Was interviewed by this groovy cat. It’s in Romanian.
Monthly Archives: December 2015
When I first aimed for Kenya it was going to be an in ‘n’ out operation. Find information about visas to Ethiopia, South Sudan and North Sudan (at the time, the two Sudans were in a brief honeymoon period that lasted for about an hour before the civil war resumed) and then get out.
Kenya was in a bit of strife as well. The recent Garrisa University attacks had the Western world warn its population against travelling to the East African nation so I was a bit nervous.
But The Universe has ways to provide signs:
Kenya was country number 16 that I would visit.
The visa sticker was placed on page 16 of my passport.
I then recalled a conversation I had with Irish Dave whom I met in Livingstone, Zambia. “If you go to Kenya you gotta visit Distant Relatives,” he said in his mixed Irish-American-Kiwi accent (he’d been around). “It’s on the coast but be careful,” he warned. “You might get stuck there. I was only going to spend a few days. I stayed three weeks.”
It was the same warning Danny heeded when he had picked me up hitch hiking from Nakuru to Nairboi.
“You’ll love it there,” he said. “You’ll never want to leave.”
I had pffft at both men’s comments as I made my way to Mombasa, Kenya’s port city where I spent a week before continuing an hour and a half up the coast to the county of Kilifi and down to Kilifi Creek where Distant Relatives is located. I figured I’d stay for two weeks, volunteering on the boat-building project, Musafir and then continue to explore the coastline, mainly hunting my first wave in over a year.
It seemed fitting that I arrived on the eve of the day I set out on my travels two years ago (which also happened to be Irish Dave’s same travel date – May 13th, 2013. Yet, another universal sign).
I walked through the herb gardens along the mulch paths, by the beach volleyball court and swimming pool and failed to realise that The Universe had cunningly disguised itself as Distant Relatives Backpackers and Eco Lodge.
It seduced me with the freshest free oysters on Friday’s pizza night, the amazing vibes and friendly locals, the 400-year-old Baobab tree with hanging light-bulbs, shaped as the very fruit the tree bears. At night, the lights are visible from the middle of Kilifi Creek, just a 3-minute walk down the hill.
The creek is home to the Musafir project and some local residents. At night the bio-luminescence comes out to play a light show that will blow your mind. The old jetty ready (though, not quite sure if its willing) to have you sit on its end for sundowners. Later on, after you’ve had dinner from the tasty kitchen or cooked your own in the communal, head back down and stare at the Milky Way while you wait for a shooting star to zip across.
Aside from the main building that houses the communal kitchen, restaurant\bar\indoor dancefloor and reception, the place is built almost out of everything recyclable including glass bottles and used tires. Cement makes up just 10% of the building materials used to create the bandas. The pigs in the sty take care of all the biodegradable rubbish. The chickens in the chicken coup provide fresh eggs, and grey water is recycled to water the lush gardens.
But the gem of the place aside from the vibrant energy?
The compost toilets.
I’ve come across a few of these in my day but none as eloquently designed as here – complete with an informative booklet to keep you occupied while you occupy one of the three public stalls (each banda has its own private stall and shower).
Tucked away among giant green and yellow bamboo that speaks in windy creaks, two communal showers await to cleanse your mind and body. Refreshing your soul in the middle of the mini-bamboo forest, the swaying shoots add a soothing tone to the natural soundtrack.
The same energy forces that suck you in also attracts yoga instructors that come to spend a few weeks teaching classes once a week out in nature. There’s a choice of either utilising the stage (built for live gigs) or a quiet corner where the wind whispers through the trees, gently floating the leaves as they swing around you while you engage in contorting poses.
Does it stop there? Oh, no. You cannot stay at Distant Relatives without visiting Bofa Beach. Picture white sandy beaches on which the Indian Ocean laps on too. Coconut palms swaying in the monsoon winds. If you dare, you can kayak or swim out to the reef channel and snorkel.
Too save you picturing, here’s a picture:
Or book a boat to take you.
