Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lake Bunyonyi / Visiting Orphans

Day 20: Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda
Yesterday, we left at 6:30 in the morning to drive towards the equator. We ate breakfast at the Equator Cafe, where I had a fresh fruit smoothie and the biggest muffin I've ever seen. Full, we continued west towards Lake Bunyonyi, stopping for lunch near Nyakahita. The yells of "mzungu, mzungu!" increased as we entered into areas less frequented by tourists. Sitting on top of the "beach," the open area in the front of the truck made us feel almost like rock stars. Every once in a while, someone would flip us off, but the vast majority of people seemed genuinely happy to see us. After all, we are "rich" Westerners bringing income to their country. In the afternoon, as the children were leaving school, the frantic waving and screams were almost overwhelming. But the entire experience was so incredibly enjoyable. This is perhaps the first time I've been anywhere where there were few or no other tourists anywhere to be seen. It's a shame, because Uganda is the friendliest country I've ever been to. As we neared Lake Bunyonyi, the landscape became even more majestic, with steep hills covered in terraced fields. One thing I find surprising about Africa is that women work in the fields as well as around the house. I'm not quite sure what the men do! Our campsite beside Lake Bunyonyi was gorgeous. My tent buddy, Tom, and I decided to upgrade to fully furnished tents that sat on platforms overlooking the lake. It was only $7 each, and it was well worth it to have a bed and soft pillow.

Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda © Matt Prater
Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

Farm house and terraced hillside, Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda © Matt Prater
Farm house and terraced hillside, Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

Posing with orphans, Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda
Posing with a group of orphans, Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda
Today, we had a full day in the area, and I opted for a visit to a local orphanage. We hiked for quite a while into the beautiful hills and fields above the lake, arriving at the orphanage after about an hour. It was an experience I was not expecting. As soon as the kids saw us, they began screaming and waving, and as we entered onto the orphanage grounds, kids absolutely swarmed us, grabbing our hands and arms and clinging onto us. It was actually impossible to take pictures at that point, but as the kids calmed down, they were more than enthusiastic to pose for photos. They loved seeing the pictures of themselves on the camera display, and every time I was taking a photo of one child, more jumped in.

Girl and boy at orphanage, Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda © Matt Prater
Girl and boy at an orphanage, Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda
Boy at orphanage, Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda © Matt Prater
Boy at an orphanage, Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

After some time with the children, we sat down so they could perform some songs and dances for us. They were incredible to watch, and seemed so happy to be performing for us. Afterward, as we left, the kids ran after us, taking our hands and clinging onto us. We had to literally pry them off to get in the van that took us back down to the lake. As we returned to the campsite, it started raining, canceling activities for the rest of the day. But that was fine, because the day has been unforgettable so far. We all sat at a table under a roof and played cards for several hours before dinner. The pace of this trip is perfect so far, with just the right balance of activities and down time. Tomorrow we head for Rwanda, so I'm off to enjoy my last actual bed for a while.

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