Living in Kampala is amazing. The sounds, the smells, how incredibly slow life moves in the city (the bodas are the only fast thing in Uganda) still enthralls me in that it is so completely different than my Colorado life of happy hours in the evenings, running through perfectly manicured parks, and skiing and hiking on weekends. As I say that, I don’t want to over-romanticize Kampala either. It’s definitely a third-world experience, and the city is an odd mix of urban and rural living all at the same time. On my calls with my team back in Colorado, there is a good chance at least one rooster will crow. And the power wavers, nothing quite works as you think it should, I’m surrounded by barbed-wire, it’s dusty and my goodness, the heat. Needless to say, Jay and I were ready for a retreat from the city. And what better excuse than my birthday? My favorite holiday of the year!
At the recommendation of a friend, we booked a one night stay at the Wildwaters Lodge about 30-40 kilometers outside of Jinja, which is the source of the Nile River. The lodge sits on the remote island of Kalagala completely surrounded by whitewater. This place, for lack of a better term, was off the hook. I think the pictures speak for themselves.
There are a lot of ways to get to Jinja, including a very inexpensive taxi bus crammed full of up to 20 passengers. But we decided to spend a little extra money and go with our go-to driver, Richard, we’ve been using in Kampala. Richard is the man. He showed up promptly at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning to pick us up, arguably more excited than we were for this little mini adventure. We thought by leaving by 8:30, we’d get a jump on Kampala traffic. We did not. Kampala traffic is unlike any traffic I’ve seen in the world. It took us an hour and half just to get sort of out of the city, and then we encountered traffic through most of the towns outside of the city. A little over two hours into our drive, we finally hit open road. By 11:30, Richard pulled in to the main grounds of the resort.
Because it’s on a small island, a paddle boat was waiting for us upon our arrival to shuttle us to our room and the main lodge. Long wooden paths thick in the jungle line the way to the individual “lodges” or rooms (there are only 10 on the property, which maybe only half were filled during our stay). Each lodge has it’s own balcony with a old-fashioned tub and lounge chairs that overlook the whitewater of the Nile.
The main lodge is cool and breezy. There are several dining room options and a deck with lounge chairs for sun bathing. An infinity pool butts up to the Nile, which at night, is backlit so you can still see the whitewater in the dark. The stay at the lodge includes breakfast, lunch and a five-course dinner. They’re chef is remarkable. Each meal had a unique blend of western and eastern cuisine. For example, for lunch, Jay and I split an order of fish and chips. The local tilapia was covered in a curry-like batter. Unique and pleasantly delicious.
What to do on a remote island like Kalagala? Honestly, we used the weekend just to relax. The stress of moving into a new home on Thursday, and the sad loss of my uncle on Friday, Jay and I used our time on the property to read, talk, take in the nature (there is an amazing waterfall on the island) and hit the reset button on life. We’ve even crawled out of bed to catch the sun rise. No matter where you are on the property, you can hear the roar of the Nile. It’s extremely calming.
There are actually a lot of activities available that if we are to go back, we’d do. Whitewater rafting, floating, SUP, horseback riding, zip lining and bungee jumping are all extremely popular activities in the area.
On Sunday mid afternoon, Richard arrived an hour early to pick us up and patiently waited with his phone camera in hand to document our boat ride bike to the main land. Like I side, he’s a real gem. Sunday traffic was a breeze compared to the day before. We made it back to the city in just under two hours. And as we expected, Kampala was exactly the way we left it.