Saturday, July 15, 2006

From Lake to Lake to Lake, Kenya & Uganda . . . "Where is your husband?"

A few weeks ago we turned our backs on the Indian Ocean and went inland. However, it seemed that we were destined to follow the water wherever we went. Leaving Nairobi we first found ourselves at Lake Naivasha, then Lake Nakuru (both in Kenya’s Rift Valley) and finally at Lake Bunyoni in Uganda.

It sounds like a repetitive choice of destinations but about the only thing these three Lakes had in common was water. Lake Naivasha was a bit murky and we avoided it altogether, instead opting to mountain bike through the nearby Hell’s Gate National Park. I am not sure where the name came from. It was nothing like Hell – unless your idea of Hell is a place heavily populated by birdwatchers and the odd zebra. We had a very pleasant ride, until Phil got a puncture. Faced with a 16km walk back to our camp in the early afternoon heat we decided the best idea would be to hitch.

The first vehicle that stopped for us was a minibus full of people. “Can we fit on the bus with both our bikes? Is it possible?” I sceptically asked the man attempting to usher us into the bus. He looked at me as if not quite understanding why anyone would ask such a stupid question and replied as if it stating the obvious, “This is Africa, anything is possible.” As immediate proof he managed to get us and our bikes in/on the bus and we were on our way.

Northwest of Lake Naivasha is Lake Nakuru, another lake that is not geared towards water sports. Lake Nakuru forms part of a National Park and is covered by thousands of flamingos and surrounded by buffalo, antelope, rhinos, lions and other animals. Another safari drive was in order. You know when you have been on one safari drive too many when you start telling the guide about the gestation period of an elephant. I think that will be our last safari for some time.

Leaving Lake Nakuru we stopped briefly at a Kenyan town called Eldoret. Eldoret’s primary merit from our point of view was its cheese factory. Somewhat over excited we purchased about a kilogram of different cheeses and attempted to finish it all in one day. This was a mistake, but we had no time to recover from our error and hopped on the next bus to Kampala, Uganda.

Another country. Another border crossing. This crossing went very smoothly with immigration officials stamping passports and processing visas very quickly. All was well until the bus pulled out of the car park. I stood up somewhat confused. “Ummm . . . Errhh . . .” I said as looked around randomly for some help. The bus driver turned his head at the disturbance. My face must have clearly portrayed my predicament . . .

Bus driver (yelling): Where is your husband? Where is your husband? Where is he?

Interesting question. I had seen Phil outside the bus looking vaguely around him just minutes before but he had since disappeared.

Bus driver (still yelling): Where is your husband?!

I fought the urge to yell back - “He is not my husband!” – realizing that, at this stage, it was mere semantics. Instead I concentrated my efforts on trying to convince the bus driver to wait for Phil to reappear. He was not impressed.

Driver (more yelling): We are leaving this place. We are going now!

This was a clear challenge. I was somewhat torn between (a) the desire to congratulate him on his effort at punctuality in a continent where that virtue is sadly lacking and (b) the need to stop the bus and find Phil.

Luckily, I was not forced to make a decision. Phil returned. He had been “looking around.” The bus took off and we were on our way into Idi Amin’s former domain – now known as one of the friendliest countries in Africa, if you avoid the rebels (Lord’s Resistance Army) in the north.

We decided to avoid the LRA and went south to Lake Bunyoni. Finally, a lake we could swim in. We spent a few days swimming and canoeing around the various islands on the Lake, one of which was known as Punishment Island. Punishment Island is a tiny island with one tree. Unmarried pregnant women used to be left there to die as punishment for engaging in premarital sex. They had one hope of rescue – if a man could not afford an 'untainted' bride he was permitted to pick one up from Punishment Island. Nice.

To take a bit of a break from island hopping we went to a nearby market on a speed boat. Unfortunately the market was virtually non-existent. In an effort to salvage the afternoon our driver/guide asked whether we "would like to go and see the short people". We took this as a suggestion that we visit a pygmy (Batwa) village. During our travels we have generally avoided the oohh-look-how-the-Africans-live type activities. However, we really enjoyed visiting a Himba village in Namibia so we asked the driver what this Batwa village visit would entail. We were informed that the Batwa people would put on an impromptu dance for tourists for a small fee.

Dancing pygmies seemed a bit too human-safari-ish to us so we declined, much to the disappointment of the local Batwa chief who beckoned us over tastefully dressed in a dusty pinstriped suit and a red Santa hat with white trim. As they say, in Africa – anything is possible.

Forests, gorillas and more of Uganda in the next entry which will be in about a week. Phil has some more safari shots on his photos website so click on the 'Cape Town to Cairo Photos' link to see the latest.


Blogger adyngreg said...

Hi guys,

Thought we'd drop you a quick note to say hi and thanks for the recommendation of La Belle hotel in Naivasha - very nice. We cycled Hells Gate (no flat tyres) and walked Crater Lake, and are now in Nairobi - Kenya Airways actually decided to issue our plane tickets (a miracle!) so we're off to Lamu this morning.

Our blog is - we'll be stealing all your ideas as we head for Cape Town

Take care,
Greg and Adrianne

10:15 PM  

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