A Bunch of Sallies

Today’s enjoyable ride was for Nantaba Monica and Nabakioza Florence. Monica was our first student to get full sponsorship and the rest is history.

We woke up a little earlier in order to see some animals in QE park before it got too hot. The sun was out from start to finish of our ride today but we felt rejuvenated after yesterday’s rest day. We rode on the main highway (some paved and some not) right through QE Park. I was so much looking forward to riding over the equator today and taking some photos of the cool marker that I have seen in pictures. Unfortunately, we crossed the equator without knowing it because they took the marker down because of road construction. Bummer. We stopped where the Queen visited once and they named the entire park after her and the two lakes after her sons. The Queen Elizabeth Pavilion, which is also close to the road that leads into the Congo only 38 km away, had a great view and the worker let us take a picture of her map rather than making us buy it. I love Uganda.

So even though we missed the equator, we did ride by many cape buffalo and four elephants which was worth the getting up early. I even had the opportunity to ride over their muddy tracks on the road (pic below). I’m so thankful that we went to see animals yesterday because it was overcast and cooler and so that’s why many of them were out and about.

The 60 km ride today was pretty uneventful. We left the plains and there was one long hill at the end (see below), but I’m feeling pretty strong and John continues to amaze me. It’s strange to say that a 60 km day on fat tires up a huge hill seems like an easy day, but that’s just testament to the acquired fitness over time…and maybe to some of the difficulty of the days behind us.

The real story is about where we are staying tonight. We are at Dave the Cave’s eco-lodge. It is ultra-cool, but rustic on another level. Apparently, other cyclists have come through here and they were super excited to have cyclists. When we arrived they quickly brought us hot towels to wash our hands and faces (in part because of respect for Ebola). Then they made us a cup of hot herbal tea that was sourced from herbs grown on their property along with honey from their own bees as a sweetener. It was delicious and I had two cups, taking most of the honey for myself.

David asked if we would like a hot shower because when he heard we were coming, he “started the boiler.” Of course, the answer is yes, but little did we know that “starting the boiler” literally means he started to boil water over a fire in a huge pot with piping (picture below). It wasn’t until after John had taken a cold shower, that I noticed this and that they hadn’t finished heating the water. The shower is outside looking out over one of the crater lakes. The toilet is also outside and made of cement with the seat stuck to the cement. It is a composting toilet where you try to separate the poop and pee by aiming them both down different holes and then dumping some ash in the toilet down after #2. I haven’t tested my aim yet so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to oblige to the “rules” posted on the wall (see below).

We are the only ones at the lodge as guests, but just after we arrived, a high school field trip came through on a geography tour of the cave below. It was so hilarious to see them acting exactly like high school students everywhere. Taking selfies. Terrorizing the turkeys. Flirting. The guy in a hammock trying to act cool and the teacher trying to get their attention to get their walking sticks back and telling them not to go to the museum empty handed. Teens are so awesome.

We have our own cabana with a grass roof that looks out at a crater lake with monkeys and lots of different birds just outside. They don’t have music here so that guests can just enjoy the sounds of the birds and frogs. I really appreciate that after spending the last two nights directly across from a bar that played the same song on a loop for two hours. It wasn’t even a good song.

The monkeys keep eating up their garden so they have moved it to another location that I guess the monkeys haven’t found yet. David grows 84 different kinds of vegetables and we got a taste of them at lunch. I normally don’t like vegetables at all, but after a month of not trusting how they were cleaned and prepared, we took a chance today and ate a huge plate of cooked veggies and I only left out the eggplant. I hope I’m not spending the night outside at the concrete throne trying to figure out which hole puke is supposed to go down.

While this place is rustic, it is amazingly beautiful and clean so that for the first time we are anxious to even walk with our shoes inside. Normally, although we try very hard to keep the rooms clean, you can imagine what two dirty bikes and muddy clothes can do to a hotel room. I wonder if the cleaning ladies ever think, “What in the world happened in here?” when they see the tire tracks, the towels covered in red dirt and the trash overflowing with bottles of pop, water and empty noodle packages. I really do try to clean up a little after ourselves, but I still feel a little embarrassed by the mess.

Anyway, the owner of this place, David, and his main man, Sally, are exceptional at what they do. They are extremely knowledgeable about herbs, plants, bee-keeping, and local history and legends which I find fascinating. They truly are eco-friendly and have made a name for themselves in the community and also amongst cyclists. They introduced us to some children from the local school, took us on a nature walk to see the other places to sleep and camp and told stories around the campfire after dinner with us. The place is called “Dave the Cave” because the owner (David) purchased this land and it has an historical natural 800 meter-long cave down the bank by a little lake. There is another lake very nearby that has water that is very clear, but the lake we are on has muddy water because of the sediment that it gathers from passing through the cave and the black dirt at the bottom. The cave used to be a place that people would hide during tribal conflicts. As you would imagine, there are many legends about the cave, but it connects the two crater lakes. Sally told us an elaborate legend about how they became connected, something involving an angry god (he kept using the word ‘hungry’ instead of ‘angry’) whose son drowned. When we went to the actual cave, he told us the entire story again verbatim, which is probably a testament to the rote memorization that is typical of the Ugandan school system and English being his third (working on his fourth) language.

They fetched a chicken and killed it for dinner and paired it with some rice and broccoli. Sally sat on a fence post and just watched us eat so of course, we took the opportunity to chat more with him and hear his story. He is the real reason we are staying here another day. He takes guests on eco-hikes as a way to add to his income and we want to support his efforts. He is an amazing young man and we have enjoyed spending time with him. He had 10 siblings but one sister died from something they still don’t understand and he lost his dad when he was only four. So he grew up as an “orphanage family” and he still visits the orphanage every year when he goes back to Fort Portal to see his mom, brothers and sisters. This twenty-four-year-old works hard and is looking for a girlfriend, but he sends most of his money back home to his mom and to pay for his siblings’ and their kids’ school fees. What an honourable person. Hopefully our Get Schooled project will create more Sallies, strong resilient young people who see opportunities instead of roadblocks and hope when there seems to be little.