Uganda is an incredibly diverse country. There is some massive wealth here in Kampala, and from those in the west, (from what I hear; this is the president’s land). The rainy season has barely touched us here in Kampala, and there are some 50 districts across the country that have people dying from famine due to the arid lands caused by this lack of water. Meanwhile Ugandan friends in the west send me reports of torrid rainfalls, putting a stop to all best laid plans and causing damage to property and lands.
It fascinates and intrigues me how there can be such diversity in a land-locked country, that in comparison to others, is not that huge in size. In my time here, I have actively sought time and space to explore its different corners as best I can. Sickness put a stop to it for a few weeks, and although I have developed a wonderful community of friends (better named as part of my family in all honesty), I was itching at the bit to get back on the road.
Added to this eagerness was a period requiring some emotional processing, and all this once more allowed me to fall in love with Uganda; within 24 hours I was able to literally be on the other side of the country and step into paradise, all at the travel costs of less than £10. Utterly amazing. Granted, by using my preferred method of travel, (public transport), the journey was long, hot, sticky and at times uncomfortable. However, I was able to connect with more local people, interact more freely with the bus-side hawkers, absorb stunning road-side views, and all the way along, simply enjoy being able to sit still with “nothing to do”.
Matatus and the items that people carry on them, have not once failed to make me smile! This neighbouring taxi, after some credible efforts by the conductors, had a fridge-freezer safely stowed onboard!!
Once the journey began (only two hours of sitting on a stationary hot coach later), the hectic nature of Kampala was everywhere to see. Usually I move about on a boda, so this was my first chance to capture some of the diverse city sights … (see my Kampala blog).
After the arduous slog to get out of the city centre – it truly goes on and on – my excitement and inner wonderer became enlivened, as the landscape once we passed over the Nile looked vastly different to that which I had seen elsewhere in Uganda. There were a feeling of Asia in some parts, luscious green stretching lands, and then of course, there were the spectacular mountains.
After some six hours of travelling, watching the landscape change dramatically before my eyes, feeling cramp at various points, slipping in and out of conversation about Uganda and the UK with my fellow passengers, and mostly just absorbing the experience of being back on the road, I arrived to Mbale. Here the town looked quite different to those on the west and I wished I had taken a photo for comparison. There was an art-deco feel to some of the buildings and it was quite a hub-bub of activity, yet somehow different to other Ugandan cities.
For the final leg of the journey, I had been warned that a boda would be a horrid experience due to a lot of dust, and whilst travelling in the matutu, I could firmly agree with this. The roads had some of the biggest holes in I have ever seen (to be honest, this was how I had envisaged all of the roads here to have been like) and there was such a plethora of dust, it often felt like we were driving through a sandstorm.
I arrived a little weary yet exhilirated at Sip River Lodge, around 8:30pm on Friday night, atfter having left home at 10am. It was a divine treat to myself to have come to stay here; much higher than my standard traveller’s budget. But my soul needed some tender-loving-care and it was like walking into paradise. Well, the entire area was paradise in fairness, the Lodge just amplified this.
I arrived to a delicous three-course meal, beside an open fire, in a beautifully decorated African lounge. It was sumptuous, and when I got into my spectacular banda, I cried.
I went to sleep here….
And I woke up to this…
I breakfasted with tears flowing inside my heart – the birds were singing, the sunlight was filtering through the trees (“komorebi” – what a beautiful word), the food melted in my mouth, and I noticed I had a wooden companion curiously observing me …
Sauntering around, barefoot in the sun, I ambled across to the waterfall that had kept me (gloriously) awake through the night, with its thunderous sounds of cascading water pentetrating the walls of my banda and surrounding me in a capsule of sound and wonder.
My whole weekend was one of many sorts. I needed some time to release feelings, unravel old hurts, open up new eyes, relieve my wondering feet, reconnect with mother nature, rest and soothe my weakened body, catch-up with and forward-plan my work … but most of all, I needed to be with me.
It was such a beautiful place and a few times I did hear my inner voice wishing I was there with someone, to share in the beauty. However, I had these thoughts only for the briefest of seconds – this was the best “holiday” myself and I had ever been on. I was joyous being there with my own company, I wrote my poetry, I sang my songs, I listened to the rhythms and the music of the nature around me, oh and then I jumped off a cliff!
The Lodge really was a beautiful place to stay. I worked by the fire, I enjoyed delicious foods and freshly grown coffee, I lapped up delectable red wine, I played with the gracious dogs, I chatted happily with the staff, I slept in a circular home that made me feel like I was wrapped up in nature’s arms herself, and again and again I heard the waters falling….
After my abseil, I decided to go hiking for the rest of the day. A group of Ugandans from Jinja also joined, and together we explored the other waterfalls of the area, we fascinated ourselves with spectacular landscapes and buildings (including the “perfect” Ugandan house, apparently), we climbed up hills, scrambled down mud paths. I leapt into a rock pool with the local children and teenagers (much to the terror of the group I was with), and I played with a magnificent chameleon. (My Ugandan friend tried to do this also, but when it started to move on his hand, he panicked and threw it into the air. Thankfully it landed well and although a little disgruntled, it was ok).
I also encountered many young Ugandans, who had never seen a white-skinned person before. There was a lot of trepidation mixed in with intrigue; some were able to face their fears and come and greet me, others were too overcome and simply froze/stare.
The views on the hike, and later when I sat with a cold Nile Special to lap up the sunset over the falls, took my breath away, over and over again. I felt like I was dreaming. And heard myself singing the words from The Sound of Music:
“perhaps I had a wicked childhood … but somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must’ve done something good … Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could … somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must’ve done something good”!!!(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNdl-HIkDqQ)
One day I hope to bring many loved ones to this little sample of paradise. I wish that your wandering feet make it there too. Or at the very least, that you feel you have touched the earth with your toes, felt the wind in your hair and the water splashing onto your skin, all through my words.
Spectacular Sipi, I feel soothed by you, I salute you, and I shall seek you again.