Archive | September, 2013


30 Sep



30 Sep



So, I wrote a bucket list a few years ago and never really took it seriously. As one gets older, I have become to realise that life really is short; anything can happen that is beyond our control. This year I have decided to swing my life into first gear, meaning that I will not let anything or anyone stand in the way of my dreams, desires and beliefs. I relooked at my bucketlist, changed a few things and added a few more. I send a message to our creator on my new movements and then sat back. When I received my invitation to be part of the UCC Film Festival 2013, I decided to tick two bucketlist adventures in one go. The first, taking time out to visit the Gorillas and the second to spend time with the Abayudaya community, One of Africa’s oldest Jewish communities. A few more blessings were thrown in amongst them.


I made the necessary arrangements and before I knew it, the time had arrived.

DAY 1:

My driver, James, arrived early to collect me from my hotel in Kampala, as I was a solo passenger, there was space with another couple travelling to the same destination. We shared the 4X4 and set off. They were two gentlemen from Portugal, exploring Africa.

We travelled through central Uganda to Kabale, where we had lunch. Of course I was in my element as it was true Ugandan cuisine and my favorite being Matooke and G-nut sauce. Matooke is pounded Banana, that is boiled in the banana leaves.

After lunch and getting to know each other more, we then set off on what I would say is the rockiest roads of my life. James made a little joke that we should lie back and relax, as we were about to experience one of Africa’s best massages.

We continued along winding roads overlooking the most beautiful landscape called the “Switzerland of Africa”. We passed mountains, lakes, hills with cultivated terraces and tropical rainforest and bamboo forest. On the last hill the landscape unfolded beneath us, in the vast plane of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo the Virunga volcanoes dominated the view. We then made our way down to Kisoro where we checked into the famous Travellers Rest Hotel. In the sixties the famous American ‘gorilla-woman’ Dian Fossey visited Hotel Travellers Rest many, many times to do paperwork, to relax or to meet people. Fossey said about the hotel: ‘It was my second home’.

The hotel, built in a somewhat colonial style, and entirely renovated in 1999, has a comfortable ambiance. 

It took us about 9 hours to get to Kisoro. On arrival the staff, ushered to our rooms. The rooms were cute and comfortable, the décor had a strong influence of the colonial era, and I imagined Dian Fossey, sitting on the patio overlooking the beautiful mountains, writing in her journal.

Dinner, was great and after such a long trip we were all pretty hungry. I got to know my fellow travellers a little better. Their journey had begun in Uganda, THEN they would then head to Ethiopia where they would be exploring the architecture, religion and traditions for the next three weeks.

That’s one of the many reasons why I love to travel, meeting people from across the globe and hearing about their journeys and adventures.

After dinner, James briefed us that we would then have an early breakfast at 5h30, the head towards the foot of the mountain at 6h00. We ordered our lunch for the next day, which consisted of a sandwich, boiled egg. Nuts, fruit and yoghurt. He briefed us on what to pack in our day packs, water, suntan lotion, rain coat, insect repellent and of course our camera’s. I was like a child before her birthday; I could hardly wait for the next day.


DAY 2:

From the excitement, when my alarm went off, I simply flew out of bed and jumped into the freezing cold shower. Normally that would have infuriated me, but as I was on an adventure of a lifetime, it excited me. Breakfast was great, a Spanish omlette, coffee and juice then we head off after another briefing my James. We then jumped into our 4X4 and headed to Nkuringo, in south Bwindi. That is the foot of the Bwindi forest. The drive was approximately 90 minutes. The road that took us to Kisoro had nothing on this windy, slippery track that we embarked on the day before. I simply said a few prayers and decided to focus on the beautiful surroundings. As it was early morning, the mist was thick and almost mystical. Michael Apted, the director of the award winning film, ‘Gorillas in the Mist’, must have had a field day with his cinemphotographer. The mise-en-scene was charismatic and beautiful to say the least.

We arrived at the foot of the mountain, where we were put into our various groups, each group were assigned a particular family of Gorilla’s. We were then briefed once again and I have to applaud the guides for their entrepreneurial traits of trying to sell us Gorilla memorabilia at exorbitant prices. Unfortunately my Portuguese travellers were placed in another group and I was placed with a group of lovely travellers from the UK. We were going to trek the ‘Mishaya’ Family of gorillas.

