The Lake

Typed on the 4th of July at Nando’s in Kampala.

Friday night I rolled into Kabale later than anticipated.  Because of the lateness, things got a little expensive: I took a boda across and out of town and then up and around some mountains (cold, cold wind!) before getting to Rutinda, the lakeside area.  I got to the Byoona Amagara dock and called the hotel at which I had reserved a room.  Due to the late hour I had to pay for a speedboat to come get me, which sucked and ended up almost doubling my bill :(

But!  The ride to the island was so, so neat.  It was a cold night (most nights are cold since it’s so high up) but I could see so, so many stars in the sky and I could make out the shapes of different islands as we skipped by on the water. It was really a neat sight.  That night I just settled into my room (a big dormitory of 12 beds, but I was the only visitor in the room) and tried to use my computer for a bit (no electricity) before going to bed.  But I woke up to quite the view: This lake (and specifically this hotel) had been recommended by too many people for me to resist it.  Heidi said it was the one place I had to go. Alison said it was her favorite spot in the country.  Erik just came back and said it was really nice.  So, I made it.  After failing to communicate with the outside world (computer died, phone was out of airtime, and the hotel’s internet sucked), I hired a canoe and threw caution to the wind.  I knew that A. I had not canoed since like five or six years ago in Durango, 2. I had not brought sunscreen and the sun might kill me on the lake, and III. The winds had caused some movement in the water that I might not handle.  That said, I spent a little bit of time rowing in circles and corkscrews before trying to paddle my way around.  Here are some pictures of one of the prettiest places I’ve seen in a long time:

I finally set my sights on a particular goal: Akampene Island.  Looking at the map, it was about 1.5km for a straight and narrow pilot, and I definitely was not one.  Plus, once I started really getting the hang of things and making some headway, I emerged from the cover of Bwama Island (the biggest island on the lake) and got stalled by winds and waves.  I struggled for a good two hours to get as close to the island as possible and got this picture before letting the current take me eastward.  This is Akampene Island.

Punishment Island, with its one tree.

It blends in with the background a little, but it’s just a patch of grass with one tree on it.  It was where the locals sent the unmarried pregnant girls.  It’s got one tree and looks to be a pretty lonely punishment. Just halfway out, I was getting pretty sunburned.  I ended up wrapping my washcloth around whichever arm was more in the sun as I rowed, and as I moved into my fifth hour on the water I booked it to the hotel.  As I arrived a group of four were getting lunch while I checked out.  After resting a bit, I grabbed all of my bags and headed right back out on the water where one of the hotel staff and I rowed back to Rutinda.

At the dock I met a TON of people arriving for the weekend, I guess I missed a very packed hotel!  Headed back to Kabale and walked around town a bit.  I tried to find a bus, but the soonest one to Kampala originating in Kabale wasn’t for until 11pm (5 hours away) so I decided to flag down a bus from Rwanda.  Grabbed a quick bite to eat before standing by the junction and I found a guy who called a Kampala-bound bus driver and made sure there was a seat.  In the end, I left 4 hours earlier and saved 5000 shillings so it was a victory.  Ill-planned, though, I arrived in Kampala at 5 in the morning and snuck into George’s place and, back in the city, took a nap until sunrise.

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