A Hawk’s Eyeview of Lake Bunyonyi

By on July 23, 2018

The first and only time I had ever been to Kabale was brief and it was a few years ago when a client who could not travel to Kampala requested that I meet him in Kastone. As a lover of travel, I thought it would be an awesome idea to merge work and pleasure as I travelled to Western Uganda to witness the full serenity of one of the most beautiful places in East Africa. The plan was to meet the client and then spend a night in the hills of Kabale before heading back to the big ruthless city. Sadly, halfway into the trip, the client changed his mind and called to request that we meet in Kabale town after which we would drive to Mbarara where we would spend the night. And so I was in Kabale for just a few hours.

A few weeks back, a few friends and I decided to visit Kabale yet again and this time, I was determined to spend a good amount of time –a few days really, in this lovely place. And so we left Kampala, heading Southwestwards towards one of the country’s most iconic towns. The plan was to spend a bit of time at one of the establishments around Lake Bunyonyi, probably do some walks, perhaps go swimming in Lake Bunyonyi and cap it off with some zip lining. All this of course sandwiched with food, drink and generally making merry.

Arrival in Kabale town is akin to touching down in an Airport in le midi – Southern France. It is beautiful, peaceful and the natives will narrate the story of their hometown without saying a single word but through their mannerisms and dress code. The people of Kabale are generally said to be a tad too aggressive and somewhat unwelcoming to strangers but for some reason, right in the middle of Kabale town are some of the world’s friendliest people. It is likely that the friendliness was because almost everyone was trying to sell us one thing or another but it was quite a welcome experience after such a long car drive from Kampala.

The drive to Hawk’s Eye Tented Lodge and Campsite was one that involved holding our hearts in our mouths because the winding roads with steep slopes were quite something. The lodge is located at the top of the hill with a view that overlooks lake Bunyonyi – the famously deep lake with hundreds of legends about swallowing unsuspecting swimmers. Parity, our host was kind enough to tell us that while people might have heard rumours about Lake Bunyonyi and its depth, he had witnessed its ‘swallowing’ ability after a friend of his drowned in the Lake a few years back. The shock wasn’t that the friend had drowned, but that the friend had been a very experienced swimmer. After hearing these stories, we all struck swimming in Lake Bunyonyi off the itinerary.

Getting to Hawk’s Eye is an interesting drive – if you are not the one behind the wheel. There is a great view overlooking Lake Bunyonyi the whole way but the road requires an attentive and alert driver. Since Parity our host was behind the wheel, we were relaxed (at least on the surface) because we trusted his expertise but inside we were quite shaky with fear.

Whenever you visit Hawk’s Eye at Lake Bunyonyi, you must travel with four important items; heavy clothing for the cold, an appetite for good food, enough bravery to face the steep hills, and a keen eye for the scenery.

You must allow yourself to drink in the view (Photo by Chris)

The first night we spent at Hawk’s Eye was rather peaceful and relaxing. Since we had arrived in the evening, we freshened up, had dinner and sat by a campfire discussing everything from the bitter cold of Kabale to the politeness of the women. All this was of course accompanied with assorted alcohol which as is always the case, encouraged us to stay longer by the campfire till very late.

Sleeping like a king in a cozy cottage

The morning after a campfire night is usually horrible. You want to sleep a little longer because the bed feels like heaven but you must get up and get on with the day. And while I was wondering how many more minutes of sleep I could get in, Parity’s voice waking us all up was crystal clear – it was time for the morning trek. The morning birds were chirping and the bitter morning cold was biting hard. After a quick shower, we hit the hills.

That dude in the middle is Parity who nearly killed us on the trek with his ‘we are almost there’ phrase.

The trek that lasted several hours taught me many things about Kabale, the Bakiga and life in general. First of all, the view of Lake Bunyonyi from the top of the hill gave me goosebumps. One can argue that the goosebumps could have been brought on by the cold but I was confident the view had something to do with them. Secondly, I went through a hands-on experience of iron smelting with some natives of Bukoola Village deep in the hills of Kabale. Thirdly, I tasted some of the most delicious Omuramba I had ever tasted in my whole life. And lastly, I think Moses from the Bible was a Mukiga from Kabale. You see, when you embark on a trek with a Mukiga, they will tell you that the trek won’t last long and your final destination is just around the corner. Two hours later and a few Kilometers in, they will breathe a sigh of relief and say you are now almost at your destination and you will begin to get excited. And then you will walk another few kilometers before they finally tell you that just around the corner is the finish line. And another one or two hours later you will still not be at your final destination. I suppose only a Mukiga could have managed to take the Israelites around in circles, making them feel like their final destination was just around the corner and yet taking them over hills and through valleys for 40 years – only a Mukiga.

The Great Trekkers L-r (Telma, Sephora, Allan, Myself and Chris)

By the time we had done about 8 or 9 Kilometers, everyone was worn out and just begging for a rest, everyone except Parity. The goal had been to take a walk and witness some of the great views of Lake Bunyonyi while learning about the community in this area. And we experienced quite a lot. The conversation along the way covered things like a local bar serving chips and omuramba, happy little kids asking us to join them for a game of football, large gardens of millet, soghurm and irish potatoes, an iron smelting community, the most glorious view of Lake Bunyonyi from the top of the hill, several stop-overs for photo moments and lessons in the history of the people of Bukoola Village. When we got back to the lodge, it was clear that everyone needed a shower, a nice heavy meal and some alcohol to wash it all down with several minutes in the hammocks.

Nothing beats chillaxing in the hamock after a long day of great activity (Photo by Chris)

Later in the night, after a sumptous dinner, we sat around the Campfire for the second day, exchanging stories of how the trek had given us a new understanding of patience, resilience, courage and bravery. That night came and went in an instant mostly because our bodies were too tired to notice.

 There’s something very satisfying about good food …

The final day was less hectic because Parity let us sleep a little longer. When we eventually woke up for breakfast, the only thing on our minds was the ziplining that we were going to have later in the day. And even as we enjoyed the ziplining, every one of us kept saying we needed to come back to Hawk’s Eye Tented Lodge and campsite to experience another doze of the much needed get-away from the madness of Kampala. The great food, the endless drinks, the lovely spacious cottages, the decent hamocks, the friendly workers at Hawk’s Eye Tented Lodge and campsite, the long adventurous trek, the numerous stories about Lake Bunyonyi and the very serene environment all meant that if there is ever another opportunity to travel back to Kabale, this is precisely where we shall go.

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” ― Anita Desai

a.k.a Beewol
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Beewol - The Talkative Rocker