On the Road and Water: A Visit to Kalangala
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First published: January 18, 2006
By 7:00 am, I was at Speke Hotel in the city center only to find that my other two friends, Moses and Solomon, and I had made it early enough unlike others who almost arrived when the driver was stepping on the accelerator to hit the main road to Kalangala. At this point in time, I could still not get rid of this mixture of anxiety and excitement that filled me as I contemplated on what I could find in the land of fishermen as I had known Kalangala to be a collection of islands in Lake Victoria where fishing should be routine.
At around 8:00 am, the driver made a sign off and we waved goodbye to Kampala. The driver took shortcuts to dodge the traffic jams and before I knew it, we were moving at high speed through Kyengera, Buddo and Mpigi on Kampala-Masaka Road as we sped off to catch the ferry at Bukakata landing site.
While the whole coaster was busy in kaboozi (deep conversation), my mind thought about the chicken and gonja that I always feasted on along Jinja road in Namawojolo. So I asked my friend Moses about how a good journey could be exclusive of eating roast chicken and he assured me that a food break was a little distance ahead of us.
Before he could finish explaining, I stopped him because I had seen men and women getting on standby at the road side as our driver reduced speed to let us out to have a share of the roasted muchomo, gonja, ground nuts, mineral water and sodas which were being showered at us in the windows. Then the engine revved and we were off again.
I was so deeply taken up the meat only to realize that we had left the tarmac and settled for murram heading to Bukakata landing site to catch the ambassador of the island, Mr. Ferry, who was supposed to leave the dock at around 10:30 am.
We finally made it to Bukakata where we found the ferry just arriving from the islands. The waters were steady with a cool lake breeze blowing over the area. The Lakeshores at this landing site were filled with small snail shells.
My attention was drawn to one old man who introduced himself as Nzee Amdronico Ssemakule Magatto Omugave Omusese, a brother to Former Democratic Party President Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere who is a son of the soil we were heading to.
He hurriedly gets in kaboozi (conversation) with one of our colleagues who had slept in his lodge (Andronicos lodge) some time back and proceeds to ask what we had come to do in Kalangala. We moved on to the ferry where we then got ready to sail to one of Ssese Islands beautiful reserves.
Watching over the spread waters at 11:00am the Buk-Luku (Bukakata-Luku) ferry, loaded with eight cars which included our coaster, a Diana pick up, two small cars two Pajeros and two double cabin pickups, started its two hydromaster engines and we swerved the waters at reasonable speed leaving and passing islands that stretch for distances in the massive lake.
My colleagues once again got deeply married into kabozi while others resorted to chewing maize, roasted chicken while some Banakyalos(villagers from Kalangala) also took revenge on the chapattis.
When I asked Nzee Andrinico about the movements of the ferry he said that the ferry carries all loads ranging from cars carrying merchandise, fuel trucks, road graders and taxis.
We live the same life even better than you people in Kampala, he bragged as I continued to ask him how the ferry came to Kalangala. The ferry was lobbied by the late Vice President Dr Samson Kiseeka to solve our problems and we are happy about the work it is doing today, Andronico said. He says that they used to cross from the islands using boats, which were small and could not carry their merchandise. Later, engine boats were introduced but they were also not fully effective due to the increasing businesses the people were getting involved in.
But thanks to the ferry, things have changed for the better. Andronico says the improvement in transport has continued to attract business in the islands citing the fact that the ferry makes four trips a day, which are no longer enough to transport the people and merchandise that, passes through Bukakata landing site alone.
"When the palm oil producers (BIDCO) came to this place, they came with machines, tractors and other things. The ferry was the only alternative to move across the lake to get to the other side where they have their plantations, he explained.
After almost an hour of travel on water, we arrived at Luku landing terminal where we now relocated back to our coaster and waved to Andronico. We drove off through the green thick forests. Despite the fact that there is no tarmac here, there wasnt any visible dust as we could only leave the dry leaves rising up behind our speeding coaster.
The fresh air that the forest was rendering stopped us from closing the windows and we kept them open to refresh our minds and lungs. It tasted good to breath in and feel that sort of natural air coming from a mixture of water breezes and well kept forests. This is Kalangala district, made up of over 40 islands, with a cool and hot temperate climate, a flat bush land. A few homes are found along the roadside while at the same time they are a distance of about 100 metres from each other. Most of the houses are modern and one could hardly see any grass-thatched houses. Probably an indication that only the well to do could venture in this land that seems very far from the rest of Uganda.
I later learnt that although much of the land is covered by forests and the newly planted palm oil trees the people also cultivate bananas because of the fertility of the soil while others engage in fishing as another income earning project. Today, oil manufacturers BIDCO have set up a multi million-oil project that has given the people of Kalangala employment and boosted their purchasing power.
The people stood in amusement as they watched our vehicle passing. Some thought that they could stop it thinking it was making the usual passenger service.
As we moved through the forests, I thought of telling the driver to stop to get the feel of a forest walk but my colleagues could not allow it. We reached Kalangala Town Council and found the people busy with transactions, cars parked along the road and one would think they had gone to one of the areas that surround the city. The town has no tarmac but the existing murram roads are clean with cub stones built in the middle of the main road that stretches from beginning of the central business area up to the small round about that connects to the main district head quarters.
However one will not find the blasting music and the un-orderly petty business along the roads or even in the market as everything is organized starting from the offices, petrol stations, clinics, down to the markets. Standing from the center of the town ones eyes are attracted to the waters, green thick forests in the lake where the main districts headquarters are facing, offering a good and scintillating scenery beyond imagination.
The buildings stand a few metres from the main road and stretch for about two kilometers as you head towards the valley to Pearl Gardens Beach. Its where we were supposed to meet over 150 people who were attending a full week workshop on Information Communication Technology.
It was exciting to see the white sand that filled the shores of the lake and the waters swiftly visiting the shores back and forth as some tourists, local fishermen and other visitors dived and swam in the waters.
One of the leading business people in Kalangala, also Member of Parliament for Bukoto West, was Mulindwa Birimumaso, the proprietor of Pearl Gardens Beach. He said that Kalangala is an ideal place for people who want to relax, unwind and have fun in a silent place.
Pearl Gardens Beach
He says the area would have booming business in the next few years if it were continuously opened to the public who are ready to spend.
When the ship starts making journeys we hope to be in good business and to host many visitors to our unique environment, he said in an interview with Ultimate Media.
It was not long before it was time to get back into the coaster and we drive off to catch the ferry at 6:00pm at Luku when it makes its last journey back to Bukakata, leaving behind the gift of nature that Kalangala offers. With no noise and hooting, pollution and traffic jams it makes one hate our own cars. A retreat to Kalangala Islands is a good option for you to sit back and freshen your mind
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First published: January 18, 2006
Jude Bukenya is a senior political and business reporter with Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd.