After taking a canoe off Itambira island, and catching a special hire from the “taxi park” (such as it was) in Kabale, Kristen and I headed off along the very twisty, but extremely beautiful road to Kisoro. We arrived late in the afternoon, and were dropped off right at Hotel Virunga, where we were staying. I headed over to the Mgahinga National Park office to double check our reservation for hiking the following day, and to arrange another special hire to pick us up before and after the hike. We could have taken bodas for a little cheaper, but given the state of the road there and the fact that we were likely to be completely exhausted at the end of the day and not really in any state to be having to hold on the entire trip back, it seemed like money well spent to just get a car.
I’m writing this from the main lodge at Byoona Amaraga, a lovely spot on Itambira Island, in southwestern Uganda. We travelled here by bus from Kabale yesterday morning. What was supposed to be a six-hour journey ended up being more like eight, which isn’t too bad by Ugandan standards. The scenery was gorgeous along the way, and we took the bus with a couple of Australian travellers that Kristen met on her shuttle ride back from Jinja. We arrived in Kabale just before the last canoe to the island was supposed to depart, so we called the staff on the island to make sure they arranged for one to stay for us. We took a taxi along an incredibly bumpy road to Rutindo Market and met up with our canoe guide, Justice. It was about a 50 minute trip to the island, in a hollowed-out tree canoe. We had a great time helping with the paddling and chatting with Justice, who was mainly fixated on wanting to meet a Mzungu girl that he could marry.
I’m definitely eagerly anticipating our arrival at Lake Bunyonyi. If all goes according to plan, we should get across to the island around dinner tomorrow – assuming our bus trip from Kampala to Kabale, the boda ride we’ll take to get to the Byoona Amagara departure point, and the canoe crossing all go smoothly. I’ll be crossing my fingers… I arrived in Kampala last night, and promptly trekked over to the bus station to reserve our tickets for a Friday morning bus. I slept in one of the dorms at our usual hostel, Tuhende. The room that I was in had beds for eight people, but I was the only one staying there. Although it made for a very quiet evening, and meant I had my own bathroom and shower for the day, I wouldn’t have minded running into a few fellow travellers.
After a busy week at the centre, spent running the teen girls group and helping with the other projects and activities taking place there over the past few days, Kristen and I headed to Entebbe on Saturday to relax. We also wanted to see Ali, one of the Shanti volunteers, who was flying back to the US after nearly a year in Uganda. Ali and her boyfriend, Dai, arrived late in the day on Saturday, so we caught up with her briefly at our hostel that night, and then had a chance to do the formal goodbyes and to give her a parting gift on Sunday, just before she headed to the airport. Originally, we were going to meet up at a restaurant in town for lunch, but the previous day Kristen and I had spotted what looked to be a gorgeous pool at a hotel not far from where we were staying, and were determined to get in a little swimming somewhere we could be assured the water wouldn’t make us sick. The pool was fantastic, and we spent a very relaxing day swimming, reading, and enjoying pizza at the poolside restaurant. Definitely the swankiest thing we’ve done since my arrival in Uganda – and all for only 10,000UGS (less than $5 Canadian) for the whole day.
This past weekend, while Kristen stayed in Kasana to get ahead on some projects, I headed to Red Chilli Hideaway in Kampala, a hostel that is linked in with Nile River Explorers, the company that I was going rafting with. I stayed at Red Chilli Friday night and took advantage of their free internet, and then boarded a shuttle to Jinja Saturday morning. We arrived at the Backpackers hostel there mid-morning, ate a free breakfast and listened to a brief talk from the rafting trip leader before boarding trucks that took us through town and to the shores of the Nile. Once everyone was equipped with lifejackets, helmets, and paddles, we got into our rafts and started heading towards the rapids. The first three kilometres were more or less just flatwater, so we did our safety discussion and demonstrations right on the water. My boat consisted of our guide, Alex, four German volunteers a couple months in to a year-long stay in Uganda, a man who just finished teaching at a school near Masaka, and his girlfriend, who was in the country visiting him from Nairobi, where she works with an organization working to protect and promote the human rights of women. In between the massive waves we encountered, it was nice learning a little more about each of them.
Since my return from Jinja this past weekend, we haven’t had any more problems with grasshoppers. Instead, we just haven’t had power for three days. In the past, power outages were usually intermittent, so although we would go for long stretches without it, usually over the course of the day the power would come on for at least a little while. Since Sunday morning however, it’s been out continuously. We’re a little worried that the problem might be something like a broken transformer – which would be bad news, since when Ali had a broken transformer near her house in Katikamu, they were without power for nearly a month! Luckily the birth house has solar power, so we are at least able to do computer work for a couple hours a day, provided there has been enough sun to charge things sufficiently.
This past weekend, nearly two months after I first arrived in Uganda, I finally made my first trip to Jinja. Kristen couldn’t believe that I’d been here so long without visiting the adventure capital of the country. To rectify the situation, we took a coach bus from Kampala to Jinja, and then a boda into town. Our plan had been to work at one of the cafes that had wireless internet, but not long after we’d eaten lunch and set up our computers, the power went out. With no indication that it would be coming on again anytime soon, we decided just to make our way to the Nile River Explorers (NRE) camp near Bujagali Falls, where we were staying. The camp is located right on the Nile – the picture to the right is the view from our banda (tent), taken while I was lying on my bed. Pretty stunning scenery…
There are endless options in Jinja when it comes to adrenaline-inducing activities. Although I hadn’t originally planned on going rafting while in Uganda, after seeing the video of that day’s group going over the rapids, it looks like way too much fun to pass up. Another thing on my wish list in Jinja was to go bungee jumping, so on Sunday morning I took a boda down the hill and checked in for my jump. Just like the first time I went bungee jumping in Nanaimo, everything went smoothly – no detached retinas or snapped cords to report, thank goodness. And what a rush! Unfortunately, since I went by myself, I don’t actually have any photos or video of my jump, but I did find this YouTube video of someone else’s jump from the same place. I forgot to ask about the water touch option, but otherwise this is basically the same as what I did:
When I got back to our camp, Kristen and I had a delicious lunch at a restaurant near NRE, and then spent most of the rest of the afternoon swimming in the Nile and playing in the tamest of the whitewater near the beach. We caught a shuttle back to a hostel in Kampala, and slept there for the night. When Kristen our dorm room the next morning to take a shower, she discovered a group of monkeys playing on a picnic table not more than twenty feet from our door. Luckily, they stuck around long enough for me to get some great video of them, unlike the monkeys we saw on the rooftops at NRE, who all disappeared from view before I had a chance to get my camera out. All in all, it was a pretty cool way to start the morning.
Given all the time we spend in the village during the week, with no significant body of water close by, it’s nice going to a place where water and greenery are everywhere you look. The fact that it’s a pretty straightforward trip from Kasana to Jinja is another point in its favour. I’m already planning to go back in a couple of weeks to go rafting, and Kristen and I will be there at least once in January to do a kayaking school. No doubt there’ll be lots to share about those adventures as well!