Days 16-17: Kibuye

We had the most beautiful weekend: sunshine, lake water, big dreams and happy tears.

It all took place in Kibuye, an amazing little town on a bay of Lake Kivu. We stayed in a hotel overlooking a view of green hills rising up and out of brilliant blue water to form islands. Somebody said it looked like the type of location Dr. Seuss would have dreamt up. Personally, I thought there was something kind of other-worldly about it all—like we’d arrived on some idealized planet far away.

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We arrived early in the afternoon Saturday, after driving through terraced hills, along a road lined with people lining on their way to the market. We made a pit stop to scramble over a creek and admire a roadside waterfall. I felt full of energy and happy and young.

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Allan arranged for us to rent a couple motor boats and guides who took us out into the water, dodging around the many islands and eventually bringing us to one that they told us was a “bird sanctuary.” We wobbled out of the boat and our guides led us upwards, along a poorly defined path with grass and branches nipping at our ankles.

They took us deep into the foliage and then we emerged on the other side of the island, looking out through a small gap in the trees. The guides began loudly clapping and what had looked like low-hanging fruit stirred and scattered, clouding the sky with beating black wings.

Hundreds—maybe thousands—of bats. Not birds.

It was all pretty spectacular though: the sun, the water, the islands in the distance, and the countless bats, their bodies heavy and round beneath wide, almost-translucent wings.

We half-climbed, half-slid back down the hill, past a group of cows and their herder. Probably the only inhabitants of the island besides the bats.

As a reward for making it down the hill, N. and his classmate A. picked us small yellow fruits from a tree. Guava, they said.

N. bit into the thick, lemon-like skin to reveal the inside, packed full of seeds resembling the inside of passion fruit. He handed it over to me and I bit in. It was sweet and delicious. Even the skin was tender and edible.

From that island we took a boat to a couple of ridges the guides called “Peace Island.” A few brave would jumped into the water, but the sun was beginning to get low and the air was cooling. We soon headed back to the hotel.

Everybody was feeling celebratory as we headed for dinner, and almost all of us ordered gigantic beers or mixed drinks to go with our meals. People were beginning to look rosy-cheeked by the time we finished eating and Allan suggested we move to a lounge beside our rooms. We ordered tonic waters at the bar and Allan retrieved the bottle of gin he’d snuck onto the premises.

We gathered, cozily into one room and sat in a circle and talked. We were all giddy with sun and alcohol and friendship and new places. We sat leaning into each other, comfortable as family, all of us sharing the same love-filled moment.

We spent today, Sunday, sun bathing and swimming. We rented canoes and ate cheeseburgers and fries from the hotel restaurant. Everybody except for N., D., and A., had sun burnt skin by the end of the day. I felt like a kid, playing in the sun, exhilarated by life.

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The bus ride back was quiet, all of us completely relaxed and content after our weekend getaway. N. and I sat together and alternated between napping and short bursts of conversation, discussing his beautiful country and all the other beautiful places in the world that maybe, if we’re lucky, we might one day see.

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