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Friday, November 21, 2008

Every inch of Kayunga is an adventure

From the dusty roads, a flat terrain, simple people to stories of unearthing the dead, Kayunga is a home of peculiarities, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza.

Kayunga is an interestingly peculiar district. On a recent trip there, I jumped on a boda-boda motorcycle to be taken to the district headquarters. A woman stopped us along the way. The cyclist asked me to inch closer. That’s when I realised he wanted me to share the small seat on his rickety bike with the chubby, unknown woman. I flatly refused. He then asked if I was going to pay double the fare. I said I would pay no more than what we had agreed. He called me stubborn and angrily asked me to get off his boda-boda before he stormed off back to town having lost both passengers.
But it was later that afternoon on our way to Bangala landing site on Lake Kyoga that I realised that Kayunga, which was formed eight years ago, can be spectacularly unforgettable as soon as you begin to traverse her remote areas such as Galilaya sub-county, which in English becomes Galilee –that Biblical town made famous by Jesus Christ.

A seemingly endless dusty road cuts through stretches upon stretches of remarkably beautiful shrubs. The shrubs harbour a variety of invisible insects that at zero cost entertain a first time visitor with a rare genre of music, which when it interlocked with the rev of the car engine and the whispering breeze was so sweet to my ears. I closed my eyes and momentarily forgot about the business of the world.

The terrain is flat; very flat in fact, that when I stretched my eyes hoping to catch a glimpse of a hill or village in the distance, it was the same lush, graceful vegetation that confronted me. I was left wondering at the amazing lifesaving medicinal properties that could be hidden in there. Suddenly, a beautiful rabbit crossed the road and my mouth immediately watered at the thought of the sweetness and tenderness of its meat.

It is about 86kms from Kayunga town to Galilaya and every short distance we were interrupted by herds of cattle ruminating in the centre of the road. Several times, I got out of car to whip them off before we drove on, until, seeing how exasperated I was, the driver asked me to get used to it because “these cows are the owners of the roads!”

Chuckling, he added that they are set free every morning to go feed themselves before they find their way home in the evening and that the wild rabbits like the one we met earlier have taken advantage of the situation to grow fat on free milk.

Only once did we meet a hunched man whistling beautifully to himself while attending to his cows. I also learned from Mr Paul Byakika, a clinical officer at Bbaale Health Centre Four that many residents in the area suffer from consistent diarrhoea because of drinking too much unboiled milk from dirty containers.

At the same health centre, I met a handsome young man whose foot had been cut open. The story is that the mentally-ill man trespassed into a bachelor’s home one night and the owner, mistaking him for a thief, cut him. How the machete landed on his left foot and not on his head or hands or stomach is something I failed to crack.

The area, like I said, is a flatland with scarcely any hills and vales. And the weather can be devastating. The rains have dug trenches and ditches, forming ugly puddles and mini-lakes in the middle of roads. We found over a dozen bare-chested men labouring to help a lorry stuck in one of the said ‘lakes.’

But this didn’t foil the beauty in the straightness of the area. Foliage stands majestically tall on either side of the road, and because of that, I felt like we were about 30 feet below sea level. Yet through the windscreen, the sky seemed near; very near in fact, that I stretched my hand through window hoping to feel the anomalous clouds whose lustrousness is beyond description.

At about 3p.m., we arrived at Bangala landing site. Canoes in blue and maroon rested and floated on daffodils by and near the bank. I wanted to see fishermen at their trade but was told to wait for dusk or to come early the next day. I parted with Shs5,000 in exchange for my first experience in navigating the lake in a canoe. I was allowed some rowing too, and as the little canoe wavered against the waves and picked up speed, golden rings formed on the blue water. In the far distance, Amolotar district beckoned; it was beautiful!

Before we knew it, dusk had fast fallen and stars, so many, lit the sky but could not avert the blanket of darkness now covering us. Soon we were racing back to Kayunga town. Having read odd stories about odd people in this place who dig up human corpses (perhaps to eat them), I expected strange creatures to crop up anytime in the middle of the road and have us for dinner. I implored the driver to triple his speed while mosquitoes the size of houseflies rapped on the windscreen wailing and threatening to suck us dead.

We arrived in Kayunga town after 10p.m. Now, getting a taxi to Kampala at that time was tricky. And I had turned down a kind gesture from the driver to sleep at his. I bought airtime and though I was as tired as a drunken old man, I pulled out my best and convinced the attendant to give me a place to spend the night. Just in case.

Suddenly, a battered taxi coughing like someone with a chest heavy with smoke surfaced. I grudgingly bade goodbye to the pretty MTN girl and dragged myself in. I closed my eyes and tried to nurse my weariness thinking about the lovely calf we had earlier in the day seen by the roadside butting its mother’s udder and suckling passionately. Then the five made-in-Kayunga chapattis I had eaten –which must be the most delicious chapattis in all the earth! And about the really tempting garden of ripe pineapples which brought a smile to my lips reminding me of the naughty years of childhood when I would have plucked the fairest of them regardless of the trouble such a move would cause me.

Kayunga is a home of peculiarities.