Relax on the Ssese Islands

Trip Start Dec 16, 2005
Trip End Jun 12, 2006

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

The bus was outside my hotel honking its horn at 5:30am. I wasn't quite ready so I went running out half dressed and half packed finishing it all off on the street! It certainly gave the passengers some early morning amusement! I was told the trip to Masaka, on the edge of Lake Victoria, would be 5 hours, it of course turned out to be 8, but it was on a big bus and relatively comfortable, so apart from been in a grump early in the morning it was pleasant enough.

We passed back through Kabale and Mbarara. Two towns I had visited earlier on my trip. Early morning was spectacular, mist covered many of the valleys as we traversed the steep windy roads. Up above the mist rose the peaks of the 13,000ft cone shaped volcanoes. From Masaka I ended up in a shared taxi that included a one hour ferry ride to the island of Buggala and the town of Kalangala (no other choices of transport at that time of the afternoon and I was on a mission to make my destination!). I know I keep going on about the transport, but each trip seems to get worse than the last, not too many more to go though in Uganda! This time it was 11 people in a Toyota Corolla, 7 in the back, 4 in the front and an open boot so full of luggage that it rose above the height of the car! I shared the passenger seat with a well built gentlemen while another passenger shared the drivers seat. What made me laugh was the driver kept complaining at me because he couldn't change gear because my leg was in the way, like it was my fault! I wanted to point out to him that there were 11 people in a car designed for 4 people, but in the end decided this would be futile.

The ferry ride was nice and I could see we were back in the world of birds. Fish eagles, cormorants, egrets, kingfishers etc. One thing that I have to say annoys me on all my bus and boat journeys is litter. As the locals finish with their plastic food bags or bottles down comes the window and out it goes either onto the street on into the lake. I want to say something each time, but up until now I have refrained. About 13 hours into my journey and close to Kalamgala the car pulled up and the passenger next to me grabbed a guy on the street by the scruff of the neck and a big shouting match ensued where the only word I could understand was police. My guide book had made a point about what a safe place this island was! All I could think about was please get me to my destination, preferably in one piece but at this point I was passed caring.

Tried a few local delicacies from the street vendors along the way today, including maize samosas, chapattis and some very tasty roasted peanuts. Let's hope I don't get sick this time! I haven't mustered up the courage to try the BBQ meat on the skewer yet, but I have a few more bus journeys where I'm sure I'll get the opportunity if I'm feeling brave.

Arrived in Kalamgala to be told no restaurants in the place and that all I could get were some more maize samosas! Well the guide book had said this was a quiet place!

My hotel had the name PTA Andronica, with a name like that I should have known it would be strange. Pictures of the pope everywhere, a list of rules that included reporting to the police station on arrival and PTA painted upon every single item that could be removed. Must be scared of thieves!

I took a boda boda the 2km out of town to the Hornbill Campsite Resort. I met a whole bunch of nice people and given my lack of human interaction and the fact no one else was staying at PTAs I vowed to return the next day. I didn't bring my torch and my walk back up the hill and through the jungle in the dark, it was rather spooky. The road had lots of junctions and I wasn't even sure if I was on the right track until I hit the first houses in town.

As if I needed any more persuasion to leave this hotel I saw the two biggest cockroaches ever in my room and heard the little blighters scratching all night.

Woke up and had a tasty breakfast in a little hut in town where the lady cooked outside over charcoals. The maize samosas I couldn't face the night before, cake and African tea that is made with all milk and no water. After that I was out of PTAs and down to Hornbills.

What a beautiful place set in the middle of a bay of white sand beaches complete with hammocks on the edge of the beach and a canoe to go out and paddle in. I chatted with Rebecca and her friend (sorry not good at names) for a while before they persuaded me to swim across the bay with them to a posh resort. Rebecca must have been an Olympic swimmer, in fact she said her sister could have been, as she was just a dot somewhere in the distance for most of the way across. Not having done any swimming for many years it was a 40 minute trip for me - no chance of me turning back though, I didn't was to get shown up by 2 young English students!

After resting up for a while I walked back with Rebecca's friend leaving Rebecca to do the return leg solo. Lots of fisherman on the walk back around and views of Rebecca's head bobbing up and down in the sea. She nearly beat us back.

Tasty giant fish samosas, literally the size of a dinner plate, for lunch followed by an afternoon on the beach, reading in the hammock. At some points I could count up to 50 black kites soaring up in the sky somewhere off shore.

Excellent walk around the bay that afternoon with lots of birds, including a close up fish eagle. This was followed by the communal dinner of smoked Tilapia in the dinning hut. It's nice to be around a group of westerners again swapping stories.

Barry was a retired McDonalds executive and a physical therapist. I tried to get him to talk about the book Fast Food Nation, but he was in denial and as he put it McDonalds was part of his family. He was over here doing PT but his main thing was STD treatment and awareness programs. He said over here on the island HIV infection rates were as high as 50% and there were no condoms available on the whole of the island. In Uganda as a whole he said that individual organisation had measured infection rates as high as 37%. The government's official figure was 7% but he claimed that these figures were manipulated to show the programs were working, this was the only way the government would get any more money from overseas donors. Truly horrific figures. Obviously with those figures people were at it all the time and from what I understand people will often have 5 sexual partners at any one time.

Barry had his own theories about how to solve the problem and some people including the Zambian government found them a bit controversial, so much so that he had been asked to leave that country previously. Barry wanted to get people talking about sex and he though the answer was to get the locals to talk about mutual masturbation and oral sex instead. This made for an interesting conversation as he tried to get the locals who were working at the bar talking about it later on. Good for him though, at least he is doing more that the government who apparently had a warehouse full of condoms that it wound hand out because they have not been certified yet.

1am and a couple of beers before I hit the sack - way after my usual 10pm bed time.

About 1:30am a Japanese fellow arrived in camp and then proceeded to argue with a boda boda driver over a $2 ride that he wanted to pay $1 for. He then complained to the camp the $2.50 was too much to pay to rent a tent and then proceeded to go and sleep on the camp beach chaining all his gear to a nearby boat! At 8:30am he tried to leave without paying the $2.50 camping fee (it was $2.50 camping per person and $2.50 for tent rental). An hour long standoff followed with the security guard before he coughed up and paid. Though this provided some entertainment for me, I really couldn't comprehend why anyone would want to travel this way when everything was a conflict! Besides why had he come off the beaten track to this camp in the dead of night only to leave first thing the next morning without spending time to appreciate his surroundings. Each to their own I guess.

Definitely one of those good relaxation days. Managed to get an old copy of Popular Photography and a copy of Jane Goodall's autobiography in exchange for my Dark Star Safari book. Sat in the hammock for most of the day, swam across the bay and strolled up and down the beach.

Molly who I'd met a week earlier in Kabale turned up that evening with her friend Amanda and her father Les. After fried Tilapia we all sat down around the fire on the beach where I had the pleasure of hearing Barry's life story for the 3rd time! It has to be said it was pretty interesting though.
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MikeNorbury on

We ate at two separate restaurants in Kalangala Town - Black & White Restaurant and Aisha's - during our stay in July and also at one of the several resort restaurants at lakeside, a USh3,000 boda-boda ride away. Not sure why you couldn't find one.

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