Our next stop is Lake Bunyonyi, in the far south-west of Uganda. With its steep, terraced hillsides falling down into the lake and its 29 islands, its a beautiful place to be after a week of a lot of travelling.
We spend two days on Itambira island, at a basic lodge overlooking the water. It’s quiet at night and, when I’m off to the long drop toilet block with my toothbrush, I spot a firefly swooping through the sky. There’s no wifi for a few days and there aren’t many other guests; in the morning mist rises off the mirror-like lake, cut only by ripples from someone paddling a dugout canoe.
We cross onto the mainland for a big walk which takes us up to the mountain top and around the rim of the hills, skirting the terraces of peoples’ farmsteads. We meet lots of people as we walk: smartly dressed ladies carrying bibles in their way to church who we greet “Agandi” (hello) and smile as we wish each other a happy easter. I’m feeling a bit queasy and my burnt leg is hurting so I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself; it’s a steep climb but the views of the islands from above are worth the breathlessness, and the nausea soon goes.
We pick up some kids: some annoying who ask us for money or sweets, and some sweet who want to be our tour guide (“that is a sheep”) or who are bursting with excitement to wave at us. One little girl runs up and clutches at my legs then dashes away. Along the way we find a chameleon and try to see if he changes colour.
After ten miles we’re tired and happy to finally reach the crossing back to the island where we’re paddled over in a canoe. I shower in the concrete block, take a deep breath and plunge into the cold water. That night we’re invited to drink Jameson’s and Baileys with a group of nice Ugandans who chat a lot and tell jokes – eventually we make our excuses and head to bed.
Lake Bunyonyi means “place of many little birds” and when I wake the next morning there are layers and layers of birdsong around. Strongest is the coo of a wood pigeon, making me think of summers at home. I go down to do some yoga on the decking, the wood is rotting and the paint peeling off in my hands but it’s a perfect place. I listen to the birds overhead and spot two cranes, the national bird of Uganda.
Today we move to a guesthouse on the mainland for another two night, and from the little balcony I can hear a church choir and the call of a cuckoo.
We hire a dugout canoe, made from half a tree trunk, and head out on the waiter. The last time we went on a canoe together it was in Colombia; I panicked and it wasn’t a fun experience. We spend quite a while gong in circles, telling each other to paddle on the other side, hoping no-one could see us but knowing very well that people were giggling at us.
Eventually we got the hang of it and I loved making our way over the flat water, glassy and green and oddly warm, mesmerised by the tiny whirlpools spinning off my paddle. There was only a few moments when I felt the worry that we would fall in rise up but managed to push those thoughts down and loved the feeling of being out on the lake.
At the sight of raindrops pricking the surface of the water and the dark clouds overhead, we paddled in for a cuppa, a Bounty and a beer.
Next stop – our third country in east Africa: Rwanda!