Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kampala, Uganda

Friends: I was trying to enjoy the final seventy-five miles of my travels in rural Uganda as Ingo and I closed in on Kampala, but my mind was overly occupied in nursing my legs along, hoping they had enough left in them to make it to Kampala before dark.

My digestive tract was still not back to normal, preventing me from eating as much as I needed or to retain all that I did eat. If IVs were available in supermarkets, I would have bought a bundle and inserted one into each arm and each leg.

Ingo and I had gotten an early seven a.m. start, but it was looking iffy right from the moment we hit the road that we could make it to Kampala that night with ominous, dark clouds overhead that began drizzling and whipping up a significant head wind. We also had more climbing than we anticipated. Our average speed for the first several hours was just nine miles per hour, not much more than on rough, dirt roads.

Even on the not-so-steep climbs, I had to drop into my lowest gear. With nothing in my legs, I was giving a bare, minimal effort to keep the bike in motion. I at least had the strength to sit on my bike for the possible eight or more hours of riding time it would take to ride those seventy-five miles. When we'd knocked off forty-two miles by noon, leaving us just thirty-three miles with seven hours of light, it looked as if we were going to make it.

We'd made only two short stops, one for a bag of yogurt and another for an avocado. Most of the tiny road stands along the road on this stretch were only selling bananas, but when we noticed one with avocados, I had to stop for some of their energy rich calories. Ingo had eaten his usual hearty breakfast and despite his affection for avocados, couldn't be tempted.

Like most of the stands, no one was tending it, so we had to wait a couple minutes for someone to notice we had stopped and come take our money--100 shillings, all of a nickel, per avocado. We plopped down on the bench in front of the stand. I cut the avocado open and gobbled it down. We quickly drew a crowd. Evidently none spoke English, otherwise they would have been surely friendly enough to approach to have a word with us.

Just as I was finishing the avocado, a tall stocky man walked up to us with a wad of money in his hand, gesturing that he'd like to buy us another if we wished, perhaps thinking Ingo was too short of funds to be able to buy one himself. As we gathered ourselves together to be on our way, he had enough time to leave and return with an infant daughter in his arms. He held her close to both of us, so she could get a look at perhaps her first mzungus (whites). She stared wide-eyed and quizzical, not sure whether to be afraid or not. I have startled some small children along the road who have jumped back with a start at the site of me, some with a small scream. I nearly caused the death of one who darted out into the road and was nearly hit by a truck.

When we stopped for lunch at a sizable town, we noticed a stand selling hard-boiled eggs covered with mashed potatoes, a delicacy we'd happened upon a week ago, but hadn't seen since. I devoured a couple of them. I figured they had provided me with enough nourishment that I resumed riding with a little more vigor than I had been able to summon up 'til then. But I was soon regretting it, wishing I had maintained my bare minimum effort to keep the wheels rolling. The terrain turned hillier the closer we came to Kampala, sapping even more of what little energy I had. Our efforts were compounded by the headache of traffic and fumes. I revived myself by stopping at a gas station and dousing my head with water and soaking my shirt and wrapping a wet neckerchief around my forehead. Our efforts were at least aided by no flat tires for the first time in nearly a week.

Within a couple miles of the town center the grid-lock began, just as it had coming up from Entebbe a month-and-a-half ago. Most of the traffic were packed taxi-vans. We alternated passing them on the right and left, following the trickle of bicycles and motor-cycles. I reached what I thought was the turning point to the backpackers hostel and campgrounds we were headed to before Ingo. When he hadn't caught up to me within ten minutes, I wondered if he might possibly have gotten ahead of me. Only once before had we lost track of one another, but that was out on the open road and we soon reconnected. At least we both knew where we were headed this time so I continued on my own, arriving a bit before Ingo.

Ingo thought he would celebrate our arrival in Kampala and the end of our travels together with a beer, we didn't have the energy to leave our tents, where we had a final dinner of noodles together. We could grandly reminisce about our two weeks and 1,000 kilometers together, certain that we will meet up again in the coming years somewhere. Ingo already has me excited about giving Yemen a ride. He's the first person I've ever met who's traveled in this country just south of Saudi Arabia. I haven't even read about it as a travel destination. After his first visit, Ingo returned to study Arabic.

We had some early morning site seeing to do the next day and then it is twenty-five miles to the airport in Entebbe for me. One last report tomorrow.

Later, George

1 comment:

Stan said...


Please inform yourself about Yemen before you set foot in that country. Kidnapping for ransom is the main "industry" there.