it has something to do with a unique species of phytoplankton, or maybe temperature changes, also acidification, and probably calcium carbonate *waves hands crazily* all leading to this crazy panel on the left…
NASA documented the transition because that’s just the kinda shit NASA does apparently. Frankly I think it was a sign from above. This wasn’t supposed to be a spiritual journey so much as a medical school book-end trip, but Jesus and Science clearly had other plans for me.
Upon settling in we took a walk around the cliffs above the water and a couple of us dared to take a dip in the lake from a nearby lake-side hotel (see right). The thought of contracting schistosomiasis, or “snail fever” as it is known, was plenty enough deterrent for me. In fact our dear friend Danny Low had contracted that very parasite but a few weeks prior. Alas Danny’s friends understood that you only get to swim in Rwanda so often. That evening we had dinner and met the guide team that would be ushering us along the Rwanda-Congo border, through the border town of Goma to Virunga National Park and Mount Nyiragongo. The team consisted of Daniel and Rock or “Dan the Man” and “Dwayne ‘The Real Rock’ Johnson” as they assuredly did not prefer to be called. It may have been my imagination, but as Daniel described his extensive history guiding people in Rwanda and the Congo I believe he casually name-dropped a “Diane” as one of his first clients. I suppose this was probably in reference to famed primatologist Dian Fossey who was a complete boss, but was in fact savagely murdered in Rwanda while studying gorillas… inauspicious start.
In general you learn to roll with the unforeseen punches Africa can throw at you, but I actually felt relatively comfortable with the plan presented to us. It seemed like our guides were very experienced and knew their way around these countries and more importantly the country borders. That and we had a pretty down-ass group that could have gotten mugged for all our belongings and found a way to still make a trip of it. I have to take a moment to give much due props to the homie Danny Low for arranging the entire trip, compiling an awesome group of people, and just being a generally awesome dude. Danny is one of the very few people in medical school who truly exemplifies the humanistic traits I believe are most important in life. In fact I consider him to be one of the few peers who I regularly learn from.
As the night drew to a close, Casey and I retired to our tents. In less than 24 hours we’d be in The-Motherfucking-Congo hiking up a Motherfucking Volcano.
God and Newton willing…
“You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan.
And the next five years trying to be with your friends again…”
– LCD Sound System – ‘All My Friends’