Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

This weekend, Claire and I decided it was time for another little getaway. This time, our destination would take us across the border (and more importantly, get our 90 day visas renewed in the process). With our backpacks and our passports, we ventured out of our Kigali home. Eight hours, and three different types of transport later, we arrived at our destination: Byoona Amagara, Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda.

It definitely shouldn’t have taken that long, BUT we are on African time here. I will deem this weekend the weekend of strange transportation adventures. We took a mini-bus from Kigali to the border of Rwanda and Uganda. This mini-bus did not leave until it was full which happened to take an hour and a half. I tired to sleep as we waited, but the constant parade of people moving in and out of the van trying to sell us food, bracelets, or children’s clothing made that impossible. Eventually the van was full and we were on our way. We were dropped off near the border, walked through customs, and picked a shared taxi up on the other side. This taxi looked like any other I have seen: a typical car with five seats. So, naturally, we put eight people (plus a baby) in the car. The taxi dropped us off in Kabale, Uganda where we picked up motorbikes, or bota botas as they are called in Uganda.

 Side note: I have to add that Claire and I each had our own motorbike on the way over, but had to share on the way back. Now try to envision two muzungu girls and a bota bota driver on one bike. I held on to Claire for dear life as we climbed back up the hill. That was an interesting and precarious ride to say the least.

Our composting outhouse... and a nice view!

We drove through the mountains, up and down dirt roads until we arrived at the lake where we took our very own dugout canoe across to our accommodations. It was a 50-minute paddle that brought back memories of canoeing at summer camp. Just when I felt my arms would fall off, we spotted our island. The place we stayed was amazing. A backpacker from New York developed the facility. He worked with the local community to create a sustainable tourist destination that could generate revenue to support projects and enhance lives. Byoona Amagara Island is truly paradise. 

Our Geodome!

Everything on the island is eco-friendly. The toilets are compostable, they used natural materials to build, and they use and serve local food. We stayed in a Geodome, which is an open-air building shaped like a dome. I loved it, but I did tuck my mosquito net in very tightly. We watched the sun rise in the morning and star gazed at night from our beds! The highlight of the weekend was the food (of course!). I’m a sucker for seafood and to my surprise, Lake Bunyonyi is crawling with crayfish. If you’ve never had them, I highly recommend it!  

Crayfish fishing

Fresh from the lake

We found some swings!

It was a great weekend overall, but it’s good to be home again. Now we are refreshed and ready to start another week!


Ally Bataille said...

That looks like so so much fun! I love the sounds of where you slept! The stars were really beautiful here last night! But I definitely miss the Rwandan skies

Fr. Bernie Bourgeois said...

Elena! It looks like this is a tremendous experience for you. You have much more courage than I; I could not just take a passport and walk across a border, especially thousands of miles from home. It sounds like you're growing a lot in this experience. Know of my thoughts and prayers. Fr. Bernie

Jeanne Penoyar said...

Dear Elena, You both are quite adventurous! I also think you must have your Guardian Angels watching over you. May you always be safe!
Thinking of you,