“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.” (Edward Abbey)
“Go to the Top of the World,” says the waiter at Nyinabulitwa Lodge as he collects our plates. “The top peak by Kibale Forest, overlooking the crater lakes. Very beautiful, must-see. Promise.”
Ten minutes later, here we are, packed into Crystal’s bright blue little 4×4 Toyota RAV, ambling slowly up a treacherous, potholed, unregulated dirt road littered with rocks and overgrown plants. At the end of this potholed ascent, the Top of the World awaits.
We get to the peak of the mountain and park beneath a shady banana tree. The house itself is shuttered up. We’re the only ones here, save for a farm of baby lambs and a man, presumably their owner, in a wooden hut some distance away, eyes closed and dreaming.
The only way is up. We look at each other, brace ourselves, then pick our way up the steep hill, navigating the dry grass in flip-flops. Next thing we know, we’re on Top of the World.
It’s a myriad of colours and sights and smells.
Rolling hills, verdant forest, and banana and vanilla plantations overlook three naturally formed crater lakes within a mile of one another: Lake Nkuruba, Lake Nyabikere, and Lake Nyamirima. The names remind me of water nymphs.
I stand on the edge of the mountain and whisper a wish over the magical view.
We take full advantage of our isolation and sit at the top of the hill for a long while, taking it all in. A few minutes in, the exciting view apparently gets too much for my bladder, so I explore further down the hill in search of a natural bathroom.
On my way down, I slip in the dry grass, inevitably falling flat on my butt. One of my wisest ideas that morning was to wear bright white jeans. The others, silently spectating my clumsy descent, crack up at me from the Top of the World. (There’s something I’d never thought I’d say.)
Nature having called, I head back up the peak. In the distance I can see Justin standing and Crystal sitting. Brother and sister, side by side, having a moment. I make my way quietly, not wanting to intrude.
Justin, in his African-pattern shirt, casts a striking silhouette against the sky.
He looks so relaxed, so comfortable; so much more at ease than when we’re in London. I think about how seamlessly he blends in with the view. Like he’s always been a missing part of the landscape, and he’s finally come back to complete the picture.
Suddenly, Crystal checks her watch and disturbs our reveries. “I reckon it’s time to go,” she tells us, shaking sticks of dry grass from her harem pants, “Or we’ll get caught up in the afternoon traffic.”
I take one last longing glance at the view, then we’re ambling back down the hill to the car, which is parked beside the small farm of baby goats. Their shrill bleats sound weirdly similar to the cry of human babies.
One particular baby goat headbutts the ground nearby and bleats at us as we get into the car. We collectively chuckle. It sounds like the lamb is bleating “goodbye”.
As Crystal revs the engine and we buckle up our seat-belts, I think about how last-minute decisions like these always turn out to bless us with the most incredible memories.
With one last look at the cute little goat, and with peace in our hearts, we head back to Kampala.