Thursday, January 26, 2017

Let's Respect Lake Vic

There is, something about Lake Victoria especially from the air that muddies. It looks so sedate, calm and relaxed - even when you have a one-on-one with it a Gaba beach, Speke Resort Munyonyo or Kabaka’s landing site at Mulungu. The waves lap gently at the shore, almost soothing and regurgitating sea shells onto the sand for the kids to pick up – if not, a mass of hyacinth, a discarded plastic bottle or the dreaded kaveera.

One thing that Lake Victoria has always cried out for, is respect. With a surface area of approximately 68,800 km2, its Africa's largest lake by area - so of course, it’s in a position, to demand respect from those who take to her.   

A while back, along with the then Dr Gladys Kalema (Below), German Tourist and others, we did a crossing from Kalangala on Sesse Islands to Kasenyi landing site in Entebbe. And when we did the crossing, the one thing that we didn’t do was… err, you guessed it, we didn’t respect the lake.

We set out at 8:30am in a canoe - not a boat, but a canoe. And a canoe overloaded with charcoal, fish, yams, cassava, matooke, bricks, boda motorcycles and more. Lake Vic was relaxed and the skies so clear there was not a hint of a cloud in sight. When Mutembeyi touting, mineral water tried to offload four jumbo bottles onto me, I sent him scurrying away. After all, why would I need water for a journey that would be no more than a ‘40-minute hop’ at the most?

But, it wasn’t a 40-minute hop. It was a very dehydrating nine-hour crossing – especially without four jumbo bottles of mineral water, that was extremely suicidal and fought with danger because each wave had the word ‘death’ scrawled all over it.

The waves in the middle of Lake Vic are very different from those that lap the shores at Ggaba beach. They are also different from those you see when you are on the ferry. In a canoe, the waves mammoth into the size of your average double storied house. They swirled and lashed so terrifyingly against the canoe just like they did in the George Clooney movie – The Perfect Storm.

Its then, that the word ‘respect’ came into play. In the weeks before we made the crossing, the newspapers were awash with stories about people who had perished because they had no life jackets and the canoes overloaded or were caught in a storm. And what did I do when I read those articles? I simply sneered.  

Sill we set sail and very aware we had no life jackets and we had not been given an airline style pep talk of what we were to do in case the canoe capsized. I had to ‘laugh’ because, I can barely manage two laps in the very calm waters of the baby pool at Speke Resort Munyonyo, so just how on earth would I manage in choppy waves that are almost as high as a house?

If the canoe had capsized, it would have been everyone for themselves. I would have drowned within five minutes. I also didn’t rate the chances of Dr Kalema or of German Tourist. Out on the lake, it’s lonely – there is nowhere to swim to. Nothing to cling to. Nobody to shout to for help. As far as the eye could see, there was no land. No other canoes and no cell-phone network. We would never have been found. If we were, our maggot bloated and rotting bodies would have been found weeks later - washed up on the beach or trapped in Fisherman’s net.

We are lucky to be alive and a word of advice – if you take to Lake Victoria, respect it. Make sure you have a life jacket and plenty of drinking water.

Pictures: Absolute Travel, Internet