Today’s post is simple: a tease for your eyes…and some exposition.
Kibuye is a village North of Jinja in the Kamuli district of Uganda. It takes about three hours to get there. 27 by 35 kilometres in size, Kibuye is not your cliche village.
Yes, there are huts with thatched roofs, plants and animals everywhere, and no electricity save for some solar powered radios and cell phone chargers. No, the people are not uncivilized, dirty, or stupid. Yes, there are schools in Kibuye (Arise and Shine maintains one) and there is some (terrible) cell service. Nights are silent except for insects. There are no lights at night, save for my headlamp or cell phone, so the stars are brilliant.
There are many more photos to come after my next visit to Kibuye. I just didn’t feel like pulling out the camera very often. I wanted to soak it in through my eyes, not a lens.
Day two of our visit to Sipi Falls started with another sunrise chase. Yet again I missed the sun coming over the actual horizon, but it was just as beautiful, if less colourful, when it broke over Mount Elgon literally next to the first of Sipi’s falls.
There was an obligatory morning selfie to prove that we all survived the night. Sunlight had not changed overnight. It was still very bright.
Though it moved quickly (we were short on time because our driver was needed in Entebbe), the tour was excellent. Juliet, the guide, told us the coffee plants take ages to grow and don’t get very large. There was a 30-year old tree nearby where we sat that was less than double my height. The plants fruit after heavy rain, and are picked soon thereafter. The flowers begin white, turning to beans that change from green to yellow and finally red when they are ripe.
Once picked, the bean has three “covers” (shells). The first is removed by a machine, the next is pounded in a mortar. The beans themselves are surprisingly resilient and survive this process in flawless condition. Every one of us had a go at smashing the beans’ second layer off.
Juliet separated the husks and beans by flipping both and blowing so the lighter husks flew free. After that the beans are roasted, which they were, right in front of us in a frying pan. They are then pounded into a powder; the coffee grounds we all know and love. We also tried out hands at grinding the beans. Simon was better than all of us
Juliet removing husks.
More husk removal, proving how well she flips beans.
Rachel works out her frustration on the poor unsuspecting beans.
Arwen joins the bean-grinding fun.
We all enjoyed the bean-grinding, but only Simon was truly good at it.
…and then the most important part happened. Juliet made us coffee. I drank a cup and a half because one of my companions couldn’t finish hers. I was momentarily tempted to take some artsy photos of the coffee. I chose to enjoy it instead of feeding my inner tourist.
I broke into tourist mode to get a shot of us with Juliet. My inner tourist also photographed notice boards at Crow’s Nest in case any of you want to play tourist there and need an idea of what is available.
The drive home was on the same terrible roads, but in reverse, meaning they improved as we got closer to Jinja. I turned to music instead of photographs. The tourist was gone, satisfied until the next trip.
Nestled on a plateau of Mount Elgon about 6500 metres above sea level, the town of Sipi could be just another sleepy mountain town. A dozen hostels and guesthouses along less than two kilometres of road told a different story. A man shouting “Sipi falls, this way!” as our van passed him confirmed the hypothesis – this is a tourist town.
We were well shaken when we arrived, having traveled for five hours on roads that were under construction or filled with elbow-deep potholes. We stayed at a hostel named Crows Nest. Built on a slope facing all three falls, two of which were visible, every guest house and dorm had a view worth being jostled by the road. Their food was basic but filling, tasty, and inexpensive. I would recommend Crow’s Nest to anyone.
Simon, a local tour guide, led us on a trek to see each of the three falls. The first gave me an impromptu shower. Tall boulders surround its pool, holding in spray and making the air damp like a cool sauna. There was also a chameleon called Joseph. Dang chameleon eyes are weird.
The second falls make a natural shower, as well as a beautiful view from the top. I asked a co-traveler to take epic photos of me looking over the Ugandan plains.
The third we could only see from a distance. It also offered a brilliant view, which I used to take numerous group selfies wherein sunlight wouldn’t let us fully open our eyes.
On return to Crow’s nest, we ordered dinner. Tomato curry was a good idea even though it was more like a spiced tomato sauce. We walked to watch the sun set into pillowy purple clouds, still far above the horizon line. I’ve no photos of that – I left my phone and camera in our dorm, choosing to lay down my tourist hat and be present for a Ugandan sunset.
My stomach growls. I stand less than fifty metres from the Nile river, just North of the Nalubale/Owen falls hydroelectric dam, making a mental note to my future-self that one piece of bread with a thin layer of peanut butter does not count as breakfast. I’m not yawning yet, but less than four hours’ sleep is telling my eyelids to stay shut.
The air feels like late spring back home: cool and wet, yet comfortable in a t-shirt and shorts. I see a half dozen wooden boats near the dam. Moses, a coworker and friend from Arise and Shine Uganda who lives on the land where we stand, explains they are fishing for talapia. Sunlight appears on a hill many kilometres away on the opposite side of the river. The clouds are bright pink that slowly swallows on purple remnants of twilight. I flick my camera’s power switch and wait to line up the right shot.
When I posted last week, I wished I had photos at the culmination of Mr. Besgiye’s rally. A local friend, Noah, attended the rally and took several photos of the action (thank you Noah).
These photos, combined with what I felt when this same rally took over both lanes of Main Street, make it hard to believe Besigye won’t get elected as president. Of course, that is the intention. Unlike the polite and restricted political photo ops and news conferences in Canada, even my brief and at-a-distance encounter with this very public rally screamed and pulsed with the unfettered joy of lovers who had not touched in months.
I can only imagine what it was like to be at the rally’s climax.
This is my home for the next six months as shown through the eye of a digital camera. I’ve been moved in here for just under two weeks at time of publication.
Amenities include attractively barred windows, fully equipped kitchen, beds, furniture, deadbolt locks (imported from Italy, apparently) on every door that require a key on both sides, television (no cable/satellite/etc), shower water heater (!), and mosquito netting. Walls, floor and ceiling are all concrete, the only wood being interior doors, shelving units, closets, and table legs.
The unit is in a compound with six other units. Compound amenities include a security guard, attractively barred front gate, neighbours with children, roughly 3.7 metre (12 foot) concrete walls with a half metre (~1.6 foot) of electric fencing or razor wire, one dog, and a very nice manager named Medi (probably spelled incorrectly…).
Check each image caption for more detail about each.
Front porch and door. Pretty swank.
LIving room, looking slightly left from the front door. Kitchen entrance is just visible right of the water bottles.
Living room again, this time straight on from the front door. Invisible around the corner is an antechamber between washroom, shower room, and bedrooms.
Living room from the other end. Porch is visible through the open front door. Wash/shower/bedroom antechamber is directly left.
Wash/shower/bedroom antechamber, facing non-functional sink. Shower room is left, washroom is right.
Wash/shower/bedroom antechamber facing bedrooms. Mine is behind the cracked door.
My bedroom from the entrance.
Closets and corner of bed.
Shower room, also used as clotheswashing room. Green and orange shallow buckets are soap and rinse, others are for water if supply is cut off.
Kitchen seen from the living room entrance. That is a propane stove/oven, for those curious.