Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016
The road spreads out before us like a wet glistening mamba snake; winding around the hills ahead of us in a sort of engulfing embrace. The thick nimbus clouds seem to be fighting their way, in and around each other in preparation for yet another mighty downpour and I begin to take the driver’s words seriously about Kapchorwa being an extremely cold place.
I am thankful for the cool breeze that greets us as we enter Sironko District. It is doing a lot to clear my lethargic mind caused by the heat we encountered in Jinja, Mbale and Gulu before that, along the way to Lacam lodge in Kapchorwa District.
Lacam lodge is built on the slopes of Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda. Lacam means cliff in kupin, the Sabiny language. There are no wild animals or snakes to see but Lacam is absolutely child-friendly. I am enthralled by the breathtaking scenery of the green rolling terrain of Sironko. It is obvious that the air on this side of Uganda is a lot cleaner than that in Kampala.
As we drive on, my eyes stray onto a road that branches off the main road we are travelling on. Out of curiosity, I inquire where it leads. “It leads to a powerful trading center on top of the mountain,” the driver says, pointing in that direction. We finally turn off the main road that continues to Moroto and take a narrower road. We are greeted by a host of signposts to the various inns, hotels and lodges.
The beauty of the land becomes more conspicuous; unveiling other slopes of Mount Elgon. I learn that the lower gentle slopes of the mountain are inhibited by the Bagisu and the topmost areas are by the Sabiny. Although it is hot, the cloud hanging low promises rain and that promise is fulfilled when we drive round another slope.
Finally, at 2:45pm, we arrive at our destination- Lacam Lodge. It is hard to miss the car park or the roughly hewed wooden signpost. Our driver turns into this rather grassy parking lane and we groan because the rain is increasing steadily. The drivers informs us that blessed are those who come to Kapchorwa when it is raining.
A wooden staircase from the car park leads us to the front office. It is set in a wooden structure and behind the window stands the polite and friendly manager of the lodge. He hands us glasses of passion juice, also referred to as them “welcome juice”.
The staircase winds downwards to the edge of a cliff. With no television, noise or the hustle and bustle of Kampala, Lacam lodge certainly offers one therapeutic treatment. It is the real return-to-innocence sort of place. Lacam Lodge has a bar, dining area and sun lodge all built on wooden stilts. Further down from this main structure are cottages and a dormitory that can take up to eight people. They are all fitted with off-cuts of wood and bamboo with plastic sheets to keep them water-proof. The lodge hosts 18 guests at a time in order to stay true to its motto: “an ideal getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city”.
As we settle in, the manager assures us that they have hot showers and clean toilets. These facilities, however, are not connected to the cottages, but, are a few meters away. Built with wood and bamboo, the bathrooms are simple and basic. A thin plastic curtain acts as a door as you indulge blissfully in a shower. If you want to watch yourself shower, all you have to do is draw back the curtain and watch yourself in the mirror placed in front of the shower, above the wash sink.
Normally, dinner is served between 8.00pm and 10.00pm, but because we were ravenously hungry, we were served an early dinner. The warm service coupled with the delicious four-course candle-lit dinners erased the fatigue of the journey. At 9.00pm, a bonfire was lit. This seems to be the highlight of the evening. Although Lacam Lodge is quite chilly at night, we were able to sleep, lulled by the sound of the nearby waterfall.
The next day, after a sumptuous breakfast, we made arrangements for our trip on the short trail. There are three main activities at the lodge. The long trail which takes about four to five hours and consists of walking to see the three waterfalls, a natural swimming pool and ancient caves or the short trail that consists of all the above except that the package is limited to seeing only one or two waterfalls. Finally, there is the romantic evening stroll around the village down to the forest exploration center.
Armed with cameras, water, and bamboo canes, we follow our guide, Michael, a Sabiny. The trail proves to be icing on the cake. Michael expertly leads us off the main road moments later, into a rocky grassy trail that is still damp from the previous night’s rain. It is amazingly beautiful. Our first stop is not too far off; gaping at us in noiseless awe stands the Mise cave, derived from the Kiswahili word ‘mzee’ that is used to refer to an elderly person.
The earth below our feet is soft and soggy with craggy rocks jutting out of the earth’s surface. This was the home of the ancestors of the Sabiny. The caves are structured in such a way that only a Sabiny can help demystify it for you as a real house. There is a cattle shed where salty water spurts up from the ground during the rainy season for cattle to drink and then bedroom chambers for the king and his two wives. This room is separated by a sort of badly cut-out window to the princess’ room for communication purposes. It is evident that parental protectiveness was established more than 100 years ago.
Three hours later, we are hurtling back to the lodge where we indulge in a hot bath, a change of clothes and a sumptuous two-course meal. It almost feels like home and we are sad that our time is over. We spend our final hour at the lodge in the sun playing board games, reading and signing the guest book. Soon, with broken hearts, we drive back to the city, I wonder if paradise comes close to this place.