We were also joined by a crazy Swedish traveller who had just been on a 25 hour bus trip from `Kenya then on a two hour bike ride on the back of a Boda-Boda.

A boda-boda, is the term used for bicycle taxi.  It is derived from the English term border-border.

The name originated from a need to transport people across the “no-mans-land” between the border posts without the paperwork involved with using motor vehicles crossing the international border. This started in the southern border crossing town of Busia (Kenya/Uganda), where there is over half a mile between the gates, and quickly spread to the northern border town of Malaba (Kenya). The bikers would shout out BODA BODA, to perspective clients. The bike is usually an old scooter, the drivers are usually quite reckless and fast, so he was rather amped after the long bumpy ride.

We then were assigned porters, after climbing Kilimanjaro; I knew how essential it is to have a porter with you to assist with holding your bag, pulling and pushing you up the mountain and just moral support.

We set off into the wild, beautiful mountain. We were lead by a group of trekkers who were in contact with trekkers who set out early that morning to try and locate the gorillas. This is done so we are guaranteed to see the gorillas.

The landscape was even more beautiful now that the mist had settled. The hills were steep and quite strenuous, then as we moved into the forest was where the hard work began. We donned our trekking gloves and began, crawling, the guide at the front, sliced through the forest with a sharp machete, tossing the bamboo aside, to make a path for us. We crawled, jumped, slid, climbed, hung and experienced all facets of the forest.

After about an hour and thirty minutes of strenuous climbing, we were notified that they had been spotted and we embedded ourselves deeper into the forest. About an hour later, we then left our porters, took our cameras and were told to be very quiet as they were close. I didn’t expect to get so close to them. We first saw the male, who could be identified by the silver streak on his back, we moved across and found the mother and her baby, playing and eating. Normally, the mothers hide their babies, but this beautiful creature came out to play. We watched as she fed him/her, then like an inquisitive child, the baby jumped up and down, and began to swing from the small trees ahead. The father sat on the one side, simply enjoying his mid morning snack of bamboo shoots, he seemed unaffected by our presence, but the minute someone got too close, he made us aware that were in fact visiting his home. The loud grunting sound was quite frightening and to the point. We then backed off and assumed the position that we learnt in the briefing session. We were instructed never to look at them in their eyes and then make a slight grunting sound, like we are clearing our throats, this simply send s a message to the gorillas that we are greeting and that we come in peace.

We were allowed to spend an hour with them, that hour seemed like five minutes. We then headed off to camp. We stopped half way to have a lunch packed, overlooking the other side of the mountains. Then it began to rain and we tried as quickly to get back but we got caught in the middle. This as rather difficult as the rain made the paths very slippery and dangerous, once again I thank my porter for the strength and guidance of getting down the slippery rocky mountains.

Once we reached the bottom, we were then given our certificates by our guides an we tipped the guides, porters and took our farewell photographs. The creaky, narrow road back was even scarier with the rain, at times, I believed that we narrowly escaped slipping off the side of the mountain, but the calm and passive look on the drivers face ensured me that he knew what he was doing.

I said a few silent prayers, just in case and thanked my creator for awarding me this phenomenal experience.

We arrived back at our lodge safe and sound, covered in mud but gleaming with excitement. As soon s I got back to my room and looked at my pictures again and pinched myself. I then took a hot shower discovering that traces of the Bwindi forest managed to seep into all crevices of my body. From sheer exhaustion, I had a light snack, missed dinner with the group and fell asleep.



We rose early, had another hearty breakfast and then set off to Kampala. The African massage this time round was a little different as my sore muscles ached slightly but it was pain worth the journey.


Bucketlist: Gorillas, ticked off.



My East Africa!

18 Sep



With my travels across our magical continent, I have always resonated well and have a special kind of love for Uganda. So when I meet Ugandan people wherever I am in the world, I simply relish in telling them how much I love their country. Last year was no different, whilst attending the Berlinale film festival in Germany, where our film was being screened, I met a young film maker from Uganda. I simply gushed  at my Ugandan experiences and how I wished to work with their film industry soon and also see the rest of the country, as trekking to the gorillas is on my bucket list of adventures as well as visiting the Abayudaya community, one of Africa’s oldest Jewish communities.


Well, I strongly believe that what you put out to the universe, when the time is right, all will fall in place.

