Just as well, for the five hour journey west from Kampala counts as one the most boring in Uganda. Dusty trading centre after dusty trading centre stretched before and behind us. We were expecting this depressing ribbon development interspersed with papyrus swamp, as we had done the journey before on several occasions. What we were not expecting, however, were the miles and miles of recently hacked down and, indeed, smouldering forest: acres of it. A First World War landscape met our eyes, tree stump after tree stump. The newspapers have been full of stories of 'encroachers' and now we were seeing the evidence with our own eyes. All that tropical forest was being turned into charcoal, emptied into sacks and sold along the side of the road. This was not uncontrolled development by big companies, though Uganda has its fair share of that. No, these were 'little' people, poor landless families desperately scratching a living by burning down other people's trees, and their children's inheritance.
That was a bit of a depressing start to our weekend, we have to admit, but then a few miles before Fort Portal we started seeing the tea plantations and remembered why we liked this place. Of course, these rows of bright green bushes had themselves replaced thick forests of trees in their time, but now they just looked sunny and peaceful. A few Scots had got here a century or so before us - McLeod Russell, Tea Planters, to be exact - and their plantations are still going strong. Then we saw the mountains peeping through the mist and we knew we were nearing our destination.
|Tea plantations near Fort Portal|
|Northern end of the Rwenzori Mountains|
|Kabarole Main Mosque, opposite the market|
|All that remains of the Fort (behind the club house)|
See post below for picture of moat
|Palace at the top of the hill, shimmering in the heat haze|
|A first view of Kyaninga Lodge|
One's first sight of the lodge is dramatic: a row of eight thatched log cabins on stilts, perched on the ridge of a crater lake and joined together by wooden walkways joined by lots of steps. You have to be fit to stay in Kyaninga - or else persuade the managers to put you in either cottage four or cottage five, on either side of the restaurant and swimming pool area! All the accommodation has been built of wood - not tropical forest, you will be glad to hear, but eucalyptus and Mount Elgon olive wood. Eucalyptus is the sitka spruce of Uganda. Brought from Australia, its serried rows remind one of Forestry Commission plantations in the Lake District and Scotland. Eucalyptus drains all the water out of the land so the nutrients leach away. Quite a good idea to use it for building!
|Don't be fooled - the pool is on the ridge and the lake is far below!|
You may be able to make out the long line of the Rwenzori Mts in the distance
|Just one of the many volcanic plugs around Kyaninga|
|View from our log cabin|
|Our marble and olive wood bathroom|
|Almost a four-poster bed!|
The backdrop of the Mountains of the Moon (Ptolemy's name for the Rwenzoris) is magnificent - when you can see them through the haze. The crater lake itself, more than 200 meters deep, is stunning - and you can swim in it, for, unlike most lakes in Uganda, it does not have bilharzia.
|View from our balcony|
|Restaurant and sitting area, with swimming pool|
We, however, had our dips in the swimming pool and then lay lazily in the sun as immobile as the various chameleons with whom we shared the decking.
|It's always climbing back up again that's the problem|
|Don't jump! It's further down than you think...|
|Feeling a little colourless in comparison|
Swimming and sunning was just about the sum total of all the activity Stuart engaged in that weekend, apart from lifting his fork and glass. I, however, true to my Calvinist roots, decided to use my time profitably and went on a couple of walks. There are two walks direct from Kyaninga, one a ridge walk around the crater lake and the other a forest walk at the water's edge. I did the former, with company and a guide.
|But I think this one's a grey heron, pale in the bright light|
|Not a pub in sight...|
|A rather far away vervet monkey|
|It's almost always women who do the farming. |
Presumably the men spend their time deep in conversation with long-crested eagles.
|Our guide with bird book and invisible bird|
|Women also do all the heavy carrying|
The Gardens supports traditional craftsmen who make banana fibre mats. They also act as an educational resource for schools and colleges as well as providing outreach support to local villages. Staff provide advice, for example, on ways of discouraging wild animals from destroying people's crops, for example by planting chilli plants round the perimeters of gardens, or by building elephant trenches (see our post on Kibale). Sadly, part of the Gardens had themselves been burnt - again accidentally when fire spread from nearby field clearance fires.
|Elephant grass over our heads|
|Bottle brush tree (I think)|
|Anonymous tree with anonymous fruit|
You may also be interested in the following posts about the Fort Portal area.
Fort Portal, Semliki and golf courses of Uganda Part 4, Toro Golf Course
Living together in Kibale Forest