Monday 23 October 2017

Lake Bunyonyi

Just back from a stunning weekend at Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda. I've now used my East Africa visa privilege on all three countries: Kenya for Maasai, Rwanda for living (and gorillas) and Uganda for lakes. Whilst my home country of the UK is busy putting up barriers between countries, Africa and the EA have the much brighter idea of free movement.

Went with Jo, Maia and their daughters Zuba and Taia. Jo drove us up there. It's only a couple of hours. When I was a VSO people used to talk about Bunyonyi lots, but I never actually made it. I've only been to Uganda once - Kampala, back in 2008. Visited Godown and spent a couple of days in the capital. It was really nice to get away from the city this time. Here's our drive towards the lake:


We stopped off at a gorgeous hotel called BirdNest for lunch. Right on the very edge of the lake.


Whilst the girls ran off to play with the donkeys, the adults got down to some serious menu perusal. Bunyonyi is famed for its crayfish, so eating crayfish is obligatory. I had them with tagliatelle and a fabulous bottle of Castle Milk Stout. We're a bit limited for beer in Rwanda, so this was a nice treat.


We were headed for Byoona Amagara, which is an island, so you have to take a boat to get there. It began to rain heavily as we were finishing our meal, so there was nothing for it but to order desert... and another bottle of stout.

The rain eventually eased up and we decided to brave it. 

By the time we reached the jetty it had stopped completely and the sun was attempting to shine through. We threw our stuff on board and had a lovely fifteen-minute trip across the lake.



Nobody Panic - Those are Doll Feet

Byoona is fairly incredible. The accommodation is built like traditional open-fronted huts.


This was the view from the hut I was sharing with Maia.

Mist in the Morning

Amazing design, but a little bit nippy at night. That area of Uganda is much colder than Kigali. We needed plenty of extra blankets. But the food was fab. They have a bar area with a communal guitar, so I taught the girls how to tune it. Both Zuba and Taia are very musical. We also discovered grated potato pancakes and stuffed ourselves silly. The electricity was a bit hit and miss so everywhere was covered in beautiful lanterns.

They're also big on ecology. All the toilets are eco loos which separate out your wee and poo and compost the dry stuff. The shower was solar powered, in a little log cabin which is open around the top so you can look out at the lake. Unfortunately, there wasn't much sun, so the morning birdsong was interspersed with 'Oooh! Aaah! Oooh! That's cold!'

Bathroom Suite

Sadly, we hadn't been there long when Jo had to leave. She runs a tourism business and one of the people on her tour had fallen off his bike and needed to go to hospital. She had to race back to Kigali to help organise their medical care. Not a very relaxing weekend for her.

Maia and I took the girls exploring on the island, searching for dwarfs and the forgetful old lady who keeps leaving her hair (vines) caught in the trees.

Passion Fruit

We got down to the water and found some boats.

The next day, we headed down to the lake to swim. I love swimming in lakes, and Bunyonyi is one of the few lakes in the region without hippos, crocodiles or bilharzia. It's also the deepest lake in Uganda and the second deepest in Africa. Apparently, its name means place of many little birds. There were certainly plenty of black and white kingfishers. 

After a dip, I joined Maia on shore to crack open the prosecco. We headed home to dry off and warm up. Whilst they watched a film, we had a little nap on the porch until the girls woke us up wanting to go 'rodding' (six-year-old for rowing). 

We climbed aboard a little wooden dug-out, like the ones we'd seen on our walk, and off we headed to explore the islands. The girls did most of the rowing whilst I got to grips with steering, using my paddle as a rudder. 

Byoona in the Background

The girls also treated us to a traditional dance display, which they've been learning in school. We made costumes out of our shawls.

We had an absolutely lovely couple of days and Jo drove back to pick us up from BirdNest. Her client was okay and had taken a plane back to the UK. We're going to plan another weekend away soon so that she gets a chance to relax. We had another yummy lunch before setting off, and possibly more milk stout...

Being a Mummy is Tiring
More Beer!

 Back to the city and a sensible climate. Looking forward to more adventures.


Thursday 5 October 2017

Mostly Food and Pianos

I am getting very slack in my updates. Life has just become rather busy lately.

