Day 8: Our alarm buzzed around 5am, just as Jeal came to knock on our door to wake us up. We sleepily threw our packs in the car along with a giant bag of lemongrass that Jeal gave us as a gift. After a little banana, we said our goodbyes to Jeal to make the 2-3 hour drive to Kilembe, the small copper mining community where the Rwenzori Trekking Services (RTS) is located. We told Jeal we’d print our pictures and have them sent to her and put on the homestay website. I don’t think we could have thanked her enough for sharing her home and her village with us, for the food, for offering all that she had to make us feel welcome. I was sad to leave her in the darkness and silence of the morning, but it was time to go. Ronnie and Abdul prodded us along, and we hopped into the van for the next leg of our journey. We dropped off Abdul in Fort Portal and continued towards Kasese. We passed through the larger town of Kasese around 7am and reached Kilembe at 8am. The town appeared to be oddly situated in the middle of a big river that had dried up. Massive stones and boulders scattered the village and many buildings and homes looked severely damaged and abandoned. Ronnie told us that there had been a devastating landslide a few years back and the community has struggled to recover.
We passed over an under-construction bridge and pulled up in front of the RTS building. Jake and I each ate a hard boiled egg sandwich – not one of our most thrilling breakfasts! 😉 We headed to an outdoor patio area where we met our hiking companions: Julie from Belgium, Thomas from Denmark, and our mountain guides, Rogers and Godwin. The staff set me up with a rental sleeping bag and Jake and I each got some black rubber rainboots for particularly muddy sections of the hike. After packing all the leftover space in my backpack with bottled water, Rogers and Godwin told us it was time for a “briefing”. This was our first briefing of the trip, and each generally consisted of four things: 1) Rogers and Godwin giving us a few guidelines about the upcoming day, 2) encouraging us to ask questions, 3) thanking us for coming and making it this far, and 4) thanking each other for speaking. When we seemed to be just about ready to head out, we met our porters – there were 7 in total, 4 for each of us hiking, and 3 for food and cooking supplies. I have to say, at first I was really uncomfortable with the idea of a porter carrying my pack the entire trip. It felt unfair! I thought a lot about the people who get so much praise for climbing Mt. Everest, but the local porters climb it multiple times in their lifetime and it goes unnoticed. Anyhow, by the end of the trip, my mind was changed. While I still feel there is a serious lack of recognition given to porters, I was very happy that I wasn’t carrying my pack the entire trip. It would have taken me longer than 3 days to complete our trek. And, simply watching the porters literally run and skip up and down the mountain with such little effort was amazing on its own. It was so incredibly impressive! Okay, porter spiel over.
We hiked ~2.2km out of Kilembe through some hilly farming areas of coffee beans, cassava and potatoes to the rangers post (1700m) right inside the Rwenzori Park. After signing into the guest book and chatting quickly with the ranger, we hiked another 4.8km to our camp for the night, Sine Lodge (2700m).
On our way we found some chameleons with bright blue and green colors, and horns – they looked like baby dragons! The last kilometer or so was very steep, and it started downpouring – so just picture me bear crawling up up the side of a mountain completely soaked. Pretty fun stuff! When we had successfully reached the camp, we were all so relieved to be under some shelter to dry off. Jake set up some rope and we all hung up our wet clothing to dry as we chatted over how nice the camp was. Sine Lodge, and the other camps for the next 2 nights, were essentially wooden cabins with about 4 bunk beds inside, with mattresses. Wild!
Once the rain had cleared up, we hiked down about ~5 minutes to a nearby waterfall. On our way, Jake and I found a huge earthworm – the biggest I have ever seen! Jake had some fun using his camera to get some nice shots of the waterfalls, and we were in total awe of the moss that seemed to just crawl over every inch of the forest.
