February 20th, 2018
Uganda......admittedly not the first country people think of when thinking of Africa. It isnt as historically famous as Egypt, or as steeped in architecture as Morocco, and yet there was something that drew me to Uganda. Maybe it was this lack of attention and hype that drew me to it; I am known to travel to parts of a country or continent that arent the usual tourist haunts. But drawn I was, especially with the lure of a trek into Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest in search of some of the last wild Mountain Gorillas. My family members werent so keen, but then caution is always voiced by friends and family when I come up with a spontaneous decision to go off travelling again.
Upon arriving in Uganda I was struck with how like India it seemed. Of course there were the obvious differences, but I had a feeling of similarity surround me as I left the airport and drove to my first stop of the trip. It wasnt until I was a week or so into my trip that I realised; that sense of familiarity, it was a feeling of coming home. A feeling of doing what I have always been happiest doing - travelling, exploring, gaining knowledge and living life to the fill (cheesy I know! But its so hard to put into words the feeling of pure contentment that you get from travelling).
The first leg of my trip was to the jaw-droppingly beautiful Lake Bonyonyi. I can certainly see why so many local people are content to live on the shores of this beautiful lake, or indeed on one of the 31 Islands in the centre of it. Sat by the campfire outside my tent, having had a swim in the gorgeously warm water, and eaten home cooked food, I felt true contentment. Given half the chance, I would have given up everything back home to stay exactly where I was and grow old in the purest state of happiness I have felt.
The nest morning, having rested, it was time to start the trekk. The next 5 days would be the hardest, most physically challenging days of my life so far. Despite being a "fitness freak" and used to going to various gym classes 10 times a week and swim sometimes up to 4 times a week, walking to and from University and work etc, nothing prepared me for the gruelling trekk. Travelling for hours up the sides of mountains, only to have the climb down take no time at all before having another upwards mountain climb. Anybody would have pegged me as a 50 a day kind of gal had they heard the laboured breathing that came from me everytime we did the slightest incline. However, all of the sweat and tears was undoubedly worth it. For, on day 5, after scaling two mountains.......there they were!
I have never been so grateful for technology. I had purchased a go-pro before departing for Uganda, something I never thought I'd use or need. But having a go-pro meant that I wasnt worring about cameras or phones when around these beautiful creatures. Instead I was able to fully enjoy my 90 minutes in and around the awe-inspiring animals, watching their interactions and fully enjoying being so close to such amazing animals. The trekk back across the two mountains wasnt nearly as bad, we were all on such a high from finally being able to see these beautiful creatures, we didnt bat an eye to the steep inclines or sharp drops. We laughed and joked the whole way back, stopping at the top of the second mountain for a well earned break and a photo opportunity.
The Gorillas having been found, and the trekk over (thank god!) we had earned a couple of days rest before setting out to do our playground build. We stopped off on the shores of the Nile. For me, this was the first time I had ever laid eyes on the beautiful, famous river. And of course, what better way to celebrate being on the shores of the Nile, than by drinking a Nile Beer.
The next couple of days went by in a dream of relaxation, water sports and........a hospital trip -.- Yes, thats right, in all my travels I had never so much as needed a doctor, but here I was, needing a local anisthetic and stitches.
Moral of the story......dont mess around in a Kayak on the shores of the Nile! However, this didnt stop me, the next day we shipped off to Jinja to help build a playground for a local school there, and within two weeks I was back in a Kayak on the Nile!
The playground build was one of the most rewarding things Ive ever done. It was so rewarding to see the faces of the children, both at the school and in the local community, as they saw the transformation of their "playground." Around the building, we also helped teach and play with the children, to help develop their education.Here is the before.....
It was hard work, and long, but building the playground for the children was truly so rewarding. We had our ups and our downs, our struggles and our laughs, and in the end, we created something lasting and beautiful. I cant ever truly say how amazing it feels to know that you have helped to improve the lives of children, even through something so simple as a playground!
Our trekk completed, and our work at the school done, it was time to fit in a few more "touristy" adventures before heading home. This included horse riding down the banks of the Nile, Kayaking and Tandem Kayaking down the Rapids (I was extra careful this time), visiting the Equator and getting to ride into town on the back of a Boda (yes mum that is another word for a motorbike, yes I was careful, and yes I now want one for myself because I enjoyed it so much)......To finish my glorious trip, I spent a couple of days on the beautiful "Hairy Lemon Island". An Island in the middle of the Nile, that was literally the embodiment of paradise. I could have never left....it had everything I needed, and those of us that stayed there were devastated when we had to leave. I can honestly recommend the Hairy Lemon to anybody wanting somewhere away from everyone and everything where they can just relax and rest, restart and completely detox all of the stress and worries we put upon ourselves in are day-to-day lives.
All in all, Uganda stole my heart, and I will definietly be returning to its beautiful lands soon! I can whole-heartedly recommend Uganda for travellers, its got a rich history, welcoming and hospitable communities and the perfect atmosphere to relax and learn in.
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