BootsnAll Travel Network



Uganda. Check.

First of all, I have Malaria. Day 7 to be precise so I am over the hump (didn’t die), but feel icky and tired. Malaria was interesting the first time, second time, not so much.

At the moment I am in (you would never guess), Nyahururu, Kenya. Nyahururu is such a great name, you have to keep saying it because it keeps changing. Just typing it makes me laugh. Alright, it’s probably the fever.

Okay, for a quick update on my Uganda circuit.

I had already noted that I crossed into Uganda and stayed at Jinja (Source of the Nile), and then was hibernating in Kampala. Well, not sure of what to do, I came up with a little strategy since wandering aimlessly has started to be a bit of a bore. My conclusion came to two points. First, I wanted to avoid all exotic animals. No Lions, Leapords, Zebras, Giraffes