We woke up early the next morning and had breakfast in the dark. It was only a few hours drive to the Ugandan boarder. As we drove out of the campsite we could see the sun rising along the green lush hills of the tea estates. The road was full of runners again in pairs of two.
We crossed the boarder into Uganda and drove until we reached Kampala just as the sun was going down. We spent one night in Kampala at a backpackers called the red chilli which seems to be constantly full with overland trucks. We spent another night in dorms. So far no camping yet. The next day was an early start with the long drive to lake Buoyani which is situated close to the Rwandan boarder. As we got closer and closer the landscape became more hilly and lush green. We arrived to the campsite just as the sun was setting over the lake.
Uganda is home to the source of the Nile, one of the highest concentrations of primates in the world and over half of the worlds mountain gorilla population. But it is also a country that has been plagued by civil war and corrupt dictatorships. It has been home to ruthless dictators such as idi Amin and rebel warlords such as Joseph Kony and his infamous Lord’s Resistance Army who’s reign of terror continued in northern Uganda until 2005 when Kony and his rebel army fled to neighbouring DRC. However, despite the years of bloodshed most Ugandans are remarkably positive people. Uganda is made up of number of different tribes and non African Asians make up about 1% of the population. About 85% of the population is Christian and 12% of the population is Muslim mostly residing in the northern part of the country. Ugali is a staple food made from maze flour and it is used mostly as a vessel for a meat stew. I’ve had ugali on numerous occasions and have even master the technique of eating it with one hand, rolling it into a ball like shape and then squishing it into a scoop to dip into a hot stew. It’s delicious!
We spent 3 days in lake Bunyonyi and it was nice to be able to stay in the same place for a few days. I was able to finally unpack my bag and relax a little bit. My first morning at the lake I decided to go explore. I walked up to the village with Li. It’s a 2.5km walk uphill the entire way. A nice little workout first thing in the morning. On top of the hill sits a cute little cafe that overlooks the entire lake with a spectacular view of all of the islands. The cafe is completely out of place among the mud brick houses but a cold drink and fresh coffee after a strenuous hike was a welcome treat. In comparison to many other villages leading up to the lake this village is really quite nice. I imagine it would be prosperous to live in this area where the farmers can sell to all of the hotels and resorts situated on the lake. After finishing our refreshments at the cafe we decided to go explore some more of the village. Most of the houses have new tin roofs and there are even more than a few with electricity. The villagers must have thought we were lost walking up and down the roads reaching a dead end and then turning back again. As we passed by one home with a large gathering of people a few of the villagers called out to us and asked if we would like some mile mil porridge and something to drink. We thanked them and politely declined as we continued on our way. This is what I like or call African hospitality. It rarely happens in North America as we are so consumed with our own lives to take notice. This is one of the reasons I fell in love with this continent. Everyone is so willing to help their neighbour. This is a continent where most people have nothing and yet they are more than willing to share what little they do have and more than that they are happy to do so.
The following morning I went to check out the community project called Little Angels. This project consists of an orphanage and a primary school for underprivileged children. On the walk there which was through a village and up a very steep hill our guide explained a little bit of the history of the village and the surrounding villages on the lake. He talked about punishment island which is an island in the middle of the lake with only one tree where they used to send unwed pregnant women to die. Most of the girls died trying to swim back to shore. This went on until the mid 1950s. Our guide also talked about upside down island; the story goes that the villagers on the island were partying one night when an old women approached them and asked if one of them would be kind enough to take her across the lake. Snickering the villagers turned away from the old woman and continued to drink and party. Only one young boy offered to take the old woman across the lake. So they set out in a canoe and when they were half way across the lake the old woman told the boy to turn around, when he did he could see that the island had been turned upside down. No one on the island had realized that the old lady was a witch. Only the kind boy and a chicken were left alive to tell the story.
As we continued up the hill we stopped at an old woman named Freda’s house. The villagers call her the “crazy lady” and it’s meant as a term of endearment and pertains to her eccentric personality which I would quickly become introduced to. When you first meet Freda she literally feels you up. Now, usually I would require at least dinner and a bottle of expensive wine to allow this type of action to take place but for Freda I made an exception. After she finishes feeling up everyone in the group she picks one lucky lady to make into an African woman. As luck would have it that lady was me. First she taught us how she grinds grain into flour every day with two stones that she has used for the last 40 years. She then asked me to try. Freda told me I was a natural and gave me a score of 90% African woman. I had one more test to pass if I wanted to be a true African woman. The next test Freda would give me was basket weaving. I immediately knew I had this one in the bag as I had had a few basket weaving lessons from the women’s group I had worked with in Rwanda. I quickly gained Freda’s approval as 100% African woman and had her permission to stay in Africa as long as I would like. Freda told us a little about herself, she has perfect eye sight at the age of 87 and she had raised 8 children. 4 boys and 4 girls. She grinds enough flour each day to cook for herself and her 95 year old husband who still goes out on the lake each morning to catch fish. Little Angels helped her rebuild her house and they now bring tourists to her house on the way to the orphanage so that she has a market of people to sell her baskets to. In order to earn a bit of extra money she weaves one basket a day.
After visiting with Freda we continued onto the orphanage and primary school. The classes running are currently grades 1-3 and 3 more classrooms are under construction to teach grades 4-6. The project is currently fundraising to finish building the school and to raise money for the teachers salaries as all teachers working for the project are paid. Finally we got to sit in on a couple of classes and the children are brilliant. The entire organization was started by a 25 year old Ugandan boy 3 years ago when he was 22 years old. When he was younger he was sponsored by a British woman so that he could attend school. When he was 13 he was lucky enough to meet his sponsor and when he graduated from school he wanted to give back as a way to say thank you to her so he started Little Angels and there has been no turning back since. If you are interested in learning more about this project or making a donation to Little Angels I strongly encourage you to visit their website littleangelsuganda.org
The rest of my time at Bunyonyi was spent swimming in the lake and walking around the village. On my last day I discovered a shop selling bags and clothing by the edirisa crafts project. I located the project in town but unfortunately since it was a Sunday I was unable yo visit the project it’s self. It is a UK based organization that promotes Ugandan crafts by teaching new skills through training workshops, providing sales support to build businesses, introducing new and competitive designs and preserving and promoting traditional crafts. For more information about this project please visit edirisa.org.uk
The next morning we woke up early for the long drive back to Kampala. We overnighted in Kampala one more time and then proceeded onto Jinja the next morning. Jinja is a small town situated on the source of the Nile river. The city it’s self is not very big. It’s filled with craft markets and curio shops. We took a matatu into town to explore for a few hours and a moto taxi back. In Uganda the moto taxi’s do not have helmets for the passengers and this did nothing to ease my extreme fear of this terrible mode of transportation. I got on the back of the bike mumble pole pole (slowly, slowly in Swahili. Although Swahili is not officially spoken in Uganda this phrase is understood everywhere), closed my eye and held onto the driver for dear life. After what seemed to me like hours but in reality what was probably only minutes we reached the campsite again and spent the rest of the afternoon lazing around in the shade of the comfortable and covered campsite bar. The following day it was up early and back to Kenya.