Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

Driving Hell!

Okay following relatively quickly on last entry, I found where I was on the map. The pin is dropped in the town we spent the night, the place where we walked around a lot was Bundibugyo. Note Kesese in the south of this map, Fort Portal where the major highways all intersect, and the border with Congo just by Nyahuka.

Thursday, November 5th, Day 33, Nyahuka, Western Uganda - Woke up in a little hotel last entry, I found where I was by the Uganda/Congo border, western Uganda, feeling marginally better. This day the plan was just to drive back to Kampala, 243 miles east. Google maps optimistically estimates it as a 6 hour drive but of course it was more like 12, with at least two of those hours being slogging through the Kampala traffic.
   Once again we stopped to eat in Fort Portal at the little restaurant I think I've been compelled to mention every time (honestly though food this good is pretty rare in central Africa). I had a crocodile burger, which tasted kind of like a cross between shark and chicken. I'm convinced now that it would make a really good teriyaki burger. Also, it occurred to me that there's actually crocodile farmers out there, how hard core is that??

   The rest of the drive was relatively uneventful. Lots of gently undulating Ugandan countryside, covered in banana plantations. At one point there were a lot of people gathering things in the grass by the road and Alex told me they were people gathering grasshoppers to eat. I remember scrambling for my phone to jot this down in my notes lest I forget .. but fortunately that scramble to write it down itself engraved it in my memory.

   We arrived in Kampala just at twilight, and the hotel I was trying to get to was unfortunately on the far side of the city ("the Forest Cottages"), so we were making extremely slow progress. An hour later it was completely dark and we were still miles away. It was now that Alex, who I believe is in his fifties, asked me if I could drive, since he couldn't see very well in the dark. Not without trepidation I agreed to do so.
   Now let me lay this out for you. It was dark. There were no street lights. Pedestrians in dark clothing (and, um, having dark skin) were constantly crossing the road willy nilly. There was thick vehicular traffic, the roads in this area being one lane each way. It was RAINING and Alex's windshield wipers weren't great, so the uncoming cars made a terrible glare on the window. The road was full of potholes sometimes so big you HAD to go around them, and/or sometimes there's just be an open ditch on the side of the road. On top of all this they drive on the left side of the road, contrary to what I was accustomed to. Alex's car was manual transmission, which I'm adept at when I'm shifting with my right hand, but the left-hand-driving leaves you shifting with your left hand and breaks your muscle memory ability to shift without thinking. And on top of all this the motorbike taxis, boda-bodas, are zipping in and out of traffic, the ones whom you will recall I mentioned are often former soldiers with probable severe psychological damage, and Alex casually mentions to me to be careful not to hit any of them because even if it's totally their fault they'll all swarm me if I do. Gee thanks. No stress.
   BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! I hadn't been to this hotel before, and my phone battery was on its very last legs. So when I had a moment to pull over I'd turn my phone on, study the map, and then turn it off again ... until we appeared to be lost again.
   Altogether I think I was driving for about forty minutes of insane hell. We drove past the hotel turnoff, realized the error and came back that way and passed it again, then we parked and Alex went exploring on foot until he found it. Even with him knowing exactly where it was then it was still really hard to find in the rain and darkness!

   Alex left his car there and took a boda-boda home so he wouldn't have to go back into driving hell. The hotel, as it happened, was on a nice spacious grounds with lots of trees, hence the "forest cottages," name. My room was relatively cheap but really small, in conversation with another guest I came to believe that they have a lot of rooms for that same rate, most of which are much bigger, but I think I got the very last room they had.
   At dinner in the hotel restaurant there was a big group speaking Danish, which I can recognize as a language I can almost but not quite understand, through my Swedish. They turned out to be a Danish church based charity called Karitas, after dinner I had a good long chat with one of them, a girl I at first thought was a local but then she proved to speak fluent Danish -- I guess she was a Ugandan adopted into Denmark at a young age.

   I'll keep this short and sweet, next entry, another wild goose chase trying to get to the US Embassy on time for a meeting! And then I might be able to wrap up this whole trip in one or two entries after that!! Finally!

Tags: africa, driving, east africa, travel, travelogues, uganda

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