Uganda is still seen as a more remote and mentally distant safari destination, even though it is next door to Kenya, the country which started the modern safari industry. Called "The Pearl of Africa" by Winston Churchill and in more recent memory the scene of great civil war under the mad dictator Idi Amin, it throws up many images. Most people go to Uganda today to see the famed mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei).
I have written in previous posts about the magic and wonder of encountering these magnificent mammals in their natural forest habitat but I want to conjure up another image today.
At the edge of Bwindi perched on a hill, you need to step back in time as you cross the threshold of Clouds Mountain Lodge. My instant thought was a hill station in a distant colonial country, Malaya or India. Built out of the local volcanic rock, the classic 1920s architecture is at once familiar and reassuring. This is an illusion of course as the lodge was built only a few years ago but the illusion is strong. The wide verandah doors open to sublime mountainous forest views, in particular of the Parc des Volcans in Rwanda. The steam rising from these humid woodlands reminds me of many films about the Vietnam war I have seen, this time the image is more tranquil and inviting.
Inside the public rooms, large cream coloured sofas abound encouraging you to curl up with a good book or to relax with a whisky and soda. Large open fireplaces, well provisioned from the forest, warm the chilly evenings and are particularly comforting after a good days trek searching for gorillas. The dining experience is more comfort food than grande cuisine but appropriate for the climate and just reward for the physical exertions. The rooms are large, stone cottages with sitting rooms and large beds, stuffed with cushions.
The attention to detail here is good. Your bed is heated by hot water bottles; hot drinks, especially after your trek, are brought promptly by a dedicated butler. There is a spa, specialising in massage, with open views to the mountains. All in all, this is one very relaxing lodge which encourages you to linger. My last stay was too short, focused essentially on the gorilla experience. Next time, I will stay longer, soak in the atmosphere, take walks and hikes in and around the surrounding villages, take more photographs and generally unwind. I can’t think of a more ideal spot.
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