We took a matatu to our next destination: Fort Portal. The 4-hour drive began at the new taxi park in downtown Kampala and ended in the town of Fort Portal. It resulted in the most eventful taxi/bus/car/any type of vehicle ride I have ever taken. Not only did my right arm become significantly more tan than my left due to having the window seat, but we also became spectators to an argument between some of the passengers about the presence of foreigners, in particular Americans, in Uganda. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the whole conversation was in Luganda. The only reason we had come to realise that the argument was about us was because one of the passengers was pointing at us during the argument. A fellow passenger that wasn’t participating told us briefly that one of the passengers had began the argument by saying that mzungus (foreigners) are in Uganda to make the Ugandans into their prisoners. Huh…
We were dropped off at a gas station in downtown Fort Portal, and were immediately surrounded by bodabodas who asked us if we needed a ride. We ended up getting onto two bodabodas and asking them to take us to Yes Hostel. Five minutes into the ride however we realised that they had no idea where they were headed and before we knew it, we were standing in front of a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall…Yup, I can totally see how Yes Hostel sounded like that…After a quick search on Google Maps (thank you MTN’s mobile data!) we were finally able to make it to our hostel. We checked in, dropped off our bags and headed off to dinner at a restaurant called Dutchess, which supposedly had the best pizzas in Uganda. Our source was not wrong. I can still taste the vegetarian calzone in my mouth to this day.
Our second day in Fort Portal had a rather rough start. The slight chill in the morning had Sarah and I staying in bed an hour longer than planned. When we left our hostel in the morning and walked to brunch, where we were able to get some local information about the trails that were around the area. Fort Portal itself is a popular tourist destination in Uganda due to its proximity to several of the lakes and national parks of Uganda. We ended up at a hostel known as CVK - after a gruelling 30-minute matatu ride from Fort Portal that had 11 adults and 3 kids squished into an 8-seater mini van - that sat right next to Lake Nyabikere and on the edge of the Kibale Forest National Park.
The guide at CVK recommended two trails to us:
- An hour-long hike that would take us all around the lake and bring us back to the main road which we began on.
- A four-hike that would take us to the ‘Top of the World’ (ie. one of the highest peaks in the area) which would give us great views of the nearby villages and towns.
We wanted to do the four-hour hike. We were so keen for it, I swear! But when we set off to the trail for that hike, we couldn’t find it…so we turned back and went to the trail that we saw led to the lakeside hike.
Lake Nyabikere was calm and the only sounds that I heard during the hike was that of branches crunching under our feet and my occasional annoyed grunt at being eaten alive by mosquitos. We came along some local peoples along our journey and came across some houses slightly off-road from our hike.
Oh and cows as well.
An hour into the hike, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere surrounded by fields and trees, and nowhere near the main road that we had started on.
Now I know I’m not the fittest person around, but the guide had said it would be an hour-long hike, and when you’re not even passed halfway after an hour, you know that something’s wrong. We had been climbing up a hill and had lost sight of the lake.
And so we did what any lost tourist in the middle of nowhere would do, we went in the only direction which we were sure of: back where we came from. We had taken enough paths less travelled on today; it was time to head back and have a beer.
It turned out to be the right idea because not 10 minutes after returning to CVK, it started pouring.
The rest of the day was thankfully relaxed and unstressful as we boda-ed back to Fort Portal for dinner. (Well, we did face a dust storm when we were stuck behind a lorry for a good amount of time. The only downside to riding a boda boda…That, and when it rains.)
Our third day in Fort Portal ended up being a long day of waiting at bus stations and travelling that can’t really be considered a day in Fort Portal. We waited a good hour for the earliest bus to arrive from Kampala in order to continue onwards to Kasese, where we would be visiting one of the cotton plantations that Fine Spinners (and hence AAD) buy their cotton from. However, I’ll leave the detailed explanation of how cotton is grown to Sarah in another post.
Relishing in being able to sleep without waking me every time we drive over a speed bump,