Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Drfting back to Kampala

April 8th

A slow morning, and we’re ready to leave at around ten. In theory the rafting company takes us back to Kampala as part of the package deal, but they only do the run late in the evening. We want to get back long before then, so we make our own arrangements.

We order a couple of boda-bodas and set off for town. This time my boda-boda runs out of petrol before we reach the middle of Jinja.

I have to get off while the driver fiddles about, turning the bike almost upside down to drain a few more dregs of juice into the carburettor. Off we go again, and splutter to a halt near to the bus park. That’ll do nicely!

We get a matata to Kampala, and because the Ugandan buses take fewer passengers it’s a pleasant experience. We make very few stops along the way. We go back over the Owen Falls Dam, back past the Nile Brewery, the sugar cane fields and factories, the tea plantations. Back past the forest and the clearing with the sellers of brochettes and chicken legs on sticks. Back through the festering shantytowns on the outskirts of Kampala, and back through an ever increasing density of people, houses, traffic and general chaos until we lurch into the central bus park once more.

Our bags are heavy, and we decide we’ll get to the Backpackers’ Hostel, drop them off, reclaim our room, and then come back into town.

At Backpackers we realise that we have a potential problem. Els is still here, and Soraya, and now Tina is with us we have become a group of five. The solution eventually occurs to us. A group of girls from Nyamata, Els’ friends, are also staying at the hostel, and Els leaves our room and moves in with them. So our gang of four reprobates stays together.

Also at Backpackers is Ruarai, who is not having the best Easter of his life. He was supposed to be coming here with Eric and Amy, but at the last minute he slipped in Kigali and fell into a deep manhole in the centre of town. He is really lucky not to have broken his leg or worse, but his leg is very badly cut and he has had to spend a night in hospital in town, and come up to Kampala after the others. Well, at least he’s here now, and we catch up on news over a beer or two.

We have a council of war to decide what we’re going to do with the rest of our time in Uganda. Now that Épi’s not having to be back for Saturday, we can spend more time here. We decide that the National Parks such as Queen Elizabeth are very expensive, and in any case other than lion and elephant there isn’t the variety in Uganda that you get elsewhere. Instead, we decide to try to go to the Ssese Islands. These are a group of some eighty or more islands and rocks in the middle of Lake Victoria, a sort of Scilly Isles on the Equator. The guide book waxes lyrical about the laid back atmosphere, and especially about a campsite called “Hornbill” by the water’s edge. So we decide that we’ll go to Ssese and after that try to see Lake Bunyoni on our return route to Rwanda.

Back into town, then, and we get more boda-bodas up to Garden City so we can change more cash into shillings. In the shopping mall there’s a lovely bookshop, and Tina and I spend some time looking at the most up-to-date guide to Uganda. The book says there is a new ferry from Entebbe, and that there is a new straight through bus service for 8000 shillings (i.e. cheap), leaving from the new bus terminal at 8 in the morning. That will do us fine.

For the rest of the day we shop in the city centre; we’re beginning to feel at home in Kampala centre and it no longer feels intimidating. We even walk all the way back to the Hostel, up and down a couple of hills with traffic snarling at our elbows and exhaust fumes sour in our mouths. Rush hour traffic in Kampala goes at walking pace well into the suburbs.

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