When we got back to the camp, we had some tea and settled around a picnic table to share stories about our experiences in Uganda, other places we had traveled, and what the future had in store for each of us. While we sipped our tea, a man in his 40s and a teenage boy climbed up to the camp. Nathan and his son, Jackson, introduced themselves and as is life, they’re from Decatur, IL. Nathan, a U of I alumni, works for Chevron and his family has lived in Angola the last few years. Jackson was turning 15 that week, so they were climbing up to a 15,000 ft peak – a tradition they have each year for his birthday. We laughed about the striking coincidence that Nathan had been to bars like the Blind Pig and Canopy Club, and yet we were meeting here, on a mountain in Uganda. For dinner we had cream of mushroom soup followed by rice and veggies in a tomato sauce. The food was delicious – especially after a long day of hiking! The porters also introduced us to a “special sauce” that was some mayo based ketchup-mustard combination. Jake was the only one who really enjoyed it! 😉 After dinner, we had our second briefing with Godwin and Rogers. Since they insisted that we ask them questions, Jake was able to muster up a few about the terrain we could expect tomorrow. We huddled around the campfire, drying our boots and clothes that were still damp. Jake burned the tongue of his boots while he and Nathan gushingly talked about prime hiking trails around the world. Nathan has traveled so much, it was wonderful to hear all his stories and his family’s dedication to traveling. I headed to bed a little before Jake – fell asleep so soundly to the sounds of nighttime cherps and the crackling fire.
Day 9: I woke up at 7am to rain pitter-pattering on the metal roof. Nathan was awake too, and we did a little morning stretch on the porch to get our muscles ready for another full day of uphill hiking. Rogers and Godwin brought us some oatmeal, eggs, sausage, onions and potatoes for breakfast and got everyone prepared to head out. Protein packed and ready to go!
As we got our packs ready, Jackson noticed the thick fog rolling into the mountains, completely obstructing our view beyond the hill we were on. The fog silently crawled up and completely engulfed everything in its path. At 8:30am we took a final group picture and headed out for the day. It continued to rain steadily as we hiked through the “Bamboo Zone” (area with lots of bamboo, obviously!) and progressively got a bit heavier as the day went on. After about 1.5 hrs, we started into the “Heather Zone” which had mostly big branchy trees covered with light green, low-hanging moss called old man’s beard. By the time we reached Kakloma camp (3100m), we were all happy for a chance to dry off. We sat inside one of the cabins and rung out our jackets while jumping up and down to stay warm. My hands were so stiff! Nathan and Jackson put their ponchos back on and embarked out into the rain with their guides as they were heading on a different trail than us. We said our goodbyes, exchanged emails and wished them a fun trip! We hid out at the camp for about 2 hours and had our lunch (ham and tomato sandwich and an apple) while the worst of the rain passed. Rogers, Godwin and the porters started a little fire and we sat around and tried to dry our drenched clothes (again), while avoiding getting smoke wafts directly to the face. Even among the cold, wet, smoke-filled conditions, we couldn’t help but giggle at the scene of us all hiding underneath the tarp in the middle of the Rwenzoris. The rain may have gotten us, but our spirits were not defeated! 🙂
The fog cleared a bit and we were able to get a beautiful view through the old man’s beard down to Lake George below before continuing the hike. At 1:15pm we were mostly dry and made our way through the Heather Zone to our top point at 3615m. On our way we found some St. John’s Wart and another plant that is used as a horn for a woman to blow into while she’s in labor. When we reached the highest part of the mountain, Godwin shimmied out and lounged on a mossy tree branch while Rogers took our picture.
On the way down, it was a steep descend through the most beautiful nature I have seen! The swampy forest was covered in green and little vibrant flowers peaked between rocks and over the moss. It felt like we were walking through a Dr. Seuss book! Through the trees, Rogers pointed out a plane between two mountain peaks that had crashed years ago. We really had to watch our footing on the way down because the rocks were loose on the trail. Looking down across the mountains, we saw the camp below – relaxation and tea awaiting us.
From the peak to Samalira Camp (3147m) took about 1.5 hrs. In total that day we had covered about 9km, but it was spanned out over quite a bit of time since we had that nice rain break. My legs were weak after so much steep uphill and downhill – I was happy to be on semi flat ground for the evening. We laid out our clothes to dry, as was becoming customary, and shared some tea under the eating tent. I went to unpack some of my things to dry and realized all of my cash and passport was soaked! I laid out about $400 worth of Ugandan shillings on the upper mattress of my bunk to dry – a pretty silly sight. The campfire overlooked Lake George and far off in the distance we could see Kasese where we had been only yesterday!
