Last weekend I traveled to the Ssesse Islands in Lake Victoria with 6 wonderful friends. We arrived at the dock in Entebbe and camped out, ready to elbow our way onto the boat and in a seat. There are little to no rules about catching the ferry. They fill it until there are no more people and many must stand for the 3 hour passage.
We managed to be some of the first passengers on the boat and secured two benches with a narrow table between them for us to play cards on and rest our tired heads. We tried to ignore the fact that they squished more people than the boat should have been able to hold, there were no visible life jackets, no life boats, and only 3 staff members (the captain, the ticket collector, and a security guard). Oh, and did I mention there were cars along with passengers on this boat and they were held in place by logs? That too.
Despite the potentially dangerous ferry crossing, we made it to Bulago Island safely. We were greeted by 15 Islanders carrying signs representing their respective resorts. Being American, we had made reservations ahead of time and found the lady carrying the “Pearl Gardens Beach Resort,” sign and followed her down the beach some 100 meters.
Let me educate you on two important facts about vacationing in Uganda. Number 1 – there is no need for reservations. They don’t mean anything. Number 2 – resort in Uganda does not mean Caribbean Resort. You still have a bucket bath, the front door has gaping holes in it, and you sleep under a tattered mosquito net. At first these differences were a little disappointing, after all, we thought we were moving up in the world by going on vacation. But as we quickly adjusted, we realized it was refreshing to be in a place that has not been “Westernized.” It wouldn’t be Uganda without the bucket bath and lack of communication.
We proceeded to have a most excellent vacation that included hitching a ride on the back of a flat bed truck to “town”, hiking a nature walk through the jungles of the island, some quality beach time, a picnic near the beach, canoeing a giant canoe through Lake Victoria and jumping in and swimming in the middle of the cove.
It was a wonderful weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. But, I must admit, I never want to go back. Not because of the place but solely because of the ferry ride. 3 hours is a long time to fear for your life and I have not gotten as sea sick as I got on the return ride. There were moments where I was tempted to throw myself over board in hopes of settling my stomach.
And so, I am happy to be back on dry land and living life at site once again. I am refreshed and thankful for life. Next vacation will have to not include a ferry. Perhaps, rafting the Nile River?