My dream is to travel around the world and write. Because a lifestyle like this will need serious financing, I see myself working a 9-5 job for at least 5 more years.
To stop bands of frustration from forming around my heart and mind, I take every opportunity to play pretend. I morph into a tourist at least once a day.
As I am leaving home in the morning, I say Apenyo, you are now a Kenyan college student who’s just checked in at Malaba
or Apenyo, you are now a rebellious Batwa (Mutwa?) teenager who has run away from her home to explore the world.
Too few Ugandans possess a sense of wonder about their country, preferring to dream of vacations in “outside countries”. Oba we think every centimeter of the world is as gorgeous as our home and so we don’t bother exploring? Fake stuff.
Bule is not really an Island. If you travel long enough in a straight line, the murram road that cuts through shaggy, unpredictable forest will deliver you to the heart of Mukono. This is disappointing to me. I like to imagine Bule as a tiny island, surrounded by waters rich in mukene. In reality it is some kind of peninsula.
The first time I traveled there, it was in the company of a fun but also peevish friend who refused to tell me where we were going; not when we were getting into the Ggaba taxi at Cooper Complex, not when we were whizzing past Kansanga. Not even when he was telling me to board one of the taxi-boats at Ggaba’s landing site did he say “Hey, I know of this island* with gorgeous beaches and that’s where I’m taking you”.
He just became irritated with me for asking.
I am happy that I went with the flow that day because the taxi-boat delivered us to a place whose loveliness hasn’t diminished in all the 3 occasions that I have been there. There is too much to see, to fear, smell and touch.
As the boat approaches Bule’s shore, about a meter way, you hear raucous chirping. It’s rising from a short but sturdy looking tree that’s growing out of the water. The tiny yellow birds that call it home are too many to count. Their nests are identically sized and hang from every available branch!
The moment I noticed that some of the nests were still green as a result of being constructed with fresh twigs, I considered bursting into tears of wonder. Why? Because, come on, how often does one find opportunity to burst into tears of wonder? Green nests and brown nests, green and brown all over the tree with tiny yellow birds flitting from branch to branch, nest to nest and all the while, making shrill contributions to the conversation they are perpetually having.
There are four “beaches” on Bule. Before last weekend, I had only been to Mutoola, so I bless the Boda boda men at the dock for happily educating my partner and I about our options. Really they had nothing to lose. They were going to profit by charging us three times more than they charge people who know their way around the place.
Lagoon Resort, they said, is for bazungu. “It is nice, but if you don’t have money, hmm, you go to the other places. Those are BaGermany.” They were right. The place seems geared towards expats kubanga they charge (heavily) in dollars. It would cost us 200 dollars to spend a night, the receptionist said, and we couldn’t bring any drinks or eats in.
I am an old hand at Bule, so I know that if you don’t carry food from Ggaba, you are likely to starve. Well, unless you can hunt squirrels and bush rats. Most things that you’d like to eat while at the beach come from the mainland and so the hotel people need for you to communicate your intention to eat hours before you arrive. Not even fish will be on hand because there is no electricity to keep stuff fresh.
We left Lagoon and after a short walk, arrived at the gate of a place called Lakeside Adventure Park.
It was deserted. A few minutes’ exploration revealed that Lakeside had an even better ambiance than Lagoon. We were walking around, mouths agape, worrying about how much we would have to pay to spend the night in such a place when we came upon a lean man wearing a yellow shirt and grey pants. He introduced himself to us as Mr. Perfect.
Perfect had a removed, somewhat supercilious manner until we told him that we were looking for a place to spend the night. Perhaps he always has to send stragglers away, who just wander in, looking for a place to picnic without paying the 10,000 entrance fee. However, as people with intentions to spend money there, we didn’t have to pay this fee.
We were happy with what Perfect had to say. It would cost us 40,000 shillings to spend a night in a tent erected a few meters from Lake Nalubaale’s shore. We also had the option of sleeping in the dormitory at 30,000 a head, or making use of the “family house” which is fitted with solar electricity and other amenities, for 150,000 (4 people). We took the tent option.
We had muffins, waragi, a box of fruit juice, pineapples and a kilogram of raw pork. That’s right. Lakeside allows, even encourages patrons to bring their own food in. For 5000, we had the use of their kitchen.
As our tent was being pitched, we explored the climbing courses that occupies a good amount of space on Lakeside’s lawn. They are intricately constructed and I imagine, fascinating to climb.
I hadn’t padded my wallet enough to afford a go (60,000) but I watched some people complete it the next day. Oh the joys of watching a human being overcome terror. It was like witnessing an excruciatingly slow bungee jump; all of the terror with none of the merciful swiftness.
I spent two days lazing about on different surfaces, wearing few to zero clothes, just breathing deep and falling in love with life.
At one point, we ran out of cash and had to take a boda boda to Mpaata, a shanty town some miles from Lakeside for mobile money. When we arrived, the network was off. We didn’t despair for very long, deciding to do a nature walk instead of panicking.
Bule is one thickass forest, you guys. I swear it is like the set of Land of the lost. It was the most romantic (and amusing) thing watching my partner uproot a long, flexible, reedy plant that he started to use as his staff (and swat-stick). What was it for, I wonder? Protection from snakes and large squirrels?
What had Bule turned him into? Moses of the Bible? George of the Jungle? Both?
I love creeper plants and this place is home to such a variety! I just want to move there and build a tree-house and make babies.
Not actual babies.
Eventually we got our M-money and carried on pretending that we’d never have to return to Kampala.
If you want to travel to Bule, this is what you need to do:
Shop. Take a taxi to Ggaba. Walk to the dock and enter a taxi boat. Fare is 1,500/=
If you don’t want to be sweated on by other passengers (these boats get PACKED), take a “special hire” one. This will cost you anything from 15 bob to 6 bob. Bargain in Luganda.
Don’t be just staring at your smartphone like an idiot when in the boat. You will miss the special tree with the special nests!
Remember the names of the beaches. I totally, 100% recommend Lakeside. No they haven’t paid me to do kalango. They should, right? Ha
Don’t allow the boda to charge you more than 2000/=. Go forth and enjoy.
Take the climbing course at Lakeside. Terror is good for personal growth. Climb, jump, zip, duck, use your body. Turn some of the bacon fat around your heart into energy.
Take pictures! I didn’t take very many, but here’s hoping that my words painted a good enough picture.
Go explore Bule and tell people about it because because a place like that should not be a secret
Update: Forget my sad pictures. These people have a fantastic gallery
My next big adventure is a two day trip to Murchison Falls with a truly great tour company called Sabili Tours. Come and we go :D!