Lake Bunyonyi & Kabale

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Africa » Uganda » Western Region » Kabale
May 25th 2012
Published: August 11th 2012
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After a great night’s sleep I got up fairly early and had breakfast at the Gorilla Rest Camp. After the journey I had on the boda boda to get to Ruhija from Kabale, I wasn’t exactly relishing the prospect of doing the same to get back to Kabale, particularly after the rain that had fallen in the past two days. So, when Wim and Annalise, the Dutch couple I had tracked the gorillas with, offered me a lift in their truck to Kabale, where they were going through en route to Kigali, I had to restrain myself from biting their hands off. Wim and Annalise had driven down from Holland in a seriously pimped out 4x4 truck that had a bed, cooker and pretty much everything you would need travelling through Africa. Even with the problems they had told me they had encountered at times, I couldn’t help being envious when comparing the comfort of it to most of the buses I had been on.

Having arrived back to Kabale without having to avail of the services of a boda boda, the first thing I did was get on the back of one for the journey to Lake Bunyonyi. This, however, was only a 5 km journey. Lake Bunyonyi is a spectacular crater lake and is Uganda’s deepest lake at around 900m.It’s idyllic setting makes it quite a popular tourist destination. There are a number of islands in the lake and I had been recommended to stay on one – Byoona Amagara. To get to Byoona Amagara you have to go out in a dug out canoe. You can pay for a speedboat, but I opted for the free option. I didn’t realise that this would involve me doing half the work, but I didn’t mind when the canoe ‘captain’ handed me an oar. There was an island visible from the dock and I assumed that this was my destination. This wasn’t the case and we were rowing for about 20 minutes and my suspicions that my upper body strength was now almost non-existent were confirmed by the end.

Despite my pathetic struggling with the canoe, it was a beautiful journey and we passed a number of islands. One island is known as Punishment Island and gets its title from when the island was used to bring women who had become pregnant out of wedlock to. The women were left there to starve or try swim back. The fact that none of them knew how to swim meant that their prospects were bleak. The only way they could be saved was that if a man decided to marry one, then he could row out and rescue her. In contrast to the areas dark history, there were signs of a happier present. There is still quite a lot of poverty in the area, but we passed two schools in the canoe. One, was a primary school and school was obviously just out because there was a boat taking about 30 children back to the main land about to leave a dock. When we passed, every one of them waved and shouted ‘Hello, how are you?’ at me.

Byoona Amagara was as beautiful as had been described to me and seemed like a really nice place to stay. I got some crayfish stuffed avocado for lunch, which was easily the best meal I had in Uganda. The crayfish was from the lake and is as abundant as avocados are in the area. It made me wonder, with this type of food seemingly so available, why the locals seem happy to continue eating their maize meal, with matoke – a steamed banana - and other bland carb dishes, as their staple food. As beautiful as Byoona Amagara was, I noticed that there was literally no one else staying there. After coming from the rainforest, where I hadn’t had much human contact, I wasn’t in the humour for quiet time on this island, so I decided to go back to the main land, even though this involved another workout in the canoe.

I set up camp in Bunyonyi Overland Resort, where there was a few overland trucks staying. I seemed to be the only backpacker around and it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. But I got to camp right by the lake and it was good to have some other humans around for company. That night, the heavens opened and I watched as the longest, heaviest rainfall I had witnessed in Africa came down on my tent, with most of my belongings in it. When the rain finally relented, I checked my tent’s condition which was predictably soggy. The people at this camp weren’t as understanding or decent as in Gorilla’s Rest in Ruhija. They were trying to charge me $25 for a permanent tent, so I decided that my tent wasn’t too bad and managed to get a few hours miserable sleep.

I was up early the next morning, which was a much nicer day and went for a swim in the lake. Lake Bunyonyi is one of the few lakes in Uganda, which is bilharzia free. Bilharzia is a parasitic disease caused by a worm that can make you very ill if it gets into your system. I went up to the local village to get some food. The options were limited, but I did find one place that served me a rolex for less than a euro. Rolex is unique to Uganda and is simply an omelette rolled up in a chapatti – a type of pancake. It is a very simple dish, but quite filling and very cheap.

After spending some more time at the lake, I decided to go back to Kabale, that evening to try and plan my next move. I stayed at nice place called Home of Edrissa and that evening bumped into Joe from Donegal, who I had been hanging around with in Kampala. We had a few beers, then met some other people staying in the hostel who were working and volunteering in the area, but were in Kabale for the weekend. I went out with a few of them to a local nightclub, which was a pretty funny night. As mzungus we attracted quite a lot of attention, but the most bizarre incident of the night was when a guy approached me and genuinely enquired whether it would be possible to trade a local girl for a mzungu.

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