It takes one about 30 minutes ride on a motorcycle to reach Amor Pii Hill, the home of Panyimur hot springs. Locals in Panyimur usually congregate at the hot springs in the evening to take warm baths, and seek both healing and cleansing powers.
Panyimur Sub-county in Nebbi District is located 35kms off Pakwach-Arua highway. Despite the importance locals attach to the hot springs, they are probably Uganda’s forgotten natural resource. There is no signpost to guide a traveller to the place. I hired a rider from Pakwach Town to take me to Panyimur.
We had ridden for about three hours and had reached Dei town at the border with DR Congo - about 65km of the highway - when we realised we had lost our way. We made a phone call to police boss of Pakwach Police Station who gave us a clue about the location of the hot springs.
We, however, decided to resume our journey the following morning. This time, I hired another rider from the local Jonam community. Surprisingly, he too, though born and bred in the area, had no clue about the location of Panyimur hot springs. When we reached Pakwach Town before Panyimur Police Post, we asked locals for direction.
At Wangkadu village, Gandi Parish in Panyimur, it looked like our assignment was complete. Two trading centres down the road and a shopkeeper accepts to guide us to the hot springs which lay barely a kilometre from the trading centre.
There is no road or clear path leading to the hot springs. You have to manoeuvre through scattered homesteads along narrow footpaths subdued by overgrown grass and shrubs that scratch and pierce your body as you advance. A hundred metres away from the hot springs, lie two hills that look like rivals meeting for a confrontation.
At this point, the hot springs are visible. Being shallow, one gets a magnificent view of the clean rocks. Right in the middle of the water lies the hot spot with temperature hot enough to boil eggs.
The hottest spot is about two metres in length but it is not clearly visible as it has been covered by vegetation due to years of neglect. Locals prevent their children from getting close to the spot fearing they will get burnt.
Despite its potential tourism value, the locals have not reaped anything of economic value from this treasure. “We have not benefited from this site as only school going children mostly from West Nile come here. The locals have chosen to use it as a bathing ground,” a resident says.
I decide to hang around until evening to appreciate the actual benefit of the hot springs to the locals. At exactly 5pm, old men, women and children start streaming in. They separate according to sex and go to different sides of the hottest part of the spring.
Separated by thick vegetation, each group goes where the hot water mixes with the cold one to make it warm and more conducive for a bath.
It is a source of entertainment and relaxation after a long day spent in the farm or the grazing field. The locals laugh, chat and sing as they enjoy the warm spring bath. It is also an opportunity for the villagers to come together to pass time.
About kalangala district
Kalangala District is situated in Lake Victoria in south west Uganda. It is one of the newly-formed districts, and it seceded from Masaka District. It is bordered by Masaka and Mpigi districts in the west and north respectively, with Tanzania to the South.
Kalangala is entirely surrounded by Lake Victoria with an area of 9,066.8Km. Only 432.1Km2 (4.8 per cent) is land. The rest is water. The district is made up of islands, popularly known as the Ssese lslands. The 84 beautiful Islands, which make up the Kalangala District, are widely scattered in the Lake Victoria, with Buggala Island the largest.
Other popular Islands include; Bukasa, Buyovu, Bufumira, Bubeke, Kkome, Degaya and many others. The Islands are connected to the mainland by ferries from Bukakata (Masaka) to Liku, fishing boats from Kasenyi landing site and Nakiwogo landing site in Entebbe. In the recent past, the district has become a tourist destination following the opening of several hotels and beaches.