It had been ten months since Irish Dave first brought this area to my attention on the eve of my personal New Year, May 12th. Sitting by the bonfire on the beach, ripping out tunes on Ol’ Red with the Musafir crew, I could see why he struggled to leave this corner of the world.
And now, four months after I initially arrived, I’m still here, wondering how to extend my Kenyan visa.
“Name’s Harley,” said the heavily bearded Kiwi as we shook hands in a break I took between songs.
I was strumming on Ol’ Red by the fire at the Nile River Camp with the Gypsy Queen, Teresa, Saleem and a couple of Austrian girls with their German friend. Carlos the Mexican buzzed around and the Nile River was silent with a lightening storm on display over the horizon.
Harley and his Swedish partner, Emmelie, were driving from Cape Town to Stockholm in their Land Rover Defender, nicknamed Chewie.
“After Chewbacca,” Harley grinned. “Been on the road for about seven months now.”
“We have two months to reach Sweden,” added Emmelie. “We have to reach a wedding in Canada from there.”
A Dutch couple, Nico and Youska, had met the couple driving through Namibia and had bumped into them here and there over the African continent. They too were at the camp and enjoying my music (not to brag or anything). I was chatting with Harley while GQ chatted with Emmelie, both asking the same questions simultaneously.
“Where ya headed next?” we asked.
“Tomorrow gonna head to Sipi Falls and camp there for the night,” they answered separately, “then we gotta get to Karen in Nairobi and get the car serviced before we head off to Ethiopia. Gotta leaky fuel tank.”
“You’re heading to Nairobi?” I confirmed, turning with raised eyebrows to GQ who just received the same news from Emmelie.
Well, this was a blessing. GQ and I were going to hitch to Nairobi the next day. I still had a day to spare on my visa so, “Would you be willing to take on a couple of grubby hitch hikers?” I asked.
Harley looked at Emmelie and they both nodded. “Yeah, not a problem mate. We can squeeze you in.”
“You know what,” I grinned, “even though you’re a Kiwi, you lived in Perth so lemme playa AC\DC in reggae.”
Harley grinned and I strummed Highway to Hell, the thought of seeing Sipi Falls and riding with our two new friends sparking some fire on Ol’ Red. Just after midnight GQ and I thanked the folks at NRC and headed up to the Nile Porch where we sat in front of our safari tent overlooking the still waters of the Nile River chatting with Saleem. At four in the morning we went to bed.
We were meeting Harley and Emmelie at tennish so we had a few hours to sleep. After heart-felt goodbyes and promises of our return in January to install more art pieces, we hit the road with a breakfast stop in Jinja at a place called The Deli.
It was here we parted ways with the Dutch couple and headed off to Sipi Falls, travelling on broken roads that seemed to have been washed away in the El Nino rains covering the region. We drove past Mbale where GQ and I, squashed in among our packs, pointed out Wanale Falls and told our story of climbing it in the rain.
We arrived at a recommended campsite, Crows Nest, that overlooked the majestic Sipi Falls that came off the foothills of Mt Elgon. On the other side of the mountain lay Kenya.
We pitched our tent opposite the falls so the first thing we’d see in the morning as we unzipped ourselves from our mobile home would be Sipi Falls. Harley and Emmelie set up their rooftop tent and later joined us on our ‘balcony’ as we observed our green, watery surroundings.
We later conveyed for dinner at the bar, bringing together our grilled sandwiches (courtesy of The Black Lantern restaurant) and soup in a cup powder that Emmelie boiled up. The manager of the bar happened to be the owner of the property, Brian, so I went to barter with him for the night.
“I’ll write up something about Crows Nest and you’ll be mentioned in our hitch hiking video (coming soon),” I explained to him.
“No problem,” he said. “I will give you my email in the morning so you can send me the information.”
“Sweet as!” I grinned at GQ who was grinning back.
The next morning, after a shared breakfast of toast and some jam GQ got from The Black Lantern, Harley and Emmelie thanked us. “I think they thought we were involved in the barter so they wouldn’t let us pay,” Harley grinned.
It hadn’t rained during the night and Nico had warned that the road was very bad. Brian had said, “It’s very tough.” A local at the bar had shook his head and simply said, “Good luck.”
