By Aggrey Nshekanabo in Bunyaruguru

Having spent my formative years in Bunyaruguru, despite the mystic tales about these lakes, to access my relatives,I had to pass by their lakeshores. The paths linking the different villages go past some of these lakes. And that erased any fear factor for mystics in me forever.

Unknown to many, most of the craters are twin lakes and the stand out double twins are Katinda&Mirambi and Kyema&Kamweru. My mother’s homestead stood close to Lake Mirambi and we grazed my grandmother’s goats in the Kyambura escarpments of mirambi. We were always warned to be out of the valley before the sun goes down. You may not know what you may come along with in the cover of darkness. If you did, before you entered the house would be a familiar question; “Are you alone?”

Twice a week, we went by Lakeside ofMirambi and Lake Katinda through the deep valley of Kinkina to access the gardens in Omumashaka and Kagando! When it rained, it was very slippery ground. Any misstep would be fatal. We always passed through this valley of Kinkina at the speed of wind before night fall. What with the mystic tales of the mating Octopus called Endyoka between Lake Mirambi (female lake) and Lake Katinda (male)!

There were tales of ghosts roaming the valleys and lands around the Kyambura escarpments. Once in a while, we would see a light starting off from the north-side ofLake Mirambiand vanish in the middle of the lake! And if you saw such a light and delayed to run away, a whirlwind would pass by and sweep hair off your head!

The valley of the dead
At Omu-ibaare,another mysticof Kyamburaescarpments,on some nights,tall ‘firemen’known asebinyamazimuappeared from the hills of Kigabiro and descended toKyabafu; the valley of the dead. Sometimes, these firemen would burn the bushes on their journey down the valley and their fire would be seen by people from the adjacent villages ofKichwambakyaNyakashozi, KichwambakyaBwijuka and KichwambakyaBalyanikaacross the escarpment, but in the morning, there would not be any burnt bush.

The other twin lakes that carry a lot of myths are Lake Kyema and Kamweru. While there are homes around Lake Kyema, there are no homes around Lake Kamweru. It is said that there are mystic beings called Amayeruthat colonized the area and made it their own. At night, these mystics held feasts with overnight drumming and dancing. Children from Buhera, Buzenga and Aharukondo and Bugaya were always warned never to dance to drums from afar. You would be partaking in the dance of the Amayeru.

Further deep in the forests of Kalinzu are the mystic twin lakes of Kamunzuku and Kasiriya. Kamunzuku sits on a clear slate of rock enabling you can see at the bottom of the lake and see schools fish swim by.Kasiriya is said to be shrouded in sacrificial mysteries of medicinemen and witchcraft initiation.

The lakes that swallow people
AtKyakasharu township, on Mbarara-Kasesehighway, is the basin-like Lake Mafuro. Mafuro means foams. It said that annually, this lake swallows a person from the village of Kasungu. The people say; ‘the lake has eaten a person.’ But according Mr.Banaga Vincent, a resident of Kasungu, it is because the lake has no shoreline, it is like a basin. Any slight slip, the lake swallows you.

Then there is the Africa-shaped lake Nkugute known as LakeRutoto. Its original name is Nkugute. It means to swallow. It is presumed to be the deepest lake in Africa. One is told that white men came to determine how deep it is and they failed to reach the bottom of it. According to MulongoKato Gyavira, beneath Lake Nkugute,is a pot-like mouth that opens deeper into the centre of the earth. Kato says that annually, Lake Nkugutetoo swallows a person, hence, its name,Nkugute, in Runyaruguru dialect.

Northwards past RugaziPost Office centre,curving the sharp corner of Kyambogo, behind the bus stop of KitoomakyaRumuli, you are welcomed by another set of twin lakes on either side of the road. That is lakesRwizongo and Nyungu. Nyungu is true to its name, a pot, deep and dack, with a small stream pouring in from Rugazi. Adjacent to these twin lakes are the false lakes of Kisanga and Nziranga. These false lakes are covered by papyrus reeds and floating plants called amarebe (water lilies) but underneath are the snake like mud fish calledEwondo.

Queen Elizabeth National Park gets more visible as you approach Kataara and KichwambakyaBalyanika. Behind Kichwamba trading centre, at the beckoning of Lakes Edward and George which, are conjoined Kazinga Channel, lies the invisible Lake Kibwana. Sometimes, this lake peeps out when the winds are strong. It is home to hundreds of hippos. South of Lake Kibwana lies other twin lakes of Nyamusingiri and Kyasanduka.What is common on all these lakes are hundreds of bird species endemic to the Albertine region, according to Achilles Byaruhanga,the ED of Nature Uganda and son of Bunyaruguru.

Lake of the Flamingoes
East of Kyambura Gorge, which separates Queen Elizabeth National Park from Kyambura Game Reserveyou will meet another set of twin lakes; Kibwera and Nshenyi. Lake Nshenyi is home of the flamingoes,which migrate from Lake Nakuru in Kenya. It is the shallowest of all lakes in Bunyaruguru. You can walk its width and breadth to the humming of flamingoes.
While for Lake Kibwera, it said to have the tastiest tilapia, hence the name Kyerunga. South of Lake Nshenyi is the community lake ofKyamwiganearKaterera town. North of Lake Nshenyien-route toKashaka fishing village on Lake George,lies the dark marshes of Lake Kineeraon the left and on the right are other twin lakes of lakes Kararo and Bugusha. So much for the lakes of Bunyaruguru and the deathly valleys that make your hair stand on your head.