Day 32 - Fort Portal, Uganda
Hamid was waiting for me in front of my hotel at 9am sharp. Having become accustomed to ‘Africa Time’ I assumed 9am actually meant somewhere around 9:30am and was caught a little off guard. I quickly threw back my breakfast (an omelet and some instant coffee) and we set off on our tour of the Crater Lakes. As the name suggests, the Crater Lakes are a series of picturesque pools that sit among the rolling green hills around Fort Portal. I had no specific plan in mind (other than checking out Lake Nkuruba, which was recommended in my guide book) so I put my trust in Hamid who had promised to take me to some of the more attractive lakes and lookouts.
The tarmac road barely stretched past the handful of main streets that make up Fort Portal and we were soon bouncing along on dirt. Fortunately, the bike’s suspension was relatively soft and seemed to handle the bumps and pot holes with ease. The only irritation were the plumes of dust that the odd car that passed by kicked up. Regardless, I was too busy admiring the beautiful passing landscape with its rolling green hills, shadowed by the cloud protruding summits of the distant Rwenzori Mountains, to notice any real discomfort.
We soon reached Lake Nkuruba and Hamid and I, led by a resident of the lodge, parked the bike and took a walk down to its shores. It was smaller than I had expected but its location, surrounded on all sides by thick jungle vegetation and accessible only by a narrow, overgrown path, lent it a sense of beautiful isolation.
Hamid spoke with our guide as I took a few ‘happy snaps’ of the lake and when I was down he informed me that there was apparently a beautiful waterfall just down the road. Excited to keep exploring, we eagerly headed off in the direction indicated. However, the directions given to Hamid obviously weren’t perfect because we took a wrong turn and ended up completely lost. Not to worry though, we found a local who agreed (for a small fee) to take us to the waterfall. Little did we realize, however, that the particular route he would have us take, took us down steep hills coated in loose, fertile soil, involved hacking our way through the jungle and jumping streams boarded on either side by swampy marshes (and back again)! Nonetheless, this local did (eventually) manage to lead us to the falls and although the waterfall itself was not that spectacular (especially after having seen Victoria Falls), the whole experience certainly made for a good adventure.
After a bite to eat at a local ‘restaurant’, we took off again for a lookout called “Top of the World” – the highest of the rolling hills in the immediate region which overlooks 3 different Crater Lakes and offers views all the way to the Rwenzoris. Buffeted by the wind, I lingered over the commanding view unsuccessfully trying to capture its impressiveness with my cheap camera. It was an extremely peaceful and humbling place, one which I am sure many travelers overlook (no pun intended) and never get to see.
Tearing myself away from the lookout, I climbed onto the back of the bike and Hamid and I started for home. Unfortunately, we hadn’t gone far before we ran into some bad luck – suffering two punctures. Hamid was able to fix the first one on the side of the road himself but we had to stop in at a garage to fix the second one. However, I wasn’t particularly perturbed - I had nowhere to be so it was no real drama to me. Rather, it gave me a chance to check out a local market and make friends with some kids who were hanging out near the garage.
Eventually, we got back on our way and though it was a long day it was in fact one of the more enjoyable days I had had since I started this adventure. It wasn’t that today was particularly eventful, it was just that today was very peaceful and relaxing but at the same time it felt like I was still exploring. Moreover, the area I was exploring was proving to be incredibly picturesque and the people particularly friendly. For this reason, Uganda is proving to be one of my favourite countries so far.
p.s. Goat again for dinner… could this day have gotten any better???