Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year

I know I'm a few days late, but I'm just getting caught up on entries.

Last New Year’s I was on Cape Cod; for the five or six New Years’ before that I was in New York City. This year I rang in 2008 from an island in the middle of the Nile. The Hairy Lemon sounds like a hippie commune at worst and at best something like the secret Eden described in Alex Garland’s The Beach. But it’s just your basic bunch of huts hidden amongst jungle greenery on a bilharzia-free inlet on a tiny island. Basically, the middle of nowhere. Basically, pretty awesome.

I thought it was in Jinja, but as we consulted the web site’s directions, it quickly became clear the island is someplace else entirely, someplace between the two and a little bit north. A two-hour drive from Kampala, thankfully mostly on paved roads, but roads that seem seldom used. At least, we hardly passed any cars. The last 20 kilometers is on dirt road—with one noticeable wet patch. Noticeable because my friend JB, who was following us in his car, got stuck in a deceivingly deep ditch on the side of the road.

When N and J and JB walked the circumference of the car to investigate, they ended up knee-deep in mucky water. Pretty quickly the car was surrounded by Ugandans of all ages. More arrived by bicycle as it became clear we needed more able-bodied men to lift the entire car up and out of the ditch.

We continued on our way until the road ended at the Nile in a small parking lot and thatched hut to protect visitors from the sun while they wait for the boat from the Hairy Lemon to arrive. You must clang on an old tire rim to alert the Hairy Lemon to your presence. It’s a short ride to the island, only a few hundred yards really, on which the resort sits.

There are private bandas and camping options, but we chose the in-between dormitory for our sleeping arrangements, which was situated right on the bank of the Nile, the rushing water a pleasant sound to fall asleep to.

We swam. We played cards. We drank. We went home. Like I said, awesome.


Dan said...

Just stumbled across your site from a link on The Kampalan. Nice description of NYE at Hairy Lemon, good times! I think I am only now recovering from the hangover. Let's meet up in Kampala sometime. Good luck with the novel, Dan

dosanddonts said...

Hey there,

As an FYI, there is significant bilharzia risk at the Hairy Lemon-- seven out of 11 in our group who went there contracted it-- and the docs at the Surgery and IHK called it "quite possibly the best place to contract bilharzia"...

That being said, it's quite nice. Just don't cool off in that volleyball net!