Beautiful Lake Bunyonyi
Lake Bunyonyi is one of the tourist attractions in Southern Uganda, very close to the border with Rwanda. It is a vast lake, reputed to be the deepest in Uganda, with 29 islands, some of which are inhabited, others which are set up for visitors to stay. It is extremely beautiful, and a haven for bird watchers.
We were able to take a break and stay over
On the way
on Saturday night for the weekend, thanks to David Kabanza’s organisation of the trip. I feel that I need to pace myself a bit more when using superlatives, because those of you who have been reading previous blogs will know that I have not been backward in using them. However, in this case, I think I will be hard-pressed in future to top the experience of driving from Kanungu via Rutenga, The Mafuga Forest, Karukara and Kabale.
The road is, of course, a dirt road which weaves its way through the mountains with breath-taking views of green mountain ranges, hills and valleys. However, the road is so poor that you fear for your life in places. Most of the time it is not wide enough for vehicles to pass each other. Fortunately, we met very few, and just jockeyed for position on the road with small motorbikes. The camber of the road means that you veer towards the edge with alarming regularity, at a troubling angle. At one point I suggested that we all should sit on the left-hand side of the people-carrier, including the driver (who would then be sitting on Steve’s lap) in order to address the acute angle. This met with much hilarity from our Ugandan companions, who seem to find the possibility of instant death highly amusing. Added to this, the road suffers from frequent rock and mud slides, which also brings down trees. The sides of the roads are littered with them. It really is a jolting ride, and when you finally reach a stretch of tarmac, it feels like you are floating over the surface.
The forested area is used by small family units or co-operatives, it seems, in the production of timber. Every so often you find in a clearing in which there has been erected a huge platform. This has ten or more huge eucalyptus trunks on top, and there are two men – one on top, the other underneath, who are working a lengthy saw through the length of the wood. Everything is done by physical labour – apart from the saw, the only tools are machetes and axes.
women working in the quarries
The nearer we got to Kabale – the journey takes two and a half hours – the landscape changed, and forests were replaced by quarries, which are also worked by hand. It was hard to believe that women and small children were engaged in breaking up stones to different sizes. In other places, they were digging sand out of the ground.
Kabale itself is the biggest town we have
Busy with bikes
selling the merchandise
seen, bustling with life. It was noticeable that there were large numbers of cycles here that had been adapted to take a passenger, with women riding side-saddle behind their men. Other bikes were carrying large milk-churns, collected, no doubt, from the ‘Honest Dairies Milk Collecting Centre’ down the road. One bike had the added benefit of a wheelbarrow in tow.
Female officer with machine-gun
There are many mobile phone providers and hard-selling adverts on billboards, offering all sorts of deals. You don’t see many smartphones, but most people seem to have little Nokia. People use their phones to pay direct and make financial transactions, although this is a pretty insecure way of using money. I was surprised to see a female police officer walking along the street, toting a machine-gun. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised any more.
From Kabale it was a short hop to the lake. We took a boat across to the island of Bushara, staying in a tree house about 40 feet off the ground, amongst the
Our tree house verandah
eucalyptus and avocado trees, overlooking the lake. The shower was on the verandah, surrounded by bamboo, with no top, so you could look up at the stars in the night sky, or watch the cormorants in their nests at the top of trees. Hot water was produced by a solar system in conjunction with a more traditional wood-burning method. We took advantage and had three hot showers during our brief stay!
That very special bird
We saw an extraordinary number of different birds, largely thanks to our guide, who called himself Robin. The best of these was the Crested Crane, the national bird of Uganda, which appears on their flag. Penalties for harming this bird or stealing its eggs are pretty draconian. You pay a price for the beauty of the natural surroundings. That price is the extreme poverty which you can never escape. Robin took us to visit an orphanage on the mainland, which houses 100 children in cramped and unsanitary conditions. Most of them, we were told, have become orphans through an outbreak of Ebola
Some of the children at the orphanage
in the area. They do not have the money to send them to school. It was heartbreaking.