Jake and I sat on a log by the fire and looked through his photos, and it reminded me of our previous camping trips in Shawnee and Colorado. The satisfying exhaustion that comes each evening as you make your way along the trail. For dinner we had cream of pea soup and spaghetti with a meat sauce (plus special sauce for Jake), which we all devoured. I almost was able to eat all of mine, but Jake happily slurped down my leftovers. I don’t know where he puts it. Jake brought over my dessert while I was sitting at the campfire and I squealed pretty loudly – butterscotch pudding with banana! We were really getting used to this whole porter thing. Everyone sat around the fire as Rogers and Godwin took us through our briefing for the day (“Thank you to my fellow mountain guide, Godwin. Now he will speak about what we will do tomorrow…”). We were all getting to know each other a little better and it was nice to have such interesting conversation with the group. We talked about how the RTS built the camps – how did they carry everything up the mountain?!, other mountaineering companies in the Rwenzoris, the director of RTS and how he builds schools in Kilembe. Rogers and Godwin also asked for some feedback from us about our trek so far – we all agreed that we would highly recommend RTS to any friends hiking in the Rwenzoris (check out my review on TripAdvisor!). Jake took some really great photos of the stars and all of us around the fire. Such a nice night – we could see the strip of the Milky Way span across the sky. So wonderfully peaceful. It was a chilly night, but upon burrowing into my sleeping bag, I quickly drifted off after another exhausting day.
Day 10: Woke up at 6:20am and started packing up. Jake set up his GoPro to get a timelapse of the sun rise over the moutains. We had oatmeal with bananas and pancakes for breakfast and hit the trail around 7:45am. It was raining lightly but stopped after we began hiking. We were still in the Heather Zone and we quickly learned that it was easier to move downhill at a light jog since it was so steep. We stopped for a moment to take a break and some ants got in my pants and were biting me! Ow! Julie also got a nosebleed around this time – we were falling apart! 😉 Hah! Little did I know what was coming…
We continued our trail running down the mountain, happily trotting along. Until, my right foot got snagged on a root and my left foot slid out down the slope in front of me. I fell back onto my right foot into a half split and heard a nice loud “crack”. Jake ran down behind me and I tried to stand but felt a little sick. Trying to brush it off, I went to step on my ankle but couldn’t put any weight on it, so I started panicking a little bit. I was having a hard time breathing thinking about how the heck I was going to get down this mountain if I couldn’t walk. Godwin and Rogers came over to assess the damage and wrapped my ankle up while Jake tried to get me to calm down.
I tried walking with two sticks down the mountain, but after ~10 steps, Rogers insisted that I move ahead with the porters. This is where I left the rest of the hikers, so my story is a little bit different from here until we reach the rangers post. This is the part where all 7 porters and Rogers took turns piggy backing me, jogging down the mountain. My housemate, Aoife, and I had predicted that I would get injured while we were hiking, so I could at least tell her we were right. Two of the porters slipped and fell while we were on our way down, but luckily no more injuries! I couldn’t believe how fast they could run down this mountain, with me on their backs. Particularly one porter in a red sweatshirt was a real champ. I suspect that they had turned it into a contest to see who could get the farthest with me on their back because every time one stopped to put me down, the rest cheered and slapped each others’ backs at who was next. When we got to the rangers post about an hour or two later, my legs and arms were so sore from clamping onto the porters hips and necks. Then again, I can’t imagine how tired they all were! Hah!
Jake, Julie and Thomas made it to the rangers post only about 15 minutes after us and we had some lunch and signed out of the guest book. I insisted to Godwin that I could walk the rest of the way since it wasn’t so steep, but after 100m, Rogers motioned for me to get on his back again. Jake urged me to not push myself, to which I glared at him. We both tend to be hypocrites when it comes to situations like this.
