Man of Many Hats Makes It Home at Last

This is the sequel to Borderline Adventures that takes us deeper into Uganda and delivers me to my Lake Bunyonyi home…

As fabulously fertile as volcanic soil is, it is also painfully porous — I saw people fetching water from communal sources again and again, as the boda boda that Gerald arranged for me was making its way to Kisoro. Most rural kids and women spend many hours every day carrying water to their houses.

Kisoro Town was bedecked in yellow — the colours of the ruling “Movement” — and I chuckled at the memory of last night’s discussion with my host. I had asked him if this part of the country was still so devoted to Yoweri Museveni after a century of his rule. (OK, I exaggerate a tad, but he did take over in the previous century, in 1986, promising to never become an old-fashioned African leader who wouldn’t ever cede power.)

“No, he doesn’t have such support anymore,” said Gerald. “It used to be 100%. Now it’s 95%.”

I went straight to Coffee Pot, a renowned establishment run by a German friend. Her staff makes chicken baguette that is my favourite sandwich in the world. So, of course, I ordered two of them after a year of waiting…

(On the tablet’s screen: our final Tourism Inc report summarising the lessons learned from the two Online Picnics we organised with their support.)

My second big to-do in Kisoro was visiting the new office of Uganda Wildlife Authority, to greet our expert Moses Turinawe and check gorilla permit availability for the incoming Dutch hikers. Anna in the photo was very helpful.

It took me 7 hours to be done with reporting and organising the hike! That’s my life (if I joke a little): administrative duties punctuated by wild rides

There were no buses available in the evening — late night traffic is still not permitted in the Covid era, and such buses would be going to Kampala 10 hours away — but I relatively quickly found a car to take me away from my beloved volcanoes

… to my darling Lake Bunyonyi. It looks like a big river when you see it from the northern side, but then becomes a giant letter Y as you proceed southwards.

The driver really wanted to stop for me, to allow me a better shot, but I wanted it like this, in action.

It was lovely to meet our Bunyonyi guides again! These gentlemen all entered our tourism business very young and inexperienced, many years ago: Asa was a carpenter, Owen a cleaner and Levi a canoe boy. Owen’s son Brighton looks ready to take over soon!

I showed them my images from Lake Kayumbu and we discussed how to most cost-effectively arrange for repairs of the toilet and jetty we built there.

Naturally, Tom’s Homestay needed to be checked next. It’s the most important rural overnight we have established, the crossroads of many hiking routes, but thankfully just a dugout canoe paddle away.

Wanting to reach Tom on foot, I parked the canoe on the other side of Habukomi Island because I had not visited that shore for … a decade?

This part of the island is clearly demarcated — the owners are ready to sell to tourism investors, or coffee growers, or anyone with money really …

A marshy path leads to the other half of Habukomi where Tom resides. This bottleneck is sometimes under water, indicating that one day in the future the island is likely to be permanently split.

I haven’t introduced my colleague yet: this is Mari, our intern. You met her in the first Weekly Companion and have savoured her blog posts ever since, and now she is ready to give you even more. This week we are transitioning the Daily Dose — it will be run by Mari for a couple of months, and the canoe expedition was actually our editorial meeting.

And here is the man we wanted to surprise! Legendary Tom Karemire.

He showed me the local replacement for a plastic toilet seat, and I agreed that this innovation was the way to go. Tom had also been working on our jetty, repairing it himself. Impressive.

I was relieved to see him so strong and dynamic, at 72. I don’t know what we would do without him!

He asked me about my children and I showed him this photo from Musanze. I wondered how clear it was for this old man with ailing eyes, on a phone screen, on a sunny day without any shade. “They have grown. Enya even has breasts,” said Tom. He really is fine, ha ha!

On the way back a storm hit us briefly. The microclimate is really something here… In one day you could easily get every weather condition on the menu!

When we were about to land at our place, the Bunyonyi Safaris Hotel showed up in the background. I thought I would share the photo with you and explain to newbies that village tented accommodations of Gerald and Tom aren’t the only options, at all. There are good facilities for every budget all over the Gorilla Highlands region.

Then again, it also needs to be noted that in the Robinson Crusoe simplicity of Edirisa you can still eat like a king!

Remember how I mentioned carrying a scale in my backpack? If I don’t check regularly while being spoiled by a chef like Brenda, I will be in danger of regaining the weight I had shed!

Here she is, the heroine who has kept the place together throughout Covid and through my 13-month absence …

We are all forever grateful, Brenda, and we hope you keep our new editor Mari well fed and happy!

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