We were all very excited that Monday morning to journey to Kisoro. So Joshua our trusty photographer, Ian the driver and I braced ourselves for quite the adventure. We left Kampala at about 10am with nothing but our expectations and a few packs of gorillos to keep us company. The drive that had been promised to be not more than ten hours did not disappoint us. On the bright side though, it was astounding to watch the scenery transform from sky scraping buildings to an expanse of rolling hills carpeted with thick foliage. As is usual of Kabale and Kisoro journeys, the rest of the trip was confined to winding roads tightly albeit neatly fitted to sit on the natural contours of the hill. After taking a side road at ‘Kindly Service Petrol Station’ in Kisoro town, we drove on straight over stony murram for about half an hour following the signage for Chameleon Hill Lodge.
Ian skillfully wound the car all the way up the spherical hills to the lodge and we hit the brakes at the Chameleon Hill gate at about 9.00pm.
The Chameleon behind the hill
The Assistant manager Charles came running to greet us, instantly alleviating the journey’s weariness with his contagious warmth. As he helped us with our luggage we were immediately awestruck by the opening theme of the lodge. A path illuminated with golden brown lights led to what in that instant reminded me of colorful interlocking plastic bricks. The architectural indulgence looked like sandcastles breathed to life and planted in the midst of an unlikely paradise. An array of small windows flitted across the frame of the building adding an animated glory to a seriously impressive design. I couldn’t wait to see this place during the day.
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Lucky for us, we found the lodge celebrating its one year anniversary. So the entire staff sat around a family style dining table eating and drinking. Their joy and laughter filled every crevice of the room and converted Kisoro’s natural freeze into a bearable chill. Doris Meixner, the passionate and loveable owner of the lodge soon joined us with her infectious energy. She shared with us tales of her conception of the dream for the lodge and her exuberant elation at watching her baby turn a year old. We all laughed at the funny account of the German woman who lived in South Africa and opened a lodge in the middle of nowhere in Uganda. Like a proud mother she took a few minutes to bask in the glow of her staff, gratifying each one with sensitivity and pride; from the boy who guarded the generator every night to the chef who had just joined the staff that very day.
As we partook of the fine food of potatoes, pork and fish that was roasted on their local oven, we all seemed to have the same thought; ‘that ten hour drive was worth it”
After dinner, Charles showed us to our rooms which all wore different colors although were the same in make and décor; much like a chameleon itself with its multi-layered camouflage. Each room runs with hot water, and is fitted with one or two neatly laid beds, comfortable to sight and touch with several colored and patterned cushions and throw pillows for coziness. The lodge is comprised of 5 twin rooms and 5 double rooms. It also enjoys the use of natural condiments and wooden accessories in each chalet.
We slept to the sounds of nature, a sharp contrast from the hubbub of city life with screeching car horns and ambulance drones, so when we arose to the beautiful sight of green hills layered in mist floating around the majestic Lake Mutanda it couldn’t have better.
For breakfast we had fruit slices, coffee, tea, lodge baked bread and delicious Spanish omelet eggs. After which Patrick the general manager who is endeared as the father of the staff indulged my many questions. He said that since the lodge is mostly a stopover for gorilla trekkers, the staff make sure to fashion their services to afford the utmost relaxation. This was evident for Joshua and me when we read the visitors book and noted how each guest appreciated the personalized touches Chameleon hill offered.
Attractions at the lodge
The Lodge provides boat rides over Lake Mutanda to the different surrounding islands. One need only tread down the hill to the engine powered boat to enjoy the glide over the cool clear waters. We took particular interest in the ‘Punishment Islands’; a harrowing look into the history of the area. Nearly a century ago, girls who were pregnant outside of marriage were banished to these islands to die from there. To this day, their remains can be found there.
For some of us the steep climb up and down the hill to and from the lake proved to be equally terrifying as it was exhilarating, but when we got back, we enjoyed a performance from the Mutanda Side Art class. The young ladies danced with so much heart and vigor that Joshua put his camera down and joined in the ‘Ekizino’ dance. What a sight!
More often than not, each of us found ourselves standing on the deck that leads from the dining area of the lodge, to stare open mouthed at the mountains in the back drop of the horizon. Even though the mist was heavy on the brow of the hills, the distinct impression of the Virunga Mountains could be seen towering in magnificence over all the serenity.
On our way back we all agreed that this chameleon hiding behind giant hills was a gem worth discovering no matter the time and distance taken to get there.
Need to know info
For booking information, visit the Chameleon hill Lodge offices located in Across Africa Offices in Makindye, Kizungu Lane. Lodge contacts as follows;
Mobile phone number: +256 772 721818