But none of that deterred us as we tackled the dirt track and drove around Mt Elgon towards the smallest, ramshackle border post I had ever come across.
“Your visa expires tomorrow,” noted the Ugandan immigration officer.
“Yeah, that’s why I’m leaving,” I said, sadly.
I was stamped out and while Harley and Emmelie were sorting out the paperwork for their car GQ and I walked over the border to Kenya where I asked if they, “Issue an East African Visa?”
“No, you have to go to Busia for that,” answered the immigration officer.
Merde. My outline was to get the EA visa which would allow me travel to Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya over a period of three months at a cost of a hundred dollars (the Ugandan visa on its own is the same price).
Now I’d have to get my second tourist visa for Kenya at $50 and get my EA visa when I returned to Uganda with GQ in January.
Ce la vie, no?
Having been easily cleared by the officials on both sides of the border we trucked on. We were hoping to reach Karen, on the outskirts of Nairobi that night.
“My friend Lucy is having a Pope party,” GQ read the invitation off her phone. “We’re all welcome. She lives in Karen.”
The illustrious Pope was visiting Kenya the next day. A man of his stature causes the entire shutting down of an African city. When President Obama came for a 2-day trot, Nairobi was under siege by security forces. Roads were closed and now with the Pope, the city’ll be shut down for his 3-day stroll. In fact, the Kenyan government declared a public holiday for the Pontiff’s arrival the following day.
We drove down the A104, stopping for lunch in Kitale with the great timing of the rains pouring down while we ate. As soon as we finished, the rains stopped. Chewie had issues aside from the leaky fuel tank. Its door locks, the stereo and the critical windshield wipers that died on us upon entering Eldoret just as the sun disappeared behind the bank of clouds that unleashed their wet fury on us were just a few.
“Was it your intention to buy a broken car?” I asked as the couple laughed.
The idea was to reach a campsite in Iten (pronounced, ‘Ee-ten) that overlooked the Great Rift Valley. But with dead wipers and darkness fast approaching and another 80 K’s to cover, GQ suggested we stay the night in Eldoret.
On my hitching to Uganda two months prior, I had arrived in this same city on Africa’s slowest truck and had bartered a night’s stay at Hotel Horizon where the manager was taken by my travel stories and choice of lifestyle.
“Hi Hilda,” I called her up from the hotel as she wasn’t working there that night. She remembered me and gave us directions to a small guest house she was operating somewhere in downtown nowhere of Eldoret. Blinded by the rain with heavy traffic we somehow made it to Lavilla Guesthouse, sliding on the muddy road on the way. We were warmly met by Hilda and Kip, son of Chris, Hilda’s Aussie brother-in-law who I met when I had spent the night at Horizon.
At 19, Kip had a wealth of life experience having grown up in Canberra, “Sorry mate,” I said upon hearing that. He has lived in Dubai and was schooled in the UK. I couldn’t manage a barter but I did negotiate a hefty discount that all parties involved where happy to accept.
The next morning we parted ways with a group photo and a, “Say ‘hi’ to your folks,” to Kip.
We took the back road to Nairobi, up and down and through the Great Rift Valley in an area that not only had I never been before, but even GQ, who has travelled extensively around Kenya in her six years of living here, hadn’t been.
The Great Rift Valley stretches between Mozambique and all the way up to Syria along the Syrian faultline (although, it’s not Syria’s fault to be on that line). An impressive sight with waterfalls cascading over dominating cliffs. We pulled up at a lookout point where an entry fee of 200 Kenyan Shillings was stated on the sign – only it was for vans and tour buses.
“We’re a private car,” Harley said.
“You can’t charge for a view you did not create,” I threw in.
“How can you charge for something that god created?” challenged GQ. The poor guy, having been used to dealing with tourists and not travellers (the difference? Tourists see, travellers experience) backed up.
“OK, OK,” he said. “At least support us by buying a soda.”
“We don’t drink sodas,” I countered as we admired the view for a moment and figured we’d get a better, free one further down the road.
