Monday, June 27, 2011

East Africa Day 41 (Thurs June 23): The Post Bus & other Transportation Adventures

Meghan and I met up at her house early this AM. I left most of my stuff in her room, and took just my day pack with me when we left the house, bound for the Post Office in town, where we’d catch the Post Bus to Mbale, a town enroute to Sipi Falls. We boarded the bus at around 10am – it was so nice! It had a flat screen TV that folds down from the bus ceiling, behind the driver. It showed music videos until the bus started up, and then the TV was turned off and the screen folded back up. But then the bus piped East African and American pop music through the speakers at a moderate level, for the duration of the drive. It was a few hours to Mbale. I was reading “What is the What” and looking out the window.

When we got to Mbale, we learned that we should walk to the clock tower in town to find a matatu to Sipi Falls. We stopped at an Indian-owned restaurant with interior d├ęcor that was somewhat nautical, mostly to use the bathroom. When we exited the restaurant a matatu driver pulled up to the curb and asked if we were going to Sipi Falls. We said yes, asked the price (5,500 UGX/each) and jumped in. Sure enough, the matatu drove around town picking up and dropping off passengers, before we headed out of town. Fortunately we weren’t in a rush – this was part of the adventure!

When we got to a small town, we were told to get out of the matatu. We were then told that someone else would drive us to Sipi Falls from there. The driver handed me 5,000 UGX and said that would be enough to get to Sipi from the town. Then someone from the matatu connected us with a man who was driving an SUV style car, that was headed up to Sipi Falls. It was already full of Ugandans and a lot of packages, but Meghan and I fit in. Fortunately it was a short drive, but up a steep hil. At the top, we were dropped off at Lacam Lodge, where we were staying, and were charged 8,800 UGX each. But at least we were there.

We walked down the driveway too Lacam Lodge, where we were greeted by Fred, who is under 30 and one of the tour guides/managers at the lodge, which we later learned is owned by 2-3 white men, and a Ugandan who lives nearby. When I signed in, I saw that the last guest had signed in on the 16th, and that Meghan and I were the only guests. Clearly they were not overbooked but it made us feel better to have made the advance reservation. We were shown to our banda, which had a bunk bed and a third bed. The bathrooms were in separate bandas not far from our banda. We walked up to the main lodge where the bar and restaurant and deck are located, and read our books until dinner. Fred also walked us along the path below the deck, to a view point for the waterfall that you can see from the property. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous – tropical, diverse, and very vibrantly green.

Dinner – as I had read on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree – was very good – four courses. We ate at a table overlooking the view. After dinner we retired to the banda and read. The property does not seem to have electricity. We used lanterns.

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