The long drive to Lake Bunyonyi in torrential rain

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November 4th 2017
Published: January 1st 2018
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Hired a car and driver to take me to Lake Bunyonyi. This is rainy season in Uganda. Shortly after starting out, the rains came fast and hard. Luckily the road was tarred the entire way. The journey supposedly takes six hours, but I was told by the owner of the lodge I stayed at in Kampala to use the following formula when determining actual travel time in Uganda: take the number of hours quoted, divide it by half, then add the half to the original quote to get the minimum travel time. In this case, I was told it would take six hours by car. 6/2 = 3. 6 + 3 = 9. It actually took about ten hours to reach our destination. I don't know how we made it, as you could barely see out of the window -- it was raining that hard. At times the rain did stop, and the rolling hills were magnificent.

A few hours after arriving in Lake Bunyonyi, it stopped raining for a bit, so I decided to take advantage of this and do a boat ride across the lake. I had originally planned to do the boat ride the following day, using today as another day of rest, but rain was forecasted for the entire day, so decided to take advantage of the break.

Lake Bunyonyi has about 30 islands of various sizes in it. Many of the islands have unique stories. Sharp’s Island, for example, was set up as a leper colony by a British missionary named Leonard Sharp. Most (in)famous of the islands is Punishment Island, which is big enough for one tree, and little else. For generations, if a girl found herself pregnant and unmarried, this was to be her destination. Her mother would first induce an abortion on the girl. Her father and brothers would then take her to this island, where she was left to die. She had two options to accomplish this: either drown herself, or starve to death. Once she was dead, the parents would have to retrieve her body for burial. If the girl was lucky, there was one last option. Since marriage required dowries to be paid to a bride's parents, and some males couldn't afford it, a poor male in search of a wife could row to the island and claim a banished girl as his wife. She was then allowed to re-enter society. In 1947 the Ugandan government banned the practice, but it is said that it continued long after, even up to the 1970s. In typical fashion, the girl was ostracized, while no shame was directed at the guy who got her pregnant.

QUIZ: What do you think the percentage is of guys who got a girl pregnant, then rowed to the island to save her? I doubt actual statistics exist, but I bet it is close to zero.

Additional photos below
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Punishment IslandPunishment Island
Punishment Island

This island where unmarried pregnant girls were sent to die.

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