We weren’t disappointed when we pulled into a broken glass-ridden car park and graced our eyes with the ever flowing plains of the Great Rift Valley. We continued on, trucking past sisal plantations. As we were making our way to Nakuru, I suggested that, “We could do lunch at my mate’s camp, Punda Milias.” A place GQ and I had bartered and spent four days with Danny and his then fiancee-now-wife, Queen.
“Sounds good,” Harley and Emmelie agreed.
I called Danny to warn him of our arrival once we crossed the equator in Baringo, with the lake of the same name glistening from the valley floor on the horizon.
“We’ll be here,” he said.
An hour later we had introduced all parties to Danny and Queen who showed us their new toy, a 1974 FJ Landcruiser. “Original owner,” Danny beamed proudly.
“Its only had one owner since 1974?” I said, shocked.
“Yup,” Danny grinned.
We ordered lunch and after Danny showed us around Harley said, “I think we might bunk here for the night.”
Danny upgraded all of us from pitching our tents to using the Punda Milias bandas. We planned to hit the road the next day but a long night of drinking had laid out Danny and Harley.
Danny had shuffled into the bar in the morning after going to bed at three am. “You’re not allowed to bring any more of your friends over,” he grumbled jokingly (I hope) at me, blaming Harley for his hangover which was instantly cured with a ten o’clock beer.
And with the Pope’s arrival and Nairobi being shut down we had no choice but to stay another night.
“Besides,” he continued, “it’s Thanksgiving. I’ve got a 12-pound turkey in the oven, chef’s making sauce, stuffing, the works. So you gotta stay.”
I looked at GQ who had grown up in Canada and has done the Thanksgiving thing. “Never thought I’d come to Africa and have my first ever Thanksgiving,” I shook my head in wonderment as the TV showed the Pontiff’s addressing of the Nairobian crowd.
Two million people had squeezed into the city to see the man with the pointy hat.
For sunset we headed over to the Sunbird Lodge to take on the view of Lake Elementatia before we finished the night by the fire at Punda Milias.
The next day we hit the road with fresh spirits (aside the tequila shots Danny and co had partaken in) and after four days with the amazing Harley and Emmelie, we parted ways at the turnoff to Karen. Since the Pope was leaving for Uganda that afternoon, the roads were opening up.
After we parted ways and the couple continued on to Karen, GQ and I hiked down the road where I managed to flag down a car. GQ knew Nairobi quite well so she took over the conversation with the driver who just happened to be going in the direction and into the very neighbourhood we needed to reach Atah’s place where we were bunking up for the week, writing up all our adventures in Uganda.
“What do you do?” I asked him.
“I’m a taxi driver,” he said. “But I don’t mind helping you.”
Twenty minutes later we were dropped off and hiked the 2 K’s to Atah’s house.
My previous single hitching record was two days on a truck from Iringa to Mwanza in Tanzania covering a distance of 941 kilometers with three truckers that barely spoke English. Now it was broken with four days from Jinja to Nairobi, covering 880 kilometers in a car that had a Kiwi, a Swede, an Aussie and an Indian. It was one of the best hitches I’d ever had thanks to our new friends, Harley and Emmelie.
Expect nothing, always get something.
“So what do you think?” Teresa asked as we stood inside the main room of the restaurant, The Black Lantern, that serves the best pork ribs in Africa – so is the claim. And it was here that our art installation barter would commence. We looked at the walls. Some had spears hanging from them. There were two empty spaces and then another space over the entrance to the porch overlooking the Nile.
“I’m thinking three string art pieces that we could hang on the walls,” GQ envisioned. “Do you have something we could use as a canvas? Wood or something?”
“I’ll have to look,” Teresa replied.
“What about that space in the back?” I asked (which was really the front reception area). A large wall stood bare, yellowish cream painted on it.
“Sometimes we have conferences and we use the wall as a projection screen,” Teresa said.
“What about above the line?” I asked.
“Yes, you could do use that.”
“We’d have to hammer into the wall,” GQ pondered. “Can we do that?”
