All photos in this essay shot with a cellphone.
She straddles the Uganda-Rwanda border with a silent majesty. Muhabura (The Guide), an extinct volcano (or so they say), whose date of last eruption is unknown, was completely covered with mist and clouds when we arrived in Kisoro at mid-day on Wednesday January 11, 2017. Then, slowly, the mischievous mountain revealed herself, a dark triangular-shaped mass that rises to an elevation of 4,127 meters (13,540 ft) to claim third tallest position among the eight volcanoes that form Ibirunga chain of mountains.
I look at her for the nth time, and feel the way I did the first time we met decades ago. She is beautiful, with undiminished majesty and speaking through silence. Same feeling – whether seen from the Rwanda or Uganda side.
By the way, it is Muhabura, NOT Muhavura. It is one of the Birunga or Ibirunga, NOT Virunga. The “v” spellings are European distortions that are excusable when our European friends err, but not an option for Africans who take pride in their identity. Muhavura is meaningless. Muhabura is a Kinyarwanda word that means “the guide.” The lady has guided travellers for millennia. Who needs GPS?
How old is Muhabura? So old that she has seen humanity settle Africa and move to the corners of the Earth. So old that she smiles with the experience of one who has seen human folly as nations and kings and other rulers have come and gone, leaving rivers of blood but little trace of themselves. She has the confidence that she will be around long, long after today’s potentates have been erased from human memory.
What secrets does she keep? What is she yet to see? One just never gets enough of Muhabura, and her sisters – Gahinga and Sabyinyo which are easily visible from Uganda and Rwanda.
The Sun sets, all too soon, its orange glow enhancing the power and majesty of Muhabura. She may be silent – perhaps forever- but she rules Rwanda and Uganda- with no term limits.
The folks who live here wonder what excites a grown man to click, click, click at the site of this….. the perfect companion for Muhabura.
One must see all 8 ladies in the Birunga chain – the others being Karisimbi, Mikeno, Bisoke, Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira.