The intrepid Ivy Aseka went to Western Uganda, visiting the famed Kitagata Hot Springs that were once used by the Ankole Kings for various divine and normal uses. She was looking for a higher purpose in life. And while sipping the water, she hoped she will find the elusive boyfriend…
If you have ever had a scratchy urge to see a large indiscriminate number of naked people, you should go to Kitagata Hot Springs in Western Uganda. It is the most ideal place.
I joke. Kitagata Hot Springs is the home to the spiritual and healing haven of the Ankole people and has over the years become a popular tourist destination. It is located in the breast of Bushenyi, Sheema District, two hours from the beautiful Mbarara township.
I arrived there around 4 p.m., which, given the Uganda’s relentless tropical heat, was the best time to undress, you know.
I paid the entrance fee of USh 2,000 (about KSh 60), a mandatory charge per head for the maintenance of the place, which does not add up seeing as the place occurs naturally thanks to volcanic processes. There is no exclusive guide as this is a place one discovers on their own. It is a journey to self-discovery of some sorts.
Kitagata loosely translates to warmth and it lives up to its name. At the farthest end is a small spring that serves as the source of the larger springs. The mother spring on average has its water at a temperature of 70 degrees and on some days, it gets to 80 degrees. The branched-out springs are two and they average at 40 degrees.
The hotter spring is for the men because, patriarchy, while the less hot one is for the women and children.
The hotter spring is for the men because, patriarchy, while the less hot one is for the women and children. Next to the testosterone-infested spring is a slightly independent spring that looks like something out of the devil’s blueprint for hell. It is undoubtedly hotter than even the source spring, what with the steam rising from it and the earthy colour of iron visible in it. It is slightly detached in a way that keeps you interested and only the brave can be found there.
At the mother spring, throngs of people gather to collect the water in different containers. Some fetch the water in mugs and proceed to an adjacent stall to make tea. Served with a bun or doughnut, it goes for Ush 500 (KSh 15) Ugandan shillings. Curiosity gets the better of me. As such, I take a swig at the water. It is bland and unremarkable for something that is supposed to be healing and spiritual. I expected to feel little gods dancing in my mouth as soon as the water hit my lips. However, for what it lacks by being unimpressive, it makes up for it with the distinctive metallic taste. I quietly got convinced that that water would answer all my problems and that soon, my people wouldn’t have to ask me about a boyfriend and my ovaries losing viability.
It is bland and unremarkable for something that is supposed to be healing and spiritual. I expected to feel little gods dancing in my mouth as soon as the water hit my lips.
The beauty about Kitagata is that with nudity, comes innocence and humility, if you are not a pervert, that is. It makes everyone so vulnerable.
It awakens the subconscious knowledge that all are human with problems and on a search for higher purpose. It also unites everyone. There is something beautiful about being naked in a group. No, it is not an orgy.
Women could be spotted deep in the water meditating, others conversing and some speaking to their children. The men could be seen bathing in the water without a care in the world. Some could be seen deep in conversation, no doubt discussing the different shapes of tits that were bare for the world to see. The old could be seen nursing their various brittle bones with the hot water and the sick, gently massaging their various points of ailment.
Admittedly, it is a beautiful place and was once used by the King of the Ankole people. Nevertheless, it is slightly overrated and could be deemed unhygienic due to the large number of people that use it for a myriad of purposes.
That said, it is easy to become a believer at Kitagata. It speaks healing and comes with that ancient divination.