October 30th, 2016


Onward to Kasese!

Friday, October 30th, Day 27, Bweyale, Northern Uganda - My plans in Uganda kept getting longer day by day. Initially it was a two day plan, then it was to be a week. Then as the days went by I increasingly realized spending another week in Western Uganda would be the best use of my time. Grace, unfortunately, had to get back to Nairobi for work though. The initial plan was that she'd get on a bus back to Kampala (which is how we'd got from there), and then a bus from there to Nairobi. I gave her money for the busses, a hotel, and meals, and also she insisted she needed money for a handbag because she couldn't NOT get anything while in Uganda and had heard they had good handbags. She had never traveled by herself before so she was extremely anxious about this trip, but the importance of getting a handbag really shows itself in that it still made the list, because it's not like you can just go to the mall in Kampala, that would involve somehow navigating the street markets (presumably, though Nairobi has at least three thoroughly modern malls so maybe Kampala has at least one I haven't seen).
   Meanwhile Alex and I would proceed in his vehicle to Kasese in Western Uganda. Between Bweyale, Kampala, and Kasese is sort of a giant equilateral triangle you see with ten hour equilateral sides (though google maps gives the long leg at just under five hours ahaha it's funny how overly-optimistic the maps are about African roads). But the morning of, Alex proposed we drive Grace in to Kampala. It added a day on to our journey to Kasese but it would be nice to drive Grace instead of just putting her on a bus.
   And so we did! That morning we gasses up, had a mechanic inspect the vehicle to make sure it was all good for the long journeys around Uganda ahead of us (it was just like a volkswagon sedan of some kind or something), and were on our way!

   Most of the drive down to Kampala was uneventful, rolling through Ugandan countryside of gently undulating low hills, surrounded mostly by farmland, banana plantations and crop fields, with the occasional town. African towns always remind me of the old wild west, lots of big shop fronts fronting the main road with all kinds of business and even industry going on right in front (people hammering and welding things right there), with a squabble of residences disappearing behind them. And of course the road itself effects teh surrounding countryside, it's bound to be more built up around the main road, so the Africa you see from the central highway, as rural as it may be, is probably not representative of the undeveloped interior. More so in Western Uganda the highway would pass through nature reserves, which are essentially jungles of thick foliage towering up to the height of four or five story trees and you think, this is what this whole area must have looked like before so much of it got turned into farmland.

   We arrived in Kampala at twilight, just in time to get bogged down in the legendary traffic. We also stopped for twenty minutes or more just outside of town while Alex got the car's insurance up to date. Grace was very frustrated with this delay, and one might ask "why didn't he do this earlier??" but maybe there was no provider in Bweyale, and anyway, doing things before the last minute doesn't seem to be the way there (in Guinea the Organization's local HQ was always ordering business cards for volunteers AFTER they arrived and such mischief).
   It would have cost us another several hours to go into the town center so we proceeded to one of the round-abouts on the ring road and parked there to solicit a bodda-bodda (recall, the motorbike taxis that from our experience have all of the ignorance and none of the manners -- don't seem to know their way around at all!). Alex went off looking for one and then Grace and I found one just as Alex was coming back. Alex gave them both a pop quiz on how to get to locations in Kampala and dismissed the one he was less satisfied with. By now Grace was actually in tears with anxiety, she basically, couldn't even, as they say. But there was nothing for it but to say goodbye and wish her luck.
   As luck would actually have it, I find out later that driver apparently could NOT find the very basic location she was supposed to get to (the central bus stop!!) and it was a fiasco of an ovary punch driving all over town, stressing out, and she never did get that hand bag -- I had to get it for her later but that's another story.

   Alex and I were off again on the ring road. After Grace in tears, the next poignant memory I remember was these huge power pylons by the highway, which was on a causeway over a papyrus marsh here (in the middle of Kampala), and these giant maribou storks (a vulture-like bird) all perched on the girders in the pastel twilight. I took some pictures, but you know, obligatory bitter reference to subsequent loss of phone.

   Once out of town the going was much faster in the gathering gloom, but a bit scary too because there were often people walking close to the side of the road or crossing the road in dark clothing in the dark, to say nothing of goats and chickens. We stopped at a pretty decent hotel for dinner, "but it's a bit pricey" Alex mentioned, the rooms being maybe around $20 (the OCD in me is now loathing that my notes were also lost on the phone so I can neither give the exact location, hotel name, or price! gah!), they didn't have the first three things I ordered off the menu so I sended up going with spaghetti, which took forever. Most of the other people in the dining room were European tourists(/missionaries? they seemed kind of like missionaries, all serious like). After eating there we found another hotel for around $4-6 a night, much more in line with African business class standards (decent clean room with electrictiy, I don't think the rooms had attached bathrooms though, that usually costs a few dollars more if available). Again the traditional African hotel, the ones for locals rather than tourists, is a series of rooms opening on a small courtyard(/open hallway), with the lobby being the room in the front you get to the courtyard, really it reminds me of ye ancient caravanserias, the traditional travel hotel that stretches back to antiquity, and really, it's not a distant evolution from that after all.


[Originally posted 2016/01/23]