In one of the stories in Jennifer Makumbi’s short story collection Manchester Happened, she writes about Something Inside So Strong a song by Labi Siffre. In the story, Poonah plays the song at a rather high volume but her mind is so far away that she cannot realise it. It is Namuli who reminds her. Poonah’s mind had gone back to the day Namuli’s parents had sat in their cars and abandoned her alone in a Kampala she had no relative to run to. Here was their daughter in Manchester with only a Poonah to run to. Indeed something inside so strong was bothering her!
I was in my cottage in ENJOJO when I was reminded of both the story and the song. Inside a space so meticulously done. A space so lovingly done. A space so spaciously done. At times, when you look at something from the outside you may miss the details. It is like going to a bookshop and choosing on a copy only by what the cover says. You stand a chance of missing out on the details.
As you walk through the stone pathway from the main lounge and dining area at Elephant Plains, you might be quick to imagine you are disappearing into the wild. At least the path is not as straight much as it is narrow. Enjojo is the Runyankore version for elephant. Elephant Plains Lodge is all about elephants and their clansmen. All the cottages are named after the elephant but in the different Ugandan dialects. Beauty lies in spaces. In the design of the entire lodge, one thing they took the trouble to have fixed in place is space. There are little particular details to look out for. The hand-woven fabric that constitutes the rooms. The wide-open-windows. The very tall walls. Oh the stone work in the bathrooms! Those wall- hanging-art pieces, oh Lord! I don’t need to emphasize the bedazzling lights, that I won’t.
There is more than just the contents there in. When you open to the veranda and listen to the birds sing away, your mind is arrested by their crescendo of gratitude.
Whereas the lodge is big enough with about 9 cottages, you might be tempted to think you are the only one in this magnificently placed piece of treasure. Sitting here at any time of the day lightens your heart and melts your soul. The world clock slows down on the ticking to let life flourish.
To this coat of renewal is the swimming pool in the wings of the lodge casting an endless view of Queen Elizabeth Park. That pool literally washes away your sins.
In the evening when the sun has taken a dive into the lake, sitting at the dining lounge, you will see it; the layout of stars in their twinkling majesty as they align themselves in the sky. And if conversations mean a thing for you, the campfire will regale you through the hours of the chilly night.
You can never know these things when you are standing or just driving past the beautiful Kasese-Mbarara highway. Neither will this be revealed to you as you ascend the Bwera route. Hills are known to keep secrets. They are hidden in folds revealing one by one as you pursue them to the top. There is something about gems. They are always veiled. As you drive on, it is easy to miss the beautiful things sitting at the hill as they are jacketed by the trees. It all begins when you take the turn the Elephant Plains Lodge that you realize therein dwells something inside so strong.