Monday, September 14, 2009

Sipi Falls

We decided to go away this weekend to Sipi Falls, a waterfall at Mount Elgon that is about 2 hours away.

We took a bodaboda to the Shell gas station in town, then took a matatu from Tororo to Mbale. In Mbale, we couldn't find the matatus we needed, so we asked a bodaboda to take us there. We found a matatu going to Kapchorwa, the nearest town to Sipi falls.

A woman named Doreen started talking to us. She was holding a baby girl. (Babies tolerate these matatu rides remarkably well. I can't imagine an American baby so calm on such a crazy, hot, cramped ride for so long). She became our impromptu guide, informing us when we had traveled into a new province.
That matatu van was smaller, and the people in the first row of the back sat either in the seats (forward-facing) or on a bump behind the very front seats (facing backward). This meant that about 6-7 people were sitting essentially in a circle, and it encouraged conversation.
About half an hour into the ride, they were engaged in a debate, and it was fun to watch. It was in a mix of languages, with only occasional phrases in English, so I had no idea what it was about. But Doreen was clearly arguing with some young man about something, although they seemed more amused and not very angry. Scott heard some phrases that sounded like they were talking about the recent violence in Kampala (which reached us only through news reports), but later I heard Doreen say something about "pregnant" so who knows.

Everyone on the van knew we were going to Sipi Falls, and as we approached, they asked us which lodge we were staying in - which was Lacam Lodge. They dropped us off at the door.

Lacam Lodge
was very nice. It has 3 self-contained bandas, with a queen bed and a double bed in each, plus a bathroom. There was no electricity - at 6:30, an employee comes and lights two kerosene candles for the room. The toilets were compost toilets - after you use them you put a handful of wood shavings. An employee comes periodically during the day to empty it. It really didn't smell at all, and in fact seemed really clean.

The Logde is built on a slope overlooking a massive valley.

It is so close to the waterfall that you can hear it all the time, but you can't see it from your banda. There is a lookout point on the grounds of the lodge from which you can see the waterfall, and it's huge and beautiful.

The Lodge is too high for mosquitos, which is nice, although it is also very chilly. If you go, bring long pants, a sweater and pajamas. During the day, we were warm in the sun (which was actually quite hot), and the shade was pleasant. At night, it got very cold - such that I wore every piece of clothing i had brought just to go to dinner. And we slept with a sheet and 3 wool blankets on the bed.

The shower has hot water, but only hot water. It wasn't mixed with any cold water, so it was literally scalding. It was pretty much impossible to expose your skin to it for more than a flash, but anytime you weren't under the water you were cold, so it made for an unpleasant shower. I didn't completely rinse my hair of conditioner, either, because the heat of the water was much too painful on my scalp. The only nice part of the shower is that there is a large window that looks over the beautiful valley, although it's hard to appreciate while being scalded.

The food at Lacam lodge was very good. There was a nice dining room and bar.

The bar overlooked the valley.

The waiter would come to our table and tell us how many courses the meal would have (lunch had 2, dinner had 4) and what they would be. Everything was simple but very tasty. We also had a very nice bottle of South African red wine with dinner.

The Lodge can organize short hikes of about 1 hour - they have one to the waterfall, and one to a coffee plantation. We didn't do either one, although they sound nice if you're interested. I'm not sure how enjoyable it would have been, given my distaste for hiking, and adding onto that the high elevation that made exertion difficult. Just climing the stairs from our bands to reception required a rest in the middle.

Mostly we just relaxed at the viewpoint.

Scott did an amazing drawing of the waterfall, and I did a lot of reading.

I finished "Zeitoun" which was outstanding and really shocking. I also read the September 7 New Yorker that arrived, which included a fascinating but appalling article on a man who was executed in Texas for arson (his children died in the fire), when the fire was very likely accidental.

While we were relaxing, we heard some hooting and cheering. We looked across to the waterfall to see a crazy mzungu hanging from a rope next to the waterfall, descending the rocky cliff. I think it's this activity called "abseiling."

The mzungu was lowered on the rope down to the base, where there was grassy land, and a Ugandan was there waiting for them. Another item that for the list of Crazy Things Mzungus Do.

We had a really nice weekend in Sipi. I would definitely go back, although I would bring warmer clothing next time.

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