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Published: January 2nd 2014
Fishing boat in Kibiro Village
They grow coffee, but why don't they also drink it?
Traditionally I, Ake, always go abroad over Christmas. Over the last 10 years I have only spent one Christmas at home. This year I went to Uganda and I went on my own because Emma was not able to get time off from her work.
I started this journey by visiting a small village named Kibiro. The village is located on the shore of Lake Albert and the people in the village make their living mainly from two businesses, fishing and salt production. The fishing of course comes naturally for them because of the proximity to the lake. The salt industry however might need a bit of an explanation. In the village there are at least two hot springs and the water from these springs is naturally saline. For many hundreds of years the people of the village have harvested this salt and made money from it.
The way they harvest the salt I find a bit complicated. They have patches of loose soil they drench in the salty water and then let dry. They repeat that process several times and each time the
Beach in Kibiro Village
soil gets more and more salty. Next step is to put the salty soil in a sieve and poor water through it. The water dissolves the salt which is mixed with the soil so in the sieve there is now soil mixed with water saturated with salt. The sieve has a very fine mesh so the soil stays in it but the salty water is let through. The water is then collected and the last stage of the process is to boil the saltwater so that the water is evaporated and only the salt is left.
The salt and the fish has for centuries been two profitable businesses. But in the last decades this has changed. Lake Albert has become overfished so the fishermen catch much less today than they used to. The methods they use for extracting the salt requires a lot of work and nowadays salt is not the precious commodity it used to be. The salt from Kibiro is believed to be better than other salt so they can ask for a higher price for their salt than what salt usually is sold for. But this still doesn't nearly make up for the slump
The fishing comes naturally in Kibiro Village because of the proximity to the lake.
in income from the fishing business. This has led to financial difficulties for the villagers. In the last couple of years they have therefore been forced to purchase land away from the village and start agriculture to get a third source of income.
Uganda is a republic and the country gained independence in 1962. Before 1962 Uganda was a colony. Before Uganda became a colony the area we today call Uganda was not one country, it was divided in at least six different nations each ruled by a monarch. Several or all of these kingdoms have been reinstated in the late 20th century. So within the republic Uganda there are several small monarchies.
One of these monarchies is the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom and the capital in this kingdom is Hoima. When I visited this town I wanted to see the royal palace. However, I came there on a Sunday and the palace is only open on weekdays so I couldn't enter. Instead I went to the royal burial grounds just outside town. I was a bit unlucky there too because the caretaker of the cemetery had left to take care of some private business in
Another fishing boat in Kibiro Village
a neighbouring town and had brought the keys to the main tomb with him. Inside the tomb there are several artefacts, such as spears and animal hides, on display. Those are things that used to belong to the king who is buried in the tomb. But I didn't get to see any of that. That is one of the drawbacks with travelling in countries that are visited by few tourists. The places you want to visit don't have specified opening hours and sometimes you can't get in because you came on the wrong day.
The formal colonial rulers were the British by the way. As a consequence almost everybody speaks English in Uganda. I makes travelling a lot easier when there is no language barrier between me and the locals.
After leaving Hoima I went to Fort Portal in the southwest part of Uganda. Long time ago that area was filled with active volcanoes. The volcanoes are now dormant and have left dozens of volcanic craters behind, craters that today holds a crater lake each. I spent one day visiting some of those lakes. Some of the lakes have small resorts next to them
Lake Albert has become overfished so the fishermen catch much less today than they used to. They get fewer fish and the fish they catch is also smaller than it used to be
where as others are more or less only visited by locals.
Outside Fort Portal there is a place called Amabere Caves. The caves were much smaller than I expected. Strictly I wouldn't call them caves at all, I would use the word rock shelter to describe them. They were small and the stalagmites and stalactites were not quite exiting enough to take away the disappointment I felt when I saw them. Luckily the tour of the caves included more than just the rock shelters. To get to them I had to walk though a small dense forest where the guide showed me a pretty lizard, next to the main rock shelter there was a small beautiful waterfall and the tour ended with a visit to two crater lakes nearby. In all the tour was OK but not more than that.
Uganda produce a lot of tea and tea is also consumed within the country. I don't drink tea myself so I can't tell whether the tea is good or not. Uganda also produce coffee but the local coffee consumption is on a very low level. It is possible to buy coffee in many restaurants
In the village there are at least two hot springs and the water from these springs is naturally saline.
but the coffee served in Uganda is always instant coffee and not a single cup I had when I was there gave me any other satisfaction than a much needed dose of caffeine. I don't understand why they, when they produce coffee in the country, don't drink it themselves. I know they don't because anyone drinking coffee would undoubtedly serve better coffee than two year old Nescafé. So my message to anyone who is a coffee drinker and intend to visit Uganda. You can find coffee almost everywhere but be prepared that it might not be of the standard you are used to from back home.
The traffic in Uganda can be quite dangerous. They drive really fast, sometimes well over 100 km/h, on the low standard dirt roads. On one of the trips the bus I was in was involved in an accident. We met a car and the two vehicles grazed each other. The sides on the cars were badly scratched in the incident and both cars suffered a flat tire each. Both cars were going fast at the time it happened and had any of the cars been just 20 cm closer to the
Patches used for harvesting salt
They have patches of loose soil they drench in the salty water and then let dry. They repeat that process several times and each time the soil gets more and more salty
middle of the road the accident would have been a lot worse.
I have here in the end written about the appalling coffee and the dangers involved in going by car or bus in Uganda. I have to point out that I really enjoyed my visit in Uganda. Uganda is a very nice and beautiful country with kind people. It is a good place to travel in. There is one more bad thing about Uganda though. I leave that for the next blog entry so I have something to write about there too, because I have here only written about half of what I saw and did when I was in Uganda.
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