LAKE BUNYONYI

ISLAND GALORE.

Waking up to that view was like something out of a really good book, the birds chirping, the sun reflecting off the lake, the mist! Just what I needed. Breakfast was an omelet of sorts, the hardest toast ever but slap cheese on anything and I’m good along with hot chocolate that did wonders for my soul! Sam had an omelet with garlic mash potatos, they were good, even the birds seemed to think so, these two little birds kept coming for some, tentatively at first, eventually owning the bowl. It was surreal

We decided to go canoeing that morning after seeing this couple doing it, the canoe costs about 6,000ugx, 30,000ugx if you want a guide, I stand to be corrected on the price as I’m going off memory here. We figured we’d wing it, I’d done the activity before beers in hand and it was good fun, how hard could it be this time round? We picked up the oars and went down the docks, we bumped into a worker who asked if we knew how to go about it, with a resounding No, he suggested we wear life jackets to which we obliged. We get in, get pushed off and 3 minutes in, the drama began!

People, meet Sam and Trish, weak link one and even weaker link two.Canoing is NOT easy! The struggle was real, we just kept going in circles, the current wasn’t helping either, Sam was steering while I paddled, we’d hoped to go round this particular island but the universe had other plans. Did I mention the absolute fear I have for this lake? Since we weren’t making any progress Sam started getting very frustrated and his voice started getting several octaves louder which in turn scared and pissed me off causing me to just stop rowing altogether. I never did respond well to being yelled at, I always just sort of shut down.20 minutes in we called it quits; this was a level of failure that was just embarrassing. The tricky bit was getting back to the dock without capsizing. After something passing itself off as team work, we made it! I shall not be doing canoeing again.

We sat at the dock for a while to compose ourselves and pass the time, we must have looked like complete clowns out there, by the time we got up, we were laughing about it so that was cool.

Disaster averted, we opted to go for a boat cruise at Bird’s Nest and some food. On our way to Bird’s, we lamented our ill fated canoeing to the boat man, he just laughed, saying he’d seen our failure first hand, a lot of people had seen us I’m guessing, Lord take me now! At Bird’s we paid 85,000ugx for the cruise, bought beer and one of the weirdest drinks passing itself off as a milkshake, it was drinkable so I didn’t care, we also got complimentary cookies, they were some of the best I’ve ever had! Now when I think of a boat cruise, I’m thinking of something comfortable, seeing as you’re going to be on it a while, 2 hours in this case, it wasn’t!

Our guide spoke relatively good English and was very knowlegable; the itinerary involved us going round the islands, stopping by the more prominent ones:

Bushara, Kyahugye, Bwama&Njuyeera, Bucuranuka and my favorite Punishment Island.

We came to an island with an Eco lodge and mini game park of sorts owned by the Bank of Uganda Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile, normally one would have to pay entrance fees to see said animals but that day, there they were in full view grazing happily with no fear of natural predators, we saw Zebras, Waterbucks, Antelops and various birds, beautiful!

At some point the guide stopped the boat midway, something about the waiter Sam had gotten beers from missing money. Almost as if there was an insinuation we’d stolen it, what are you going to do man, throw us overboard? Sam explained the drinks were paid for and he had change and all, he nodded and continued on, I found this behavior very disconcerting!

Just as were approached Itambara, it started raining so we took cover at Amagara. It rained for about 20 minutes. We continued on to Bwama&Njuyeera or Sharp’s Island. An English missionary Leonard Sharp came to Uganda and set up a leprosy colony in 1931 where all those afflicted came from far and wide. The hospital buildings have since become a school. Then there was Bucuranuka, translating to Upside down Island. Legend goes, an old woman passing by the island came across some men brewing sorghum brew (I’ve tasted it, it’s alright) she asked for some, they refused chasing her away mistakening her for the town beggar. She then asks to be taken to the mainland, they chose a young boy for the task, who upon dropping her off, turned back just in time to see the island turn upside down, killing everyone instantly, except for one chicken that FLEW away and survived. Nice!

The last island on the list was Akampene or more popularly known as Punishment Island. Here the Bakinga, natives of Kabale, would leave unmarried pregnant girls to starve or drown attempting to swim away; swimming wasn’t that big a thing back then. Here men who were unable to pay bride price would claim these girls as wives. The practice eventually died out mid 20th century with the arrival of missionaries. The guide told us a survivor still lives today telling her story, how old is this woman though?

The island even without its history is very eerie, all that remains of the legend are two trees, one of which is long dead, it’s slowly getting eroded by the lake, leaving a muddy papyrus mess. I wonder whether the girls enjoyed the coitus that got them in these situations. Probably not! The boat cruise was very enjoyable and educational to boot, worth every penny.

With the tour done, we went back to Bird’s Nest with an hour to sunset. This place is beautiful, I totally see the charm, it’s like a 4 to 5 star hotel in the country. For dinner I had chicken and creamed spinach with rice and Sam had ribs. Best meal ever! The pina colada was good too. The waiter had earlier apologized for the whole money fiasco. That was really big of him. Night fell so we moved to the fire place to wait for the boat to take us back to Amagara. That fire place was cozy as fuck! I didn’t want to move. The boat did come through and as we went to the dock, the sky was the most beautiful shade of dark green I’d ever seen.

At Amagara,I went passed the kitchen without a second glance being well fed and all. We sat on the balcony watching the night and drinking. We had to be up really early to start the journey back to Kampala so we called it a night.

By 8 am the next morning, we were on the road back to kampala.On our way we stopped by one of those roadside markets to get some vegetables and potatoes, The Kabale variety are the most superior kind out there, Fact! These market people are very aggressive, they will swarm, throw produce at you, in your vehicle, scream, yell, haggle, it’s not the most pleasant experience but then again, they are just doing what they have to do.

In Ntungamo part of the road was lined with tree branches to signal an accident had occurred. the number of bus crashes here is crazy. We stopped in Mbarara to meet up Patrick and grab lunch. We had a delicious meat platter.i’d ordered a milkshake, in case you haven’t caught on, I’m obsessed with these things. What came my way was a particularly unpleasant strawberry milk drink, westerners call it ‘Amakamo’, or so I’m told. The milk is smoked to appoint of no return, it gives the milk a very distinct flavor. I didn’t like it, Sam did so he had it, it’s a shame to waste food.

We stopped in Masaka so I could get some sausages and Lukaya for road side chicken. I don’t know what witchcraft they do to that chicken, it’s delicious! We got to Kampala by 6 pm, noisy and chaotic as always.

Lake Bunyonyi is simply amazing. While Bird’s Nest is a lovely spot. I think Byoona Amagara wins for the simplicity and affordable back to basics vibe they have going on. I look forward to going back soon.