Scenario: Partner 1 gets injured/is sick/is too busy/is very stressed. Partner 1 continues to over exert themselves in all aspects of life while Partner 2 insists that he/she take a break and/or rest. Partner 1 continues to over exert themselves in all aspects until hitting a wall. Partner 2 tucks Partner 1 into bed/makes tea and Partner 2 quietly says “Thank you, I’ll try and listen to you next time.”
I walked myself for the last kilometer or two to the RTS in Kilembe, which in retrospect was probably not great for my ankle. But, the idea of a porter hauling this white girl down the mountain through the village just seemed all too embarrassing to endure. So, Godwin walked next to me as I slowly hobbled along. Ronnie met us with the van and after thanking Godwin, Rogers and the porters for the amazing trip and rescue operation, and exchanging emails with everyone we were back in the van once again. In Kasese we stopped for some lunch. Jake ordered some goat stew, kalo, pumpkin and dodo, and I picked at it, insisting that I wasn’t hungry. My ankle was reaching the size of a softball, so we agreed to stop at hospital before making our way to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Ronnie took us to Maseruka medical center where I laid on a bed next to a sleeping child while the doctor examined my foot. It’s important, and amusing, to note that at all these stops (lunch, medical center, x-ray center) Jake and Ronnie were carrying me everywhere. The center’s x-ray machine was down, so we went on the search for a place called Zedex where I was able to get an x-ray. The jolly technician was eating a snack of white bread and milk tea while x-raying my foot. After a little wait, we got the x-rays and it was all normal! Phew! After a quick stop back at Maseruka, I got some gel pain reliever and we were on our way to Queen Elizabeth for the evening. We stopped for a moment on our way to get a picture at the Equator – we were crossing into the Southern Hemisphere! 🙂
We drove a little ways through the park to our lodge, Kingfisher, spotting a big herd of elephants along the way as well as tree packed with bird nests. After ordering dinner we made our way to the room where our number one priority was hot showers! Jake helped me hop all around the hotel room (what a sweet guy!) and ordered us some South African wine to go with dinner. We ate outside on our balcony – avocado in vinagrette, tilapia curry, pork medallions in mushroom cream sauce, and fruit with custard – while talking about future plans and travels. Feeling fresh and clean, full of wine and tasty food, we drifted to sleep ready for what tomorrow would bring.
Day 11: Another early morning! (Barely) awake at 5:40am for some breakfast overlooking Queen Elizabeth. We shared some eggs, bacon, toast, fruit, and coffee (courtesy of Jake’s aeropress). Ronnie picked us up around 7am and we took some photos before leaving for our morning game drive.
I started using Jake’s hiking sticks to walk a little better, but I couldn’t tie my cheetah print sneaker since my swollen foot wouldn’t fit inside – hah! We started the game drive at 7:45am and Ronnie had already received a call from his fellow tour friend saying they had spotted 3 lions. We found the lions off in the distance, 3 females that appeared to be hunting. After a little more driving, we came up on a male lion lounging a distance from the road, so we *did not* off-road quickly to see him a little more up close, squeal in excitement, and then head back to the main path.
Cobe, buffalo, warthogs and birds were everywhere! We saw another two female lions, one of which we also *did not* drive up to see closer. While Ronnie *talked to a friend* outside of the van about how off-roading is illegal, a hippo in a nearby mud puddle pulled himself up and was staring me and Jake down. Jake was ready to jump into the driver seat in case it started charging at us! *Note*: It’s illegal to drive off the main park pathways.
Nora was freakin – Jake’s notes.
While visiting the salt lake in the park, Ronnie got another call that there was a pride of 7 lions spotted. We headed over to see them in the savannah grasses a distance away – some of the cubs were playing! At this point we had reached our 24hr park limit so we made our way out of the park stopping at a honey stand and a small craft shop on the way- Jake bought some wooden spoons and I bought a card made of elephant poop! We tested out the honey on some chapatis for a little snack – yum!
By 11:30am we were on our way to Kabale, the last town before crossing into Rwanda. It was rainy and there was one road that under some serious construction. We slipped along the muddy road while a lot of cars got stuck. I was a nervous wreck! In my defense, a decent portion of the road was on the side of a hill which we could tumble down and die, so I think my worry was warranted. At 2:30pm we stopped at the Satellite Hotel for some lunch overlooking the rolling hills dotted with household farms.