“Sure,” Teresa nodded.
“We could do a 90 degree angle piece at the end of it,” I started to knock off ideas that were cascading off my rapid-working brain. “And then in the negative space we make three circle mandalas, from small to big, kinda like an evolution thing. No?” I turned to GQ who was nodding along.
I picked up the restaurant’s flyer and stared at the logo of a Grey Crown Crane silhouette (Uganda’s national bird that also appears on its flag) and the writing of The Black Lantern in Kuntsler Script font.
“What if we made the logo?” I suggested. “I mean, just the writing, on the top there? That way, you can still screen on the wall.”
GQ and Teresa looked up, envisioning it.
“We’d have to make stencils,” GQ said.
“Nah, I can copy it, free-hand.” Looking around I saw that it was me who made the claim.
As a kid I used to draw, illustrate, cartoon and sketch a lot. It’s in the family genes. It also annoyed my teachers as I wouldn’t pay attention in class (explains a bit). My rebuttal at bullies and anyone that pissed me off would be a cartoon of them in a compromising position. And I’ve drawn on walls before. My childhood bedroom saw me draw a cartoon of a basketball player squashed on the wall behind the door so every time a friend entered the room I’d say, “Watch it, mate. You’ve just squashed him!”
Eventually my years of teacher annoyance paid off and at my high school I was asked to draw on the wall of my class. Something the teachers have yet to regret 14 years later as my mate, who now teaches at the school, sent me a photo with the caption, ‘Remember this?’
Which I didn’t and was surprised when I saw it, barely recalling that I had drawn the clichéd two swans coming together to create a heart in a sunset (I know, I know but I was 17 at the time and not quite rebellious trying to impress girls. That would come years later. The rebellious part, that is. Still trying to impress girls).
And then there’s the cave paintings I did at Amuka Safari Lodge.
But I ain’t ever done a font before. And never at 50 times the size of the original (a ballpark figure).
“I like it,” Teresa said.
“Yeah, that could work,” GQ concurred.
We got Bingo’s blessing and began to sketch and plan over the next few days while watching a Ross’s Turaco with its striking red wings fly in front of our tent, the song of fish eagles – a pair of which had built a nest in the huge tree in the car park – creating a consistent soundtrack, black and white casqued hornbills buzzing about, the yellow-billed kite raising its young in the nest just off the porch, the red-tailed monkeys and the vervets jumping from branch to branch. The lightening shows in the evening when moon-sized clouds pounded the horizon and the heavy rains that drenched everything.
And then there are the sunsets.
Oi ve, the sunsets.
At one point we had to move to the Nile River Camp for two nights due to the Nile Porch being fully booked. Luckily, Bingo also owns the NRC (as it is locally known) and we were guided to safari tent number two.
Two nights later we were back at the Nile Porch, this time in tent number 4 with the same incredible view.
“I noticed there’s a door painted obscurely in the front there,” GQ said to Teresa the next morning. “Do you think Bingo would let us cut it into three canvases?”
“Ah, that door,” Saleem reflected as we watched the sun set over the Nile River. “There’s a story behind it.
That door was used for the house and one night our trusted askari (watchman) came in and stole the door.”
“Stole the door?” I repeated.
“Yes – ” Saleem attempted to continue.
“Who steals a door?” I pressed.
“Bro,” Saleem laid it down, “it’s Africa. Anyway, I went looking for that door. I was asking around, going into the villages and checking every door on every house. I was on the hunt. This kid came up to me and showed me where the door was. It was painted but I recognised my fucking door and I took it from the building. The guy claimed that he bought it for 50,000 shillings ($20 AUD) from my askari.
So I told him to come and find me at the Porch. Meanwhile I had called the askari and told him to come over. I deducted 50,000 shillings from the askari’s pay and gave it back to the guy in front of him.”
“And now we’re gonna chop it up and stick it on the wall,” GQ erupted into laughter as did we.
Speaking of, “Shall we get to work?” I asked.
I sawed the door into three almost-equal pieces and hammered in nails after GQ drew the circles.
