February 16th, 2015
Enough of Ugandan cities, already. Time to explore the countryside and go where the wild things are.
Of course, leaving major towns means leaving major roads: i.e. ones with tarmac. Within minutes of driving on what locals call a marram road, which is essentially a dusty track, the complexion of your car’s bonnet and windshield change drastically to the colour of copper. Not as many sleeping policemen this time, though many natural and other barriers impede one’s speed.
The four of us were driving south from Fort Portal to a campsite in the Kasenda Great Crater Lakes region. We were greeted at the campsite by a new animal: the vervet monkey. Apparently these simians are aggressive by nature, so finding them jumping on our car was slightly disconcerting. However, the fact remains that we were standing mere feet from natural wildlife. Which happened to be bouncing on poor Pumbaa.
We left the mischievous monkeys to shake in the trees and on our car’s roof to hike around and through nearby Ugandan villages. The morning temperature was pleasant and allowed us to truly appreciate the lush greenery surrounding us. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Uganda’s countryside but these views did not come into my mind.
We had two main destinations on our hike. The first was a waterfall, situated to the northwest of a village called Kasenda. Our map was working brilliantly until the final turn, when the path we needed to take no longer seemed to exist. Either that or it never existed as a ‘path’ in the first place. A young lady called Rebecca offered to help us and showed us the way; a steep, slippery downward path to the sound of gushing water.
The slightly perilous walk was worth every Ugandan shilling. Cool, fresh water to jump into was exactly what we needed as the mercury was beginning to rise. The water either rushed over black rocks or congregated in small pools. Standing or sitting in some of those pockets with water bombarding against your body was like receiving a strong massage: quite an experience.
Once we’d trekked back up the steep hill and said our goodbyes to Rebecca, we continued our walk in the now stifling heat through a couple more villages on our way to a hotel called the Ndali Lodge. Aside from one person who almost poleaxed us with a rock hurled from behind some banana trees, the locals were very friendly and keen to say hello. The phrase, “Hello how are you!” was often screamed in our direction. As you can see below, some schoolchildren took it to extremes.
The Ndali Lodge is a luxurious hotel. Like the Kyaninga Lodge we visited the previous day, we took a tea break and admired the stunning vistas either side of its hilltop base. They also had homemade lemonade, which was a godsend to a person like me who wilts very easily under the scorching sun.
Fatigue had begun to set in so we decided that we wouldn’t walk the final few kilometres back to camp. The most common form of transport here is called a boda, which is essentially a person giving you a hair-raising ride on their moped for a very small fee. The ride back to camp was fun, though undoubtedly made smoother by the relatively wide road and lack of traffic. Taking one of those in Kampala is probably a death wish.
We were greeted by more monkeys on our return; however, the vervets of the morning had disappeared and in their place were at least a dozen colobus monkeys, which were the black-and-white bearded simians we had seen the day before. They were very playful with each other.
A 20km or so walk with only cake to keep us going had left us famished: time for Ugandan food! From this and future experiences, it seems that your plate gets piled up with a carbohydrate and then you have some sort of sauce or beans with it. Common carbs include matoke (similar in texture to mashed potato but made from plantains), millet (which tasted and felt like dough – not my favourite) and sweet potato (more green than orange).
It was lovely to walk through the stunning and vastly diverse Ugandan countryside. We had no idea what to expect when we arrived; what we’ve seen so far has massively exceeded expectations. Lovely country with lovely people. Of course, this was with two people who have lived in what Churchill dubbed ‘The Pearl of Africa’ for six months. Next we were going to part with them and see more of Uganda on our own…
Love you all