I had a burger, Jake had pork chops and Ronnie had a veggie burger, each with green beans and carrots. The food literally took 1.5 hrs – I’m fairly certain they were killing the cow for my burger. Ronnie told us that the area we were in is called Little Switzerland because of the rolling hills and step-structured farms. He was right – it looked straight out of the Sound of Music. After passing through the busiest part of Kabale, we drove up through some hills to a viewpoint of Lake Bunyonyi. On our way up to the viewpoint we were really surprised at the how mountainous the area was, and how homes and farms were built on steep ledges. The variation of landscape in Uganda is astounding!
Lake Bunyonyi has 29 islands. The peak mountain near the lake (you can see it in the above picture) is split between Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. A guy at the viewpoint told us about some of the history of the islands – one island is called “punishment island” because they sent unwedded pregnant women there to die. But, apparently, some men would swim there to save them, or they would swim away too. Another island has zebras that were brought over from another part of Uganda, but people aren’t so fond of that. We snapped some really lovely photos and headed to catch a boat to our little island geodome for the next 2 nights.
The hotel where we stayed is called Boonya Amagara and is a 5-10 minute boatride from the main land. Our room was a big dome that was completely open to a balcony facing the lake – so beautiful! It really felt like a mini paradise off in some far away land. I guess it didn’t just feel that way, that’s what it is. 🙂 Jake got some hot water for the shower, climbed up the shower head to pour the hot water in, cleaned out the water tank, and then added cold water until it was a good temperature. (“what else did you expect?” –Part 1). I just opted to not shower.
We had some dinner on the balcony – garlic cheese toast, cray fish with veggies and rice, and a burrito with cray fish! Boonya has lots of yummy cray fish dishes. There aren’t many fish in the lake, but there are cray fish. We drank red wine and for dessert had chocolate rum balls in shredded coconut that had easily more than one shot in each ball. Those puppies were strong! Fell asleep in our geodome cocoon of wonder at 11pm.
Day 12: We finally slept in until 10am after waking up before dawn for so many consecutive days! We allowed the day to pass slowly – eating breakfast, reading on the porch, lounging on the balcony, drinking tea, listening to music.
Around 2pm we asked the Boonya staff about renting a canoe to go out on the lake. Jake and I really gained an appreciation for masterfully crafted canoes, because this one was so hard to maneuver! We floated on the water feeling like we were in some wonderland. It was amazing to be with Jake in this little bubble of total perfection. Life seemed to pause around us and we could just take everything in, one color, one breeze, one moment at a time. We passed a primary school on one of the islands, and some cows on another island. After docking the canoe, we went to the main restaurant area for some lunch among some other guests – four people from America and one guy, George, from the Netherlands. Jake and I split some avocado salad and a tuna melt in a potato chapati and we each had a beer. We talked to George about educational reform and our opinions based on our educational experiences. Really great conversation!
I spent the early evening reading on the porch while Jake set up another hot shower. He painstakingly poured the hot water into the water tank, added cold water to make the temperature right – all while I sat on my sprained ankle just waiting to get in! Did I also mention that there were lots of spiders in the shower? He did all this among the spiders. Luckily I had a sprained ankle as an excuse to not assist, although I did help give him the jerry can of cold water while he stood on top of the shower. For dinner we ordered a pizza and had Savannah Dry cider – which the staff really liked! – and some white wine. We pearched up on one of the couches in the restaurant and played a card game that Jake brought called Hanabi – note: the game is easier with more than two people. Finished last sips of wine and off to sleep at 10:30pm.
Day 13: We woke up in our little dome, on our last day of our Western Ugandan adventure. I think Jake and I were both very happy to be packing our bags for the last time! At 7:30am we had our final breakfast at the Boonya restaurant – fruit and eggs on toast.