She created the first two pieces and had a momentary lapse of sanity when she decided to let me do the, “Pièce de résistance,” on the last canvas.
While GQ strung up the first two pieces I spent my time free drawing the font onto the wall. It’d been awhile since I’ve used my brain to this artistic and engineering capacity so it was a little overwhelming at first.
The fuck am I doing? I can’t fuckin’ draw this shit. And on a ladder? The fuck was I thinking. Who put me up to this?
Self-doubt is a bitch of a dog that just wants to bite you in the ass as you try to hop over the fence to safety. But I whipped around and bit that bitch right back. Add on some encouraging words from GQ, the staff (“Well done.”) and some guests and three days later the font was on the wall, somehow looking exactly like the font on the flyer.
“Jesus,” I said aloud standing with GQ, Saleem and Teresa, admiring the sketch. “That was fuckin’ exhausting.”
But now came the hard part – hammering in 1700 nails.
Perhaps we were caught in the euphoria of seeing the work actually coming to life, or perhaps it was the amazing food that distracted us, either way, we were all unaware that the reason why the nails were bending was because they were wood nails.
Even though I was attempting to drill in pilot holes the drill bit wore down and the nails still bent. Turns out it helps if you use a drill bit for concrete rather than for steel.
“Let me call Joque and ask him if he has any drill bits,” Saleem whipped out his phone. “Concrete-steel nails?” I heard him repeat Joque’s suggestion. “Yeah, we could try that.”
Wouldn’t be my first ‘D’oh!’ moment.
Once we had the nails it took two days to hammer them into the points GQ marked.
“Yessis, you guys have patience, aye?” Bingo said on his occasional visit to see how much destruction we were doing to his wall.
Teresa had overheard him explaining what we were doing to some of the guys at the NRC.
“So the guy asks him, ‘But how do they have so much patience to hammer in all those nails?’ and Bingo says, ‘Because they are artists, bru’.”
“You spelt Lantern wrong,” said a guest, attempting suicidal humour.
GQ and I began to string up the letters – which also took two days. When we were done, we stood back like proud parents, admiring our creation.
“Looks amazing,” Bingo said.
“It’s fuckin’ amazing,” Saleem concurred.
“It’s very beautiful,” Teresa added.
“Quite chuffed,” I grinned.
“Quite chuffed,” agreed GQ.
*Check out the Timelapse video here
“I’m almost tempted to drive you to Jinja myself,” Nabifo said as she pulled into the petrol station as far out of town as she could go.
“So let’s go!” I said.
“Yeah, come with us!” GQ threw in.
“I’m expecting a large group,” she said sadly.
We hugged as we parted ways, setting up shop just outside of the petrol station (a pump and a shack). After a weekend of an upset stomach and an inner ear infection that had me face my demons and a wet climb up Wanale Falls, GQ and I were finally on our way to Jinja – our last stop on our Ugandan adventure.
A truck pulled up but the driver wanted money. Ten minutes later a bakkie pulled over.
“I’m going to Kampala,” said Frank.
“Are you passing by Jinja?” I asked knowing that he had too.
“Can we go with you?”
“No problem,” he grinned. “Let’s go.”
Frank was a telecommunications engineer. “I work on the mobile towers,” he said.
“Do you climb them?” I asked.
“Sometimes but most of my work is on the generators,” he shrugged.
“You probably drive around all over Uganda with this job,” GQ added.
“Yes,” he said.
“Gotta favourite place?” I asked.
“Yeah, that place is phenomenal,” I reflected on our time in Rubuguri.
“I just have to get my co-worker to sign this paper,” Frank said as he turned off the road and headed through a small village to the nearest mobile tower, a menacing metal structure standing at about 60 feet. He called out to his mate who guided him to another tower that then lead us to the third tower where we finally found him.
“Hello boss,” he grinned at me.
I grinned back playing the part. Company vehicles aren’t allowed to have non-company passengers in them. Once the paperwork was signed we hit the road and continued on our way. Frank wasn’t married but had a girlfriend in Kampala, where he lives.
“I plan to marry next year,” he said. “But I have a son.”
