Uganda’s capital, Kampala, is one of my favourite cities. Yes, it’s packed, and dirty, and I’ve been the victim of two crimes there (long story). But it reminds me of home. I often say Kampala is my Las Vegas. And since what happens in Vegas stays there, I probably won’t say too much about it 😉
Now if you’re ever in Kampala, do yourself a favour and make the trip to nearby Jinja. The drive to Jinja should really be about an hour. Once you factor in traffic, it gets to two. Once you factor in your bus driver lying about the time the bus actually leaves. It might be four. Who knows? This is Africa. TIA.
My friends and I had set out on the overnight bus to Kampala with the expectation that the 10 -11-hour ride from Kigali would be followed by a quick 1-hour ride to Jinja. Alas, we waited in an insufferably hot bus in Kampala for close to two hours before we even departed for Jinja. It’s really funny in retrospect, but I was definitely miserable at the time. Once we got to Jinja, we took a taxi to our weekend home, Source of the Smile.
Jinja is often referrred to as the “adventure capital of East Africa.” Whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and bungee jumping are some of the activities available. I went with the intent of rafting but decided against it since, a) The rafting would be on category 3 and 4 rapids, which I’ve done before, and b) I can’t really swim and have no business on any rapids anywhere. My friends and I decided to go on a boat ride to the source of the Nile instead.
As a child I learned that the Nile was the longest river in the world. What I did not know is that it flows through eleven African countries. The river is served by two main tributaries, and thus has two sources. The source of the White Nile in Lake Victoria, Uganda, and the source of the Blue Nile in Lake Tana, Ethiopia. To get the White Nile, we walked over to the Kingfisher Resort and hired a boat. Boat rental for three people for an hour was less than $25 USD. Not bad at all.
So I thought we were just going to see the source. Little did I know that a history lesson was involved. Our boat captains were a father/son team. The father had been manning boats for years, and was now teaching his son to do the same. The father, being a fount of knowledge, explained to me why President Barack Obama was actually supposed to be Ugandan. According to legend, President Obama’s family used to live on a hill above Lake Victoria. Naturally, we had the good fortune to pass this very hill as he was sharing the story. Unborn Barack’s grandfather (or uncle, or cousin…someone in the family) had a fight with a farmer on the neighbouring hill. The fight dragged on for years, and escalated to the point where Unborn Barack’s grandunclecousin decided to pack his bags and flee to Kenya. As far as this fisherman is concerned, Obama is Ugandan.
The fisherman offered to take us to an island. Of course my eyes lit up. I am an island girl forever! And who knew there’d be island hopping involved in this trip?
Samuka Island looked a bit abandoned, but there were two men on the island to let us on.Fishermen deliver food and other requested supplies there twice a week. They had chips/fries available at a reasonable price. I can’t remember how much they charged us to stay there and use the pool, but I do recall negotiating with them until we got a fair deal. The whole island is small enough to walk around in less than 5 minutes. There are about 8 small ‘houses’, a restaurant & bar, and one larger multi-purpose hall, and the entire island is available for rent. With a good cleaning, minor repairs, and some fresh paint, it would be perfect for a summer party or wedding party getaway.
After an hour of pool-side lounging, we went back to the boat to finally see the source of the Nile. It looked like it was trip day for some primary school children, who pulled in ahead of us.
You’ll definitely want to wear waterproof shoes if you do this. Of course, there’s a souvenir shop right beside the sign, if you’re into that sort of thing. I really want to go back and rent out that island though. Who’s with me?