By Aggrey Nshekanabo
Let’s accept it. Kampala is unclean and unhealthy and yet we shall continue to dwell in it. The green spaces that cleaned the air are near extinction. I remember walking to my friend’s home in the newly built Naalya Estate in 1998. It was all green, cool and refreshing. There was a big stream just a few metres where the Northern bypass stands. It was gushing from Kamuli to Najjera. The sugar plantation along the stream was covered in misty in the morning. I told myself, one day, I will live in Naalya Estate. It was beautiful.
Today, just a few pockets of the area are green. In fact, the green spaces that were intentionally left for the enjoyment of the residents are now built-up flats. This is not only true with Naalya area. It holds true with the whole of Kampala. No wonder, the recent Kampala Air Quality Index stands at 74/100. And anything above 50/100 is rated unhealthy. It is for this reason that respiratory illnesses are generally on the increase. The latest NEMA Report indicates that Kampala’s Air Quality is 10 times above normal.
Since we are not living Kampala and its environs sooner, a new trend has emerged. And it is called Forest Bathing. Recently, I was visited by a former colleague, Andrew Ndawula Kalema of Talent Agro-Forestry in Nakaseke, here at Naalya Motel. And we ended up talking about bamboo farming and then the issue of Forest Bathing came up.
“Just that the first documented evidence on Forest Bathing is in Japan, world over, local communities have been at the heart of it. In Buganda, we would say; “Genda mu kyaalo empewo z’ekika zikufuuweko, ojja kuba bulungi.” Meaning, “Go to the countryside and take in the air” This was mainly for those who were stressed and or needed new energy or focus.
And I needed this kind of bath. Andrew directed me to Great Outdoors on Gayaza-Ziroobwe road and miraculously and or by chance, ended up there about two weeks ago. Great Outdoors is exactly 14km from Gayaza roundabout. If you are coming from Kasangati, take the first exit of the chaotic Gayaza roundabout onto the newly tarmacked Ziroobwe road, past Kabanyolo, Magyigye and Namulonge. Just one kilometre before Bugema University, at some unnamed gas, the 14km end. There is a signage of Great Oudoors and follow the feeder road straight on past Kalungu Trading Centre. Just after Kalungu, the air begins to smell differently. A huge forest that combines natural trees and newer species welcomes you.
For the two days that we spent at Great Outdoors, certainly, I fed the body on great meals and took in excellent air for the mind and soul. We had time to reflect on our own purposes, our lives; were able to listen to the birds and swept over by the winds from the giant bamboo. After a light night drizzle, the soils smelt good and natural. Outside my room, I could feel the peaceful presence of God. And so, the day’s discussions in the sprawling grounds of Great Outdoors were flawless and ideas flowing gushing out from a well so full of wisdom.
Great Outdoors was conceived by Mr. Leonard Muteesasira over 10 years ago as a place for relaxation, resting and rejuvenation; providing spaces that bring calmness by spending time in an ancient forest in Kalanamu for which, he is a fourth-generation keeper.
According to Richard, the Great Outdoors Manager, to bring Mr. Muteesasira’s idea to life, Great Outdoors partnered with Rejuvenate Africa and EONS (Exercise, Oxygen, Nutrition and Silence) to use the space as a Wellness Resort for team building, strategic meetings, retreats, excursions and simply as a place to take in oxygen from the trees.
“We focus on the 3Rs; Retreat, Rest and Rejuvenate. People need both physiological and pychological spaces if they have experienced burn-out at their workplaces or whatever trades they are involved in. We call it eco-therapy. Where you and nature are in sync. We have gazette walk trails of 5 to 20km all around the forest that sits on more than 200 hactares;
“And at every turn, we share with our visitors the aromatherapeutic benefits of different plant spaces. And there are sitting points where if someone spent only about 30 minutes, they will be surrounded by plants that release essential oils that are natural immune boosters. And such immunity can last up to 30 days after exiting this place” Richard says.
Some tree species such as Kiti kifa bakazi (couldn’t get the English rendering) is renowned as fallopian tube cleanser and it is the bark of this tree that is harvested, dried and pounded and taken as tea. No more pain in the groin area. There is also the Dutchman’s pipe whose seeds are boiled and just a teaspoon of the liquid can extinguish any fevers in the body including malaria parasites. There were Empirivuma (no English equivalent) seeds from a specific palm species, which we were told are natural aphrodisiacs. And of course the bamboo which are natural air filters.
Great Outdoors has two parts. There is the quiet section with 18 cabins which on sharing basis can take up to 45 people and spaces for camping. And the cabins range from 140,000/- to 260,000/- on bed and breakfast basis. The second section is where the noise makers of Kampala with their boom boom music can escape to. This section has complete houses that take in up to 12 people per house and they are three houses. Here, it is on a self-catering basis. However, there is an onsite chef that can be hired for your pleasure. Just check out Great Oudoors and detox your soul.
Aggrey is a Travel Writer and team leader at Kyambura Safaris Ltd
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