Mbale to Jinja is a two-hour drive through green rice fields that line the road and vast papyrus plants and wetlands.
“You have a beautiful country,” GQ said to Frank. She had told this to every driver we had, reminding the locals of what they have. “And Ugandans are so friendly and generous.” Also good to remind them that not everyone is an asshole (unless they’re from Birhalwe).
Before reaching Nalubaale Hydroelectric Power Station in Jinja (previously named Owen’s Dam which submerged Rippon Falls in 1954, named by John Hanning Specke, the first European to reach Lake Nalubaale which he christened Lake Victoria. He discovered the source of the White Nile back in 1859) we passed the big roundabout where the Ling-Ling Chinese restaurant on the highway towards the town of Jinja is located.
It was here that we were to meet Teresa who, along with Saleem, co-manages the Nile Porch River Lodge and The Black Lantern à la carte fine-dining restaurant, a Jinja institute. This barter was all GQ. I just tagged along looking pretty. But I was also throwing in the usual: play a few gigs, write an article and GQ was to create an art installation on which I would be the pretty assistant.
The Nile Porch River Lodge (NPR) is wedged between the Nile River Camp (NRC) and the Nile River Explorers (NRE. Who knew Jinja would be a town of acronyms?) where I had played for food and bed when I first entered this great country.
We were on the lookout for the Chinese restaurant. Luckily, it was built in the Chinese architectural style so it stood out like a kangaroo might in the Serengeti. Frank pulled over and we hopped out just as three boda-bodas made their way over.
“We go?” one asked.
“Sure,” I grinned. “We go – over there to meet our friend. I dunno what you’re doing though.”
They shrugged and biked off. What is it with these bodas? Its as though they’ve never attempted to use their feet other than to change gears on their bike. They seem perpetually glued to the seat of their two-wheels, just hanging around, pouncing on unsuspecting foreigners, scavenging like hyenas.
Perhaps I should carry a sign that would read: ‘Have legs, will walk’.
Teresa was already in the car park when we trekked over. She drove us into town to pick up her carpenter, Ronald, before we headed off to the lodge where I met Saleem and their two incredible kids, four-year-old Kanaya and six-year-old Khaleel.
“You guys can stay in tent 8,” Teresa said, as we were shown around the vast, green property. “Bingo really likes trees,” she referred to the owner as we walked among the tall jack-fruit trees.
“Looks like tree testicles,” GQ remarked.
“There’s a visual,” I grinned.
Teresa laughed. “Bingo planted all the trees here,” she continued. “He was the first one to put a raft on the water when the Bujigali Falls were still falls.”
According to local legend, the falls are the sacred site of the Spirit of Bujabald, embodied in a man, Jaja Bujabald, the 39th incarnation – the spirit doctor – who lives by the falls. The 95-year-old fella (four years ago. May have aged since) protects the community by performing rituals at the falls using local plants and herbs for medicine. There have even been reports that he can walk over the water (hmm, what would Jesus do?).
During the ’94 Rwandan genocide dead bodies dumped in Lake Victoria would float all the way to the Bujigali Falls and were wedged on the rocks. It was Jaja Bujabald that removed and buried them. His prophecy is that many people will have to die and others will fall mad if nature is destroyed and the dam built (enter ISIS).
About four years ago the Ugandan government constructed the dam even though they promised that the last dam would be the last dam. It turned Bujigali Falls – which were the first rapids when you went white water rafting – into a lake.
Next year, the Ugandan government is yet again constructing another dam that will turn the rest of the rapids into a lake and end white water rafting in the region forever and cause irreversible environmental repercussions that would affect the already decimated Lake Nalubaale.
Our tent was a combination of concrete and canvas. We had our own shower, toilet, a choice of double or single bed and even a lounging area.
And then there was the view. Here’s a picture since I can’t really put it into words:
“Not a bad barter,” I hugged GQ as a yellow-billed kite swooped around looking for prey or that perfect twig to add to its nest it had built in the tree off the porch of the restaurant.
“Quite chuffed,” she grinned. “Our word for pleasure.”