Select Page

Even though the end of the Hairy Lemon has been looming for several years now because of the construction of Isimba dam and the flooding that it will cause, receiving the news suddenly on July 5th ( while I was at the Lemon) that this weekend would be the last weekend of the Hairy Lemon as we know it came as a shock! Thinking of all the beautiful trees and habitat being mowed down by chainsaws and machete blades is too painful to imagine – especially because there is no good reason for it now! Isimba dam is rumored to be completed and flooding by the end of August at the earliest. So what is the rush now?? The animals on the Lemon including the extremely endangered pangolins have not been relocated. This also includes Red Tail monkeys, monitor lizards, and a variety of snakes. The many bird species must fend for themselves despite the loss of their habitat in the surrounding river bank areas which have been completely deforested in the same process. If this part of the Nile were anywhere else in the world, there is no doubt it would already be protected as a Unesco World Heritage site. Cleary, in the World Bank’s book, this must be their definition of progress though its impossible to understand how!

For me, the 4th and 5th of July – my last visits to the Hairy Lemon – represented the end of era. Since my first trip to Uganda in 2003 with EJ and Clay, I have spent lots of time at the Hairy Lemon every year – in fact almost every weekend when I am in Uganda. For many winters, I would meet the Jacksons and other JK Team paddlers down there an we’d have so much fun paddling Nile Special and Club wave, and enjoying the Lemon. EJ celebrated his 50th birthday there. I spent several Christmas’s there in the early days too. The Hairy Lemon has been right up until the end, a beautiful chill out island escape. This coupled with amazing paddling, has literally allowed me to continue to do my work in Uganda with Soft Power Health. It is the best place I can think of to recharge your batteries and where you always meet and see people you know and love. Its a place that so many people hold dear. Its magic works on everyone who visits.

Though I thought I was preparing myself for the end of the Lemon – I was clearly not prepared to hear so abruptly that all the trees would be chopped within days by the Chinese dam builders. Even though this year I told myself every time I came down, stayed, and surfed at Nile special that it would not be like this much longer so enjoy every second – which I did, I really did – it was still devastating to learn this very sad news! Though many people have come together to try to change the outcome of this terrible master plan from the World Bank of electrifying Uganda through a series of hydro dams – we never got any traction.

Even knowing that mega dam projects never benefit the people intended and in fact do more harm than good overall, the plans to build were pushed forward.This mega hydro project makes even less sense in Uganda where solar is the most viable and affordable power option for the millions who need it and cannot afford to buy it. Despite the myriad reasons of why this kind of dam building makes no sense, these projects still get built and someone or a few people are making a lot of money in the process otherwise why would they continue knowing how damaging they are and how much debt they create for the countries who build them? Those bureaucrats who make the decisions in World Bank offices might have changed their minds had they visited the Hairy Lemon and seen natures magic in action. I will never forget having dinner down by the water with Nicci and watching one of the pangolins walk right by us and up a tree next to where we were sitting – we could not believe it and now I know how even more special that is because Pangolins may be the most endangered animal in the world.

There is only one Nile in the World and only one Hairy Lemon. I am very grateful to have 15 years of memories and fantastic times there – the place and the river connecting me to my journey in Uganda – not knowing where that would take me but always renewed and rejuvenated by spending time in quiet wonder absorbing all the beauty it had to offer. Good Bye Hairy Lemon and thank you for all the wonderful times!!