I've been turning my old guard hut into a self-contained apartment.  It used to be a room with a pit latrine and a broken shower behind. We've knocked through the latrine and shower to form a single en suite bathroom, replaced the latrine with a flush toilet and put in a proper electric shower. Then my friend Maia suggested building a mezzanine-style bed so as not to take up limited floor space.

It looked like a really simple job at first, but took on a life of its own - plus buying all the things you need for the kitchen, like a fridge and sink. It's very, very almost done now. Just waiting on the solar-powered fairy lights to arrive. Looking forward to showing you some pictures.

Also treated myself to some new porch furniture. All the better for sitting around with friends on.

Went into town today to buy some material for curtains and hangings. I ordered a mini sewing machine from China. Not sure if it'll work but, after pianos and room conversions, I'm feeling all capable and creative. I hated sewing with a passion at school, but there's something different when you can see a purpose for it.

Maia's also just launched a new menu at her restaurant. I've been a happy food tasting guinea pig. Tried shakshuka for the first time.

She's also started serving lots of drinks in jam jars, which is something I absolutely love. I remember when I first moved back to Rwanda and hadn't gotten around to buying proper glasses - I drank everything from jam jars. It's a nice way of recycling too, and it doesn't matter so much if someone accidentally breaks one.

Also really enjoying the lemonade. You get water, a small jug of lemon juice and one of cinnamon-flavoured sugar syrup to sweeten to your taste. So refreshing.

Another first for me was chia seeds. Not quite sure how to describe them. Sort of crunchy, like when you bite into a fig. She soaks them in macadamia nut milk, then flavours with dates and cardamon and other yummy things. Tastes pretty good, and very filling.

A bit better presented than my homemade cheese sarnie.

We'd both been working hard recently. I've been proofing more textbooks for schools and private clients, and Maia's been training her staff on the new menu, so we decided to treat ourselves to a night out. She took me to The Hut. Somewhere I'd never been before. It's a bit swanky and the food is delicious.

Meanwhile, the cats have also been eating well - or trying to. Sadly, this praying mantis didn't make it.   

But today I rescued a very-much-alive lizard which was almost as long as my forearm. Thankfully, it was big enough to keep the kitties at bay until I put a protective bin around it as a force field. Carried it safely to the undergrowth with the help of a Tintin comic.
"I have never been thus treated in my life!"

My cats are monsters, but I love them. Had a text from my neighbour last night asking if I had all of them. I told him they were out for the night. He told me there was one in his room.
Letting the Cat out of the Bag

Cats sleep anywhere, any table, any chair...

As a totally mad idea, I did a stint waitressing at Maia's restaurant the other night. It was a particularly busy night and she needed a hand. I did it for kicks - to remember what it was like. I think I was about 21 when I last waitressed. It was hard work. Every part of me ached afterwards, but it was strangely chaotic and fun. I had a good time. Accidentally got elbowed in the face and someone described the way I took food orders as 'so cute' (she might have had a few). Got paid in beer, food and gratitude. Might do it again sometime.

Had a little fracas recently. Had to go next door with a couple of my neighbours to have a sit down with the bar that's just opened. Well, I say 'just'. It's been two months of awful. Some Danish donor thought it would be a responsible thing to give a group of young men a whacking donation to rent out a house. The idea being  they'd turn it into a cafĂ© to raise money for a street children's project.

The man who runs the street children's project seems really nice and willing to listen. The man who runs the bar is a complete dick. After calling me belligerent twice, and mansplaining why his sound system couldn't possibly be a problem, he then made the mistake of telling me what a hardship it had been staying up screaming drunk with his friends until 3 a.m., because he'd been tired.

They've calmed down a bit since then, but we'll see how it goes.

It's kind of ironic that I'm complaining about noise so much when I'm tuning so many pianos.

Just tuned my very first grand piano. It was actually the first time I'd ever touched one. Quite a humbling experience. A gorgeous, much-loved Yamaha.

Loads of other stuff going on with the piano project at the moment, you can check that out over on the project blog. Made a start on our piano case and imported the bass strings and tuning pins. Sadly, having problems sourcing the rest of the wires, but working on it.

A lot of editing lined up, but planning a weekend getaway with Maia in a couple of weeks. Just popping up to Uganda to lounge by Lake Bunyonyi.

I think that's about it for the catch up. Cool pictures of the apartment coming soon - and probably blood-spattered ones of me sewing my fingers together.