I think its very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be aline and not be defined by another person. - Oscar Wilde
As much as I love to travel and explore unknown places, I had never done so completely by myself. And I certainly didn't think the first time would be in East Africa. But there I found myself, luggage strapped to my back, clinging to my hat (and my life), as I clutched onto the back of a Boda Boda. A Boda Boda is a small motorbike that many Ugandans use for transportation and I guess could be comparable to a cheaper taxi. Living and interning in Uganda, without a source of income, I thought cheaper was always the better…but in reality it most definitely was not. The Bodas are completely terrifying to ride on. They weave in and out of traffic, dodging vehicles and people. I certainly should not have gotten on them as much as I did. But I cannot lie, I found them so thrilling and fun. Thankfully, I lived to tell that (and always wore a helmet mom!). Anyways, to get to the Kyaninga Lodge — my first spot I ventured to solo, I could take a personal driver for $400 round trip, or two Boda Boda rides, and one long, cramped, wildly unsafe bus ride for $9 round trip. I chose the latter, logical really.
The sky was still dark as I woke up to embark on my 7 hour journey to get there. After a hectic and smoggy ride, my Boda finally made it to the Bus Station. The “Bus Station” — A circus of people, vendors, busses and cars, piled on top of each other. Total chaos. What I will say about moving away from my comforts and especially living in Africa, it has made me a bit tougher (not that having 3 brothers didn't make me that already, ha!). As my driver disappeared into the masses, I started to slightly panic. Several people approached me, shouting broken English, demanding I buy their items or get in their mode of transportation. I took a step back, and screamed at the top of my lungs for everyone to BACK OFF (maybe a swear or two thrown in there). Nonetheless, with confused looks on their faces, they left me alone. I ventured into the crowd to find my bus. I got on the correct bus, and triumphantly made my way to my seat. I felt my tension release a bit that I had gotten this far. It already been an adventure in and of itself and I hadn't even left Kampala. I had the two seats next to me open I’m on the bus, now all I had left to do was get off at the right stop— easy peasy. Sike! They continually loaded the bus with people — like herding cattles, one by one more bodies tickled in, really jamming us all on there. I had a chicken in my row, 4 people and a baby on my lap. What. Is. Life. Our bus driver was a real treat. En route he took those curves around the edges of the mountain like a bat outta hell. We eventually got pulled over. He was arrested for driving like a madman, naturally. That was really alarming since there are not a lot of rules on the Ugandan roads. More people and animals found their way onto the bus, as they searched for a new driver in the village we were in. As I could feel myself getting more frantic, sweatier and cramped in this bizarre bus experience, I had to just laugh. My first solo adventure was really winning so far.
FINALLY, I made it to my stop. I launched myself out of there, and hopped on the first motorbike I saw. As I explained where I was going, he simply nodded, not speaking a lick of English. We sped off and soon we were winding up a hilly, bumpy road. I shut my eyes, said some prayers that he was actually taking me to where I asked to go, and held on for dear life. On the last bend, my hat nearly flew behind us. I reached to grab it and as I put it back on, I looked up — there it was. The Kyaninga Lodge in all its glory. Wooden lodges, perched along the hilltop, over looping a crystal clear crater lake, mountains surrounds, animals grazing near by — I made it.
I got off my Boda, and gazed upward at the Lodge. There were eight stunning hand crafted cottages, with the main lodge in the center, built seamlessly into the hillside. They were connected by one long wooden bridge way to one another, that seemingly connected the surrounding gardens and trails. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. I slowly made my way up the large staircase to the main lodge, half because I was simply taking it all in half because I was completely out of breath, hot and wiped. The top was worth every part of the journey to get there. The view was something I could not have dreamed up. The staff greeted me with sweet tea and flowers. The legendary Mountains of the Moon soared in the distance, monkeys swung nearby the pool deck, which looked warm and inviting. It jutted out over the glimmering lake below, which was shining like a million diamonds and inviting me to jump in. My luggage slipped right out of my hands as I stood there in awe. A gracious member approached me and asked if I wanted to cool off and jump in the water. I wanted to almost kiss him. After being in blazing hot, crowded, dirty (yet beautiful), land locked Kampala, it was all I ever wanted.
We raced down the tropical trail chatting, laughing, and observing the birds and wildlife along the way. When we made it to the dock, I could not have dove in quicker (after he reassured me there were no crocs). I glided deeper into the refreshing, delicate water, getting lost into the crater lake abyss. When I resurfaced, I kept my eyes closed to be completely aware and present. The way the water felt on my skin, the smell of the clean, fresh air, the sounds of the birds and animals in the distance. I wanted to remember every part of it. There I was in the middle of a perfectly still lake, surrounded by the mountains, wildlife and nothing else. I had arrived here, all on my own. I felt so proud of myself. I even felt this sense of gratitude for everything, including the struggles and setbacks, that led me to this exact moment.
Certainly twelve of the longest, wildest and exciting hours I had ever experienced. And to think the trip had only just begun....