Entering Uganda we had a little dispute with the customs guy, who wanted us to pay about 20 dollar each for road tax. We are still not sure if this is for real or a scam, but in the end we had to pay to get our Carnets back…
We headed straight for Kisoro that day, a small town close to the Rwandan border, where we had been invited to stay with a family that we had met in Bad Honnef two years ago. Andreas, Sabine and their three girls Annalina, Romina and Emilia live on the property of the diocese which was a bit difficult for us to find at first (you just try and stop in an African town and ask for the church – whatever direction they point you, there is one). When we arrived, we were invited straight to the baptism feast of the neighbours’ youngest child. We were told to expect a long ceremony, but as the food was served BEFORE the speeches (an excellent custom we should copy in Germany…), we did not feel it took all that long. We had never in our life seen such a big baby, there were beautiful African dresses to admire, nice people to chat to, and the cake at the end was delicious, too!
We stayed for three days with the Rau family in Kisoro where we stocked up on supplies, tried and tested our patience with the local cellphone dealer who gladly took our money but forgot to mention that the Orange Uganda network only allows cellphones with the most recent operating system. Otherwise the phone will roam instead eating up a dozen MBs of data in a few seconds. Well, guess whether we had recently updated our phone… So of course it was no problem to spend 35.000 Ugandan Shillings (10€) for data roaming without actually surfing the net and being able to use the data.
But we also went hiking in the beautiful volcanic mountains around Kisoro, went to the market to buy a goat (for the monthly dinner with the colleagues), watched soccer together and cooked. And Sabine – who is something like an expert on that topic now – made Anne two small dreads, to use as a hairband. When she first researched on how to make dreads yourself, Andreas was a bit worried that Sabine might literally suck Youtube dry of do-it-yourself dread videos.
Rested and well-informed, we left Kisoro for Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. And once you get in there, you definitely know the reason for this name: it is a wall of greenery. Even our lunch break at the roadside was confined to the small track that runs through the forest as the trees and shrubs literally form an impenetrable wall. The road is a challenge on two wheels with sandy stretches and corners, some rocky downhills and enough ruts to keep your focus on the road rather then on the great scenery. And if you are following another rider you will eat a lot of dust.
The area is home to the world famous mountain gorillas but we didn’t see any. We heard the gorilla families used to rest alongside the road, too. But guess why park rangers supposedly chased them away… Well, gorilla tracking in the park costs around $500, using the road is for free.
Instead, we saw two black and white Colobus monkeys next to the road and a group of L’Hoest’s monkeys in the morning at the Buhoma Community Rest Camp. It was quite a steep price we paid for the tented camp but the tranquil and beautiful view from our “Chameleon” onto the edge of Bwindi made more than up for it. And thanks again to Ugandan park authorities which lets motorcycles ride through national parks – it is just simply awesome!
The next morning we headed for Fort Portal on dusty dirt roads which we still consider a lot better than potholed or rutted tarmac on other places. The road conditions even improved once we rode past a herd of antelope slowly beginning to wonder when we might enter the Queen Elisabeth National Park. Turned out we were already in it as we saw more and more antelope, zebra and also elephant! Was a great experience even though the tusk swinging giants were not that close. We also enjoyed our first Equator crossing while students had their pictures taken with Anne or deliberately on their own. Two more pics with the teachers and we had this landmark for ourselves and our lunch.
In Fort Portal we could pitch our tent at the YES (Youth Empowerment Services, a project and hostel), and after our host Carol silenced the noisy party going on in her yard, we could actually enjoy a nice long sleep here. But the next morning, Carol came to us with not so great news about our day’s destination Entebbe. Infamous for the hostage crisis in 1976, it nowadays sports a kind of zoo with the possibility to pitch your tent on the same premises. This was our plan until Carol told us about a terror warning for Entebbe’s airport. This in combination with the expected chaos around such a warning and the urge to watch the match Germany versus France in a public place made us reconsider our plans. Once on the road, we realized that we could reach our next destination while skipping Entebbe and the traffic of Kampala. So we headed straight to Jinja at Lake Victoria’s shore – Uganda’s adrenalin destination and the place for our second touristy thing: white river-rafting on the Nile.
(*That is Zulu and means: “We saw a tractor in Uganda.” Since we learned from our friend Cynthia that “tractor” is “ugandaganda” in Zulu, we have been waiting for the moment to actually see a tractor in Uganda and say that. And we did. Mission accomplished.)