This is in a continuation from last week’s post about photography in Africa.
After spending three weeks in Uganda my brother and I were travelling to Rusinga Island in Kenya for five days. My sister and brother first started visiting Rusinga when Hailey was only 18. Since then they have both been back six or seven times continually helping the community through a number of different projects including scholarships for young woman. You can find out more about Friends of Rusinga HERE.
The trip to Rusinga island is one of the craziest travel experiences of my life. We got on the night bus in Kampala at 11 at night. The seats were hard and there was a high pitched whistling from an unknown source ringing throughout the cabin. Somehow we manage to find sleep until we were awoken and told we have to get off of the bus.
It was 2:30 in the morning and stepping off looked like you were in a trench at WWI. There was deep mud everywhere and a barbed wire fence extending in all directions. We were shuffled towards a little beat down shack all the while people were running up to us through the darkness trying to sell us Kenyan dollars. This place we had found ourselves at was in fact the border. Welcome to Kenya! After we get through the line in the shack we had to find our way back to our bus which had already crossed into Kenya. We finally located it after some searching. Once everyone has found their way across the border the loud ringing sound started up again and we were off for a long two minute drive. After that the bus pulled over and the driver left. I was soon informed that it is illegal to drive at night in Kenya and the bus driver would be back at sunrise to carry on with the journey. It was slightly strange, but I managed to sleep until the morning.
The bus finally arrived in Kissumu at 8 in the morning. From the bus terminal we took a rickshaw to another market area. At this market area we had to get on an even less impressive bus. This was a beaten down, metal seat bus, where all of your gear is tied to the roof. I payed for an extra seat for my camera gear to take some of the stress out of having it on the roof. The other thing about this bus is that it only leaves once it is full. That means that we sat on it from 9 to 11 in the morning while a constant string of ambitious shop owners tried to sell us everything they could think of. It was an amazing relief when the bus finally left and we were on our way.
During the Journey the bus filled up past capacity rather quickly. Since my gear took up the inside seat and I was on the outside seat, people seemed to get more and more interested in why my gear had a seat and they didn’t. To make matters worse it seemed like every stop a person in worse condition walked on the bus. First stop, pregnant lady, second stop, more pregnant lady, 4th stop, man with injured leg, 5th stop man with no leg. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really willing to move my gear to the roof, but in the end we reached a compromise as people found it more enjoyable to just sit on me. Needless to say I was quite relieved when we finally arrived at the ferry terminal, which as expected, was a wooden dock with a drink shack beside it.
When we got off the bus a small Kenyan fisherman informed us that we had just missed the boat. It would be another three hours of waiting here for the ferry, or he would willingly take us across the second largest lake in the world infested with crocs and hippos in his rather small and wooden boat. If we hadn’t been travelling for fourteen hours already we might have made a more sane decision, but as it stands we took the immediate option of the fishing boat.
Once we agreed we pointed out his small little wooden boat which he was already filling to capacity with some local Kenyans who were as impatient as us. When we had successfully covered every inch of the boat with people and gear we were pushed off the bank into the lake. The over-capacity weight of the boat didn’t help the proximity of the water to us. In the end we made the hour journey without losing anyone. Once across we were greeted by a man in a suit. He wasted no time in grabbing all of our things and summoning us up the hill to his motorcycle. After spending the past three weeks taking photographs of people who had motorcycle injuries it was slightly worrisome packing 3 backpacks and three people on one motorcycle. At this point the ridiculousness of the situation became comical though and even though we were holding on for our lives the humour couldn’t be lost on us.
Rusinga Island was a beautiful place to stay. We stayed with our good friend Ezekial and his family. The island itself resembles Hawaii as you get these beautiful sunsets over Lake Victoria. It is a much slower pace to life over on the island. Meals become a focus point of the day and merely walking around and chatting with people is the extra curricular activity. It was so great to get time to interact with people from in and around the different villages.
One of the coolest moments from Rusinga was going down to the lake early one morning and watching the fisherman come in from a night on the lake.