A few friendly birds hopped over to my plate and grabbed the toast right off the plate! It was pretty silly. We grabbed a boat to the mainland around 8:15am after getting a few pre-departure pictures. On the boatride we quietly soaked in the last minutes of this paradise – the clouds just seemed fluffier, the sun brighter, the water more sparkly. We leaned against each other, and I knew we were both thinking how lucky we were to be here, to be together, to have the opportunity to explore the world and see all it has to offer.
Ronnie met us at the dock, cheerfully helping us back into the van and onwards! On our way to Mbarere, Jake showed me how to use his camera and Ronnie stopped at markets along the road to get cauliflower, onions, and tomatoes. Each time we stopped the van to get fruits and vegetables a crowd of people would form around the vehicle holding up their produce for sale. We stopped at a hotel in town and had some lunch, and used the cleanest bathrooms I had ever seen in Uganda. Seriously, I would have slept on the floor of those bathrooms. At 2pm we were approaching Lake Mburo where we stopped for a boat ride and a quick drive through the park.
Moses took us out onto the lake in a little private boat and we saw 5 crocodiles, lots of fish eagles, kingfishers, 2 shoebills, and hippos! On the drive we saw zebras, impala, bushbacks, warthogs, and one elan. Ronnie told us about this invasive shrubbery that is ruining the savannah grasses of the park which has driven the lions out of Mburo. We also saw lots of cows! Farmers from the surrounding community illegally bring their cows into the park to graze.
At 5pm we left to head homewards to Kampala. A little after sundown we stopped for a quick coffee and a picture when we passed back into the Northern Hemisphere. We were greeted by the abundant Kampala traffic, but Ronnie was very savvy and managed to avoid all the jams. On our way back to the Garden House we stopped at an Indian restaurant, Saffron, to order food to be delivered to the house – palak paneer, paneer tikka masala, rice, naan, and tandouri mushrooms! Poor Jake had a little nut-scare but after confirming with the restaurant that there were no nuts in his paneer, he devoured the whole thing. Probably a little too fast. 😉 We had fun showing Beatrice and Simon photos from the trip, and Markus and Lana showed up after the pub quiz at Bubbles. Markus, a German guy I met in November, had moved in while we were gone and his girlfriend, Lana, from South Africa was visiting for the week. Lana and I were so happy to see each other again – we caught up while sitting on the porch and then called it a night!
Day 14: Jake and I woke up slowly and sorted out some unpacking before heading to lunch with Lana, Fabian and Markus at an African buffet near the house. We had kalo, cabbage salad, whipped ghee, chapati, pumpkin, beef stew, chicken, fruit and a gingerale all for 15,000 Ush ($5). It was delicious! After lunch we grabbed some safe bodas and headed to Makerere so Jake could a get a little tour of the university and the lab where I work. Jake had a chance to meet Noble, the professor I work with, and some of the masters students in my department. We went to the microbiology lab and chatted with a few the regulars on campus. Afterwards, we hopped back on bodas and went to the craft market on Buganda Rd so Jake could pick up a few gifts for people back home. All the shops are so similar, we only stopped at one to get candle sticks and place mats for Jake’s mom, a shirt for his Dad, a bottle opener for Jack, a sitting zebra for Kevin, some spoons for Evan and a mystery hat that Jake just felt like he needed to purchase.
Now that the necessary stops had been made, we headed to a lovely hotel, Emin Pasha, for well-deserved massages after a long week of hiking, safari-ing and vacation-ing. 😉 One more quick but reluctant stop for groceries at Acacia Mall – a terrorist threat had been issued just that week, so we made our rounds fast and finished with ice cream cones to ease the anxiety. Jake also had a shot of whiskey at the grocery to calm his nerves. We headed home to get preparations together for a big family barbeque! Jake and I made beef, veal, chicken, goat, green pepper, onion, and pineapple skewers. Music was going in the kitchen and everyone was making dishes for the dinner while drinking beer and wine and simply enjoying the chaos of the barbeque. Jake and Fabian took on the responsibility of grill masters and very quickly people started trickling in – it was quite a crowd! For dessert I made some cookie bars and Jake grilled some pineapple. Yum! Around 12-1am a group of guests went to the casino while the rest of us headed to Iguana, Marius’s restaurant/bar. We had some drinks near the balcony and I even dragged Jake to the dance floor to groove to a few very top 40s tunes. The DJ really loved interjecting at every moment possible and a fight broke out in front of us, so we left shortly after and found a cab with Fabian and Viktoria. The cab was literally falling apart – I think part of the cieling was cardboard (?), but we made it to the best rolex (rolled eggs + chapati) in Komwokya and Jake had his first ever drunken rolex. I’m so proud. We ate our rolex on the porch and happily fell into bed at 4am.