This year I received an email form The Uganda Communications commission, inviting me to be the International judge at their first Film festival as well as offer my services as a facilitator. I simply jumped at the opportunity, the plans were set in motion. Once all was negotiated , I looked at the dates and realised that the festival was a week before the Jewish New year and my birthday, so I grabbed the opportunity, asked them to extend my flight back a week later so I can tick off two point of my bucket list and add two extra blessings to me trip.


On arrival, the familiar warm sensation overwhelmed me as we drove the long road from Entebbe to Kampal, I’m convinced that I was a Ugandan in a past life as I have this really string connection to the land, the air and people. On arrival at one of my most favourite hotels in the world, The Serena, I am welcomed with the beautiful East African way of ‘You are most welcome’. What surprised me was what followed: Miss Motene, welcome home it’s been too long.

The film festival: My week ahead was quite intense, we had to watch approximately three to five films per day. As I have adjudicated many film festivals before, I knew that the work ahead would be tough and sometimes the nature of the films that are submitted may not be ones cup of tea but out of respect for the filmmaker we always watch each and every one. This festival was quite different as although through all media reports, it’s the first of its kind and they are late and not on par to the rest of the world. Majority of the films were of substance. I was taken into a Uganda world of rich traditions and cultures. What I loved is that there were only a few that that were heavily influenced by American films, with accent and look and feel. The many socio-economic issues that the country have dealt with and possibly still trying to overcome educated me, were addressed.


There were great performances as well and as there were not awards for actors, I  granted a mentor ship and representation on WAKA books to two specific actors.


The main issues of concern were technical, sound specifically. These are areas which were addressed with the UCC and will be included in future plans. At the award ceremony I addressed these issues and the reason why we could not award a best sound to any film as since The UCC want to take the film industry to great heights we have to start with a high bench mark. This then opens opportunities for training on technical front and possibly in the future creating Ugandan-South African co-productions.

So overall the first Uganda film festival was a great success and I look to watching it grow to great heights.


After my work was completed, I took in some of the fabulous Kampala nightlife. My partners in crime Ham and Anne, made sure that I enjoyed my favourite Matooke and G-nut sauce, boogied down at the latest hotspots, Cayenne being my favourite.


My two journeys, which I have titled BUCKETLIST ADVENTURE, including a three day excursion to the Bwindi forest in search of the gorillas. The second being travelling to the Easter part of Uganda, to meet the Abayudaya community and celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. I will take you on an in-depth experience in my next two blogs.


When I arrived back in Kampala it was the eve of my 39th birthday, where the celebrations began.


My darling friend Anne, made sure I was taken care of in true Uganda style, good food, wine, fabulous conversation and of course my ultimate, dancing. Without a doubt I was labeled the African dance queen of the weekend, from dancing into my birthday to ending the celebrations dancing. The Friday evening was a great dinner, of course my favourite Tilapia was served, Saturday afternoon , I was treated to a wonderful lunch then we headed to my favourite spot: Zone 7 owned by my dearest friends Tendo and Gaetano Kaggwa. To my surprise my WAKA stars Flavia and Cleopatra joined us, a surprise cake and bubbly were presented and new beautiful memories were made instantly.


Thank you to everyone who made my stay a phenomenal one. From my hosts and drivers and assistants who made sure I made every screening and meeting, to my tour guides to the welcoming staff who always managed to have my cappuccino waiting on arrival at the hotel.

Uganda, you are truly the pearl of Africa, I look forward to seeing you again.


My journey did not end there, since I was flown on KQ, which is a Kenyan airline, my stop over was in Nairobi. Stopping in Nairobi and not visiting the Khimani–Gasser clan would be sacrilege. So I extended my Nairobi to Johannesburg route, this was my added blessing. I added in some WAKA business, made contacts and new synergies and got to spend time with my favourite peeps in Kenya and the best of all meet the new G (guy)on the block, Yannick Khimani. He was born to Lea and Fareed in January.


The week in Kenya was long over due and totally refreshing. Great conversations, laughing until we cried and tummy’s ached to just enjoying each others energy and spirit. It’s great to see and feel that we have all been moving into different and exciting phases of our lives. My favourite times were rolling on the floor and dancing with Yannick and looking into his bold eyes wondering what was going through his mind. Children are simply amazing individuals.


Lea, Jasmine and Fareed always make my stays in Nairobi memorable ones that will stay in my heart forever. Thank you for always being YOU!!!!