Christmas on Lake Bunyonyi

The hollowed out tree we took from the mainland to Byoona Amagara on Itambira Island.

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.

We arrived on Itambira just after 7pm, and immediately ordered food – garlic cheese toast bruschetta, different pastas for each of us, and the long awaited chocolate rumballs. Everything was delicious, and it was a lovely spot to spend Christmas Eve. We had a crazy “small world moment” when the people at the next table overheard us talking about neighbourhoods in Victoria, and came over to say that that’s where they were all from as well. We did a bit of the “who do you know” game and figured out that one of the women is actually an OB nurse that works in the hospital where many of Mom’s clients deliver their babies, and recognized her name. After dinner and phone calls with family, Kristen and I settled into our bunk bed accommodations in the “big dorm” (12 beds versus the 4 in the other dorm building). Christmas morning was beautiful, and I ended up sitting by the canoe dock chatting with all of the family members spending Christmas at Mom and Dad’s – really a delightful way to kick off the day. When it warmed up a little, and I was able to take off the first sweater I’d worn since my arrival in Uganda in early October, Kristen and I headed down to the swimming dock. The water was colder than some of the other spots we’ve swam in Uganda, but considering it’s Christmas, that seemed only fitting.

Looking out through the trees on Itambira Island, towards the direction we paddled from.

After another delicious meal, we decided to hike around the island a little. There were some paths that we followed most of the way, except for the portion of the trek where we seemed to have veered off into the bush. Since it was an island, it was pretty easy to get back on course, and we ended up coming across a completely adorable wooden swingset at the end of our hike. We hung out there for quite awhile, chatting about our plans for the Rwandan portion of our trip, and enjoying the gorgeous view. We’ll stay at Byoona another night, and then take a canoe back to Kabale tomorrow around midday. From there it’ll be a 3 hour taxi ride to Kisoro, through winding roads and scenic countryside. We’re staying at a little hotel right next to the Mt Mgahinga National Park Office, so with any luck we’ll be there in enough time to book in to do the Mt Sabyinyo hike on Monday. We met another traveller here who had just come from doing the same hike, and agreed with Vanessa that it is definitely a tough slog, but well worth it. The Rwandan Immigration Department granted my visa request (a nice Christmas gift), so it looks like we’re all set for when we head to Kigali on Tuesday. We’ll split our time between there and Gisenyi, and head to one of the clubs in Kigali for New Years. On Sunday we’ll have quite a long bus ride to Kampala, and then it’s back to work at the centre. Hard to believe that I’ll only be in Africa for another month after our return, though the fact that I’ll be heading from Zanzibar to Hawaii to see Mom, Dad, and Kelly is softening the blow considerably.

I’ve posted a Flickr album of photos from our trip to Kabale and Lake Bunyonyi, which you can check out here. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more from the rest of our journey as well.