Place of many little birds
Trip Start Aug 08, 2010
15Trip End Sep 30, 2010
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Where I stayed
The next morning we took a taxi to Lake Bunyonyi, 9 km out of town and 100 light-years away from the civilized world. The motor boat buzzed it's way between small islands until reaching the one we had stayed at - Itambira Island.
This whole area has a very hilly terrain and the hillsides are terraced for agriculture. As you can see from the map, the whole lake is jagged and it creates amazing gulfs and coves, all steeply terraced. In some areas there are swamp-like areas covered with canes and papyrus, and throughout the lake you see people getting around on handmade canoes
The resort we stayed at, Byoona Amagara, is run by a non-profit organization by the same name, who uses the earnings from the resort to sponsor sustainable community projects in the region. For starters, the entire resort is environmentally friendly - all the electricity comes from solar panels, the hot water is mostly from solar water heaters (not enough sun for us :( ), the toilets separate the urine to dry out and the rest to make compost. The buildings are built using mostly local materials, while trying to implement western knowledge into the building techniques, as was with our "room" for the first night - the magnificent geo-dome.
It's a basic geodesic dome constructed using bamboo poles and wooden fixtures. The half dome is covered with marsh plants, with an area left open as an entrance. It was spacious and comfortable, and best of all you could see the lake from the bed!
Unfortunately, we could only stay there one night as we had booked the cabin for the remainder of the days, but we were lucky to have that experience.
Bunyonyi mean "place of many little birds" in the local language, and it justifies the name. All day long you can see, and hear many different birds singing many different songs all over the place. There are over 250 species of birds around the lake and the island was a host to many of them. We took a canoe tour around some of the islands and saw some more birds, including the (not so small but very beautiful) Ugandan Crane, which is the national bird.
On Sunday we took a tour to the schools and churches on the largest Island in the lake, which actually houses only the primary school, secondary school, teachers houses and the church. The few other people who live on this island work or provide services to these institutions. We were lucky to get Junior, one of the staff from the resort, as our guide. He went to school on the island, and was very informative about the schools themselves and the Education system in Uganda.
Most Ugandans send their kids to boarding school starting from primary school. They have dorms and dining halls and can spend most of their free time studying instead of doing house chores (as Junior put it). But even though the schools were built of solid brick, they seemed to us like something from a couple of generations ago
Junior showed us the classes where he had studied and the dorm where he had lived. At the primary school, he showed us a new building that was finished not long ago. We noticed that on the front facade it had slogans written such as - "virginity is health", "abstain from sex, "stay in school", "stay out of bad groups". Although sex education is really important in Africa due to the AIDS epidemic, Uganda has chosen abstinence as it's main method after christian groups put pressure on the government as did the President's wife. Good luck with that.
We walked through the schools and next to the teachers housings (apparently the government appoints each teacher a school and they could be sent anywhere in the country), towards the church at the top of the hill. We could hear the singing going on from far away, and we were soon joined by more people walking up to church. Some girls took Dana by the hand and made sure she has a good rhythm to dance to and giggled when she told them we weren't married.
When the minister came in he asked our guide to introduce us, and then I was asked to stand and say our names... We thanked them for their hospitality and got some applause. It was quite embarrassing, but the people were really nice and we had a great time hearing them sing.
One last thing that we have to say about Byoona Amagara is that the food was incredible. From the local Crayfish Avocado, Potato Chapati, Tilapia Fish, Beans, Banana-Chocolate Pancakes, etc. It was a 'gourmandise' paradise.
We are now in Kabale and are heading tomorrow back to Kampala, and from there we fly over to Tanzania.
Love and miss you all,
Dana and Omer