After a fitful night’s sleep we were all up at 6.00am to prepare for the journey from Entebbe in Eastern Uganda to Mweya in south western Uganda. I got off to a bad start to the day as the electricity had cut out during the night so there was only enough warm water for Jan’s shower. Therefore I had a cold shower a day early. Lovely!
We were met at 6.30am by Ronnie, our driver and Ibra, the driver of the second vehicle. Liz, Bea, Meg and Carrie all went in Ronnie’s vehicle while Mrs Green, Jan, Steve, Mrs Buckle and myself accompanied Ibra. By 6.50am we had loaded both the vehicles and were on our way.
The advantage of such an early start meant that we would avoid the traffic chaos that is Kampala, and it was less than an hour before we had escaped the worst of the traffic and were on the northern road to Kasese, the nearest town to Mweya. Sitting in the front of the van with time to myself gave me the opportunity to reflect on what I had seen in the last 24 hours and a couple of things came to mind. Firstly, Ugandans are starting to build western style shopping mall albeit on a more modest scale and there were many western style supermarkets opening around Kampala and Entebbe. Another change I noted was in school uniform. Previous readers of this blog will remember my comments about very traditional school uniforms, no matter how poor the children were. In Entebbe I saw for the first time coloured t-shirts with a school logo on; a further sign of changing times.
We made quick progress and by 10.00am had reached Mubende where we stopped for a comfort break. Immediately we were mobbed by locals attempting to sell us fried bananas (actually very nice), drinks, nuts and mochomos (goat kebabs) which are my absolute favourite. After an outlay of 2000 shillings (about 45p) I had two sticks of tasty meat and a very enjoyable breakfast.
Our next target was Fort Portal which was about two thirds of the way to Mweya. This is where we would stop for lunch. We reached Fort Portal a few minutes after 12.00pm and found seats at a local restaurant that Ronnie had recommended. At this point the weather began to do a passable impression of the UK; it began to pour down with rain and the temperature was verging on cold. We all rushed under cover and observed people in the streets trying to do the same. Most of us had a very pleasant meal of a 10” pizza (£2.25) and a cold drink. I sat next to Mrs Green and Mrs Buckle and we talked about our experiences in Uganda. To my great amusement, after only arriving in the country for the first time 24 hours ago, Mrs Green was already talking about how she’d do certain things differently next time. Africa certainly gets under your skin!
At around 2.15pm we left again and headed for Kasese. Finally, the sun came out, the temperature rose and it felt like African weather had finally returned. The drive from Fort Portal to Kasese is my favourite part of the long journey because there are so many things to see. There are children waving and welcoming you from the side of the road, tea plantations stretching for miles, busy markets in towns, vehicles dashing to weddings (we passed three weddings alone yesterday) and people selling all sorts of fruit and vegetables by the roadside. We stopped briefly at one of these as Liz (who was in the bus in front of us) wanted to buy some bananas. Immediately, the stall was almost emptied of bananas as all of the women and children loaded them on silver trays and attempted to sell them to Liz. Now I’m no expert on bananas (I bow to Mr Burford’s superior knowledge here) but they all appeared to be the same. As no one in my bus purchased any of said bananas one of the women let off a stream on invective in the local language. I’m not sure what she said, but it made Ibra double up with laughter.
As we approached Kasese there were more signs of industry and we passed the big cement factory at Hima. Finally we reached Kasese (an hour away from Mweya) where we stopped to pick up water and many of us bought SIM cards for our phones. I’ve changed company this year and the internet is much better so far (fingers crossed). The other purchase was fuel and a mixing agent for the generator I’m taking to Kafuro.
With all of this on board and two buses newly loaded with fuel, we began the final leg of our journey arriving at Mweya just before 7.00pm. Hippo House was waiting for us along with a few million lake flies, but I’m used to them now. Room allocation was different this year. Mrs Green got the room and the bed I’ve stayed in for the past two years while Steve and I were shunted off to the room at the end of the corridor (the one without a cupboard or any power). This means that we will effectively be living out of a suitcase for the next fortnight (my wife would say that I pretty much do this at home even with cupboards available) but I’m sure we will cope. The evening ended with our return to Tembo Canteen where the staff (Jackie, Claire, Stella, Patrick and Joshua) made us feel like we’d never been away. Dinner was steak with pepper sauce (absolutely delicious) and chips. Steve and I took the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with some of the regional beers (Nile Special, Tusker malt and Tusker lager) which all tasted great. When we returned to Hippo House all the others had gone to bed so we began typing our respective blogs. We heard gunfire on several occasions which we found out later was warning shots at an elephant that is getting a little bit too close to staff quarters.
I finally went to bed at just after midnight hoping for some uninterrupted sleep. Sunday should be a lazy day with some reorientation around Mweya. We are now not sure whether we will be going in to Kafuro on Monday now as Yowasi called and said that it might be a public holiday due to Eid. We will find out more today.