Day 15: A slow morning was followed by Mark once again pulling into the driveway at 3pm. How quickly two weeks had passed. Jake had unloaded all of his video and photos onto my computer and finished up packing his things, and it was time for him to say goodbye to the Garden House. We took a photo on the veranda steps, grabbed some wine from the store, and made our way to Makerere to pick my student assistant, Amina, before going to Noble’s house in Munyonyo for dinner. We arrived to the house at 5pm, and Beatrice (Noble’s wife), Joy, David, and Daniel (their kids) greeted us excitedly. Jake and Amina sat in the living room and asked Noble about his life story and how he came to be a professor. Noble loves to say, “Welcome to my small home” when he has a very nice, large house. Hah! Beatrice and I set the table with cutlery, plates, and wine glasses while the kids played around us. The food was lined up on the table and I stood there wondering how in the world we could possibly eat that much food. There were pans of rice, potato slices, fish sticks, drum sticks, pork cutlets, chicken breast, beef fillets, goat meat, fried sweet bananas, cabbage avocado pineappe salad, and chapati. Before dinner Beatrice took us through all the food items and Noble said a short prayer. Over dinner we talked about education (again!) and we continued our conversation in the living room while sipping on some Bailey’s that Noble opened and watching animal planet. I haven’t watched a real TV in ages – so weird!
After getting a tour of their compound, Mark arrived at 8:30pm to take us back to Yellow Haven for Jake’s last night of vacation! We checked into our room and relaxed with some white wine, cardamom ice cream and a round of Hanabi. Absolutely exhausted! ZzzzZZzzzzzZzzz
Day 16: We were staying in the exact same room as we had when Jake first arrived. It was really like our trip had come full circle. We were back to where we started. The morning was spent eating breakfast followed by lots of note-writing. Jake and I would be apart for another 16 weeks, so we lounged on the coach and each tried to write 16 letters to exchange before he left. We did this before I left in October too, and it was really lovely to open a letter every week, to have some form of tangible communication when the world of texts, skype calls and snap chats is sometimes too much. Ronnie stopped by Yellow Haven to give Jake coffee and tea to send home with him. Ronnie had the coffee and tea sent via bus from regions of Uganda where it was best – how amazing is that?! It also gave us a chance to really thank Ronnie for taking us on the trip of a lifetime. We couldn’t have asked for a better two weeks – apart from the ankle sprain maybe.
In the late afternoon Jake and I each got a massage out in the papyrus hut near the lake. Two Ugandan women really worked out a lot of the pain and swelling in my ankle – it was wonderful! If you’ve never had a massage with simultaneous 4 hands, I highly recommend it. After being massaged into bliss, Jake and I gathered ourselves, finished up more notes and got back into the car with Mark once again. He drove us to a beach side pizzeria called Goretti’s where we had greek salad, tilapia, mashed potatoes and a veggie and pineapple pizza. Beatrice had recommended the place to me and it was really lovely! Mark told us he would wait for us out in the car the entire time we were in the restaurant so we got him a sandwich and a coke. What a guy!
It was strange to be taking Jake to the airport for real this time, that we weren’t just on our way to some other part of the country for the next part of the adventure. We were parting again, and the minutes seemed to just slip away. At the end of dinner, Jake wrote one or two more “really great notes” which he starred so I’d know that they were really good. I cried on the way to the airport and at the airport. No, I don’t have any shame. A random guy took our photo outside the departures entrance and Jake situated his carry on and kissed me goodbye. I told him I was going to open a letter right when I got home and he laughed at me a little, but told me that it was okay because he wrote extra letters. ❤