18.01.2017 - 22.01.2017 88 °F
Aaaaaand back in Jinja. Done. Finito. No mas Pleasure Cruiser.
I took the gal down to the Shell Station car wash so I could give her back in style. I was met with lots of "whooof"'s and "oh my ghud"'s.
Took them three hours to clean. They had to take it across the street to spread the dust away from the parking lot. I'm weirdly proud of that.
So! We parted in Kampala yes? From there I left early to pick John up across town and head for Lake Bunyonyi by way of Kibale. A good 7 hour drive on oh so heavenly paved roads. I felt quite spoiled tooling along at 100 kph. We spent the time, in part, making Mzungu songs out of existing tunes. "I'm Proud To Be A Mzungu" (country), "Hey Mzungu"(Beetles) "Hey Hey We're Mzungus" (you get it). We also crossed the equator and took the obligatory tourist photo standing on either side. There is a stark difference between touring in the south and the north. President Museveni is from Mbarara you see. The roads are excellent. The homes are obviously higher quality. The electricity is stable. In Mbarara there are malls that aren't even being used yet. He gives generously to this region in all manner of ways. The north and east...not so much.
Lake Bunyonyi is just a gem. Some folks like to learn all about a country before they travel and that's a great way to go. Me, I just go. Before I went to Peru I didn't even know it was on the coast, which I was harangued over most appropriately. That should clue you in to my style, ignorant as it may seem. The reason I bring this up is to say, again, how surprisingly diverse Uganda turns out to be. The previous week I was in desert lands where a tall tree is a welcome sight. Not sand dune desert mind you but proper arid, begging for water, dustiness. And here I am at a 900 meter deep lake with 29 islands dispersed within, offering the kind of view that pictures will never give justice to. My stay was spent at Lake Bunyonyi Eco Resort. I have to say at this point that if you are comfortable camping in your tent you can experience quite the luxury setting for a nominal cost. I was paying about 8 dollars to camp. I think the rooms cost around 80 US for low season. One can get the same service, food, view etc. for a tenth of the price for lodging.
It's just so pretty there really. The climate is much cooler and it's greeeeen. I had missed my green. To further the surreal experience the professor who owns the island had various native animals shipped in. So here we have Waterbucks, Zebra, Kudu and a couple Buffalo as I hear. I experienced all but the buffalo, thanks be.
One can walk alone around the entire island in about an hour at a good pace. I did it twice and could have gone for thirds.
Every Island has it's own story, usually revolving around the drinking of locally brewed beer. We stayed on Crazy Man Island. There is also Upside Down Island, Punishment Island etc.
Punishment Island I saw during a boat tour. It was used as a dump for unmarried pregnant women. The water has eroded much of the soil but I think it was still quite small and barren when the practice was active. Some women were left to die, others were rescued by men who didn't want to pay the dowry to have a wife. There was no stigma for picking up a woman from Punishment Island. One man garnered 15 wives just checking every week to see if there were any new exiles. The practice was stopped quite some time ago of course. The 60's I believe but could be wrong.
I'm not at the point yet of choosing pictures but if I happen to post yet ANOTHER zebra picture it will only be due to the fact that they are so misplaced amidst such verdant flora. One really never sees that.
This is another place one could get stuck in for some time so be careful should you ever go.
For me it was two nights and off again. John had gone Gorilla trekking during out stay and brought back some great footage and pics. I lived his $600 permit vicariously and he said it was absolutely worth it.
After two nights I split company with John and reeled headlong back into the rocky, dusty, serpentine roads that lead to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. I know, name is a bit outdated due to the fact that many penetrate it daily, but it's no peach to get to. Very rewarding for the challenge though. BAD roads, steep drops aching for miscalculations in breaking power, but just gorgeous in its remote rainforest-ness.
Maybe there are droves of SUVs passing to and fro during peak season but for me I was alone save perhaps 4 other cars the whole drive.
I was headed for Buhoma, one of two main bases for trekking in the forest. Lord bless the SuperCustom, she did wonderfully as always. I stayed at the CTPH Gorilla Conservation Camp; a newish budget place that offers wonderful views of the forest for a tenth of the price that the older lodges demand. Three meals a day are included and dinner is three courses on it's own. Most of the proceeds go to the surrounding community. I recommend it fully but please note that they are still learning to accommodate. Work in progress. Staff is wonderful and Solomon is your go to for walks and birding. Speaking of which...
I did two walks in one day. If you are prone to fainting spells or such just pay for one and call it a day. I chose the Muyanga Waterfall walk and the Rushura Hill climb. I think Solomon should might have started with the latter in hindsight. The first was an easy stroll in comparison. In all it was 8 hours of good exercise divided by lunch. Rushura is not for the weak of heart. Yes it can be done by most but it is a proper uphill slog for a couple hours. The reward is a view that encompasses D.R. Congo and the camel-back hills of Bwindi. Quite worth it but do take your water and a towel to sop up the sweat should you fall into my hyperhydrosis camp.
That night was spent between craft shops, of which there are many all selling the same bits, and watching Buhoma Orphanage and Vulnerable Children put on a dance show for the lone Mzungu. Gosh they were cute...duh. Silly, stupidly, of course I'll give you all my money kind of cute.
Next day I was headed back for Kampala (Insert insane, windy, rocky, where the hell am I, ask many locals for directions bit). I know right? First post was a hail storm of here and there...now only two more places. But there it is. The van was due back and frankly I was game-drive'd out. So I gave Queen Elizabeth Park a miss as well as the Rwenzori Mountains and decided to show up on time. One has to leave a reason to come back to any country yeah?
In Bwindi Solomon looked at me and said "you're so easy, aside from your skin you look Ugandan", so I'll assume I have been around enough for now. I've had my breaks and challenges and managed to get the van back in one good looking piece.
I met John one last time in Kampala to catch the Uganda VS. Egypt game (football). We went to a place called Cloud 9. I had just been in the jungle that morning and was now surrounded by neon lights, buff security and about 200 Ugandans in an outdoor setting watching on various T.V's. They don't care for the commentary it seems, substituting loud music and a D.J. It was great to watch and experience. Any attempt on goal was met with thunderous cheers. They lost of course, but it was a blast.
The next day was off to Jinja and here I am. Van washed and returned, dusty roads, Karamoja, Murchison, angry elephants, wary buffalo, local hitchhikers, speed "humps", police checks, fear of rolling death....just a memory.
Alex was all smiles when I showed back. I think he thought me a lost cause but ooooh yeah...mzungu power. A bit of a suspension issue and a starter relay were the only real bumps on a very bumpy trip. Success.
I am reminded at this point, albeit with limited travels, of the lines in BladeRunner: I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
Obviously that is a shamefully pretentious quote with the "you people" part, but a quoted line is a quoted line. Rather I sometimes feel a bit the same in that I am alone for most of this. It will all be lost...lol Ashes and dust. I like to believe that particle physics is on the right track as far as information retention. That even thought processes and experience can be disseminated given proper tools despite the inevitability of being eaten by singularities. The Buddhist in me just says roll with it...
At any rate I'm set for a North or South decision and the next post will inform you of the outcome.
Cheers and love,