Kampala was getting me down and to avoid the smog, dust, noise and smell of rotting cow horns, I made an impulsive decision to head to Jinja for the night. We decided to stay at an island called The Hairy Lemon, a place I heard spoken of many times. It is a small island about 60km upstream from Jinja and is famous for being very quiet, a great place to Kayak and having an excellent campsite. Paying heed to my inner princess I decided to sleep in a Banda ( a small, basic, concrete house ) rather than camp in a tent. Despite the positive inroads I have made in my relationship with a tent, I have decided that I will only sleep in a tent if there is no alternative. The Hairy Lemon is well known for its vegetarian food and coupled with the fact that I was longing for some silence, I thought this Lemon, hairy or not, would be just the ticket.
The drive was a little over 2 hours. Imagine this distance on a wide and smooth highway in the Shiny West and it could have taken 45 minutes. Much of the drive was pot holed or involved hurtling over rough speed bumps placed at foot long intervals. I spent most of the drive thankful that I was wearing a bra and singing Grease songs at the top of my lungs. I arrived hungry and excited for my mini break.
A small dug out canoe takes visitors from the bank to the island, a ride that is only minutes long, but makes the arrival seems quite romantic. The kids, like wild dogs let off a leash took off at some speed to run and explore the island. The family we were with, who shall for ever after be known as the Super Campers, unloaded their tents and marched up the hill to set up camp. ( They are ALL Trooper with no Princess in sight, hidden or otherwise.) These are friends who always carry snacks, always have the right gear, always have chairs to fold out and sit on. They put me to shame.
Anyway…. The afternoon passed well, despite the barely edible lunch. The vegetarians amongst us, who had, I presumed, been expected, were served food where the meat had quite obviously been pulled out. Husbands napped, wives read, children frolicked in the rapids, it was all calm, quiet and restorative.
Dinner was quite simply inedible. We dined, instead on chocolate and either coke or wine, ( age appropriate, if nothing else) and worried about where we could brush our teeth with no running water around. The toilets were all long drops (exactly as it sounds, it drops a long way down) and strangely, whereas they hadn’t bothered me in the slightest in Bunyoni, here I was irritated. I had left Kampala for some peace and quiet and I was finding the gag inducing toilets and lack of warm showers very annoying. Still, at least I wasn’t in a tent, I thought, as I prepared for bed to the sound of rain pounding the tin roof.
Sometime during the night I began to feel it. The stinging sensation that comes from being bitten by something very very mean. It was not a mosquito as there was no buzzing accompaniment, and mosquitos tend to drift away and then return to munch on a different place. I was being bitten from the top of my thigh, all the way down. In the morning I discovered a dozen large, swollen welts. I am convinced there was a large, hungry Safari Ant in my bed.
Eager not to appear too much like a Princess in front of the Super Campers, I tried hard to smile and laugh about the toilets and joke about how we could always shower at home, but inside I was fuming and dying to return to my little house. The very same house, that I had called boxy and was so intent to escape just 24 hours before.
As we came home, and how sweet home felt, I made a decision. I will not go anywhere for the weekend unless there are flushing toilets and warm showers. I will indulge my inner princess and no longer push her away in shame. I am what I am and I have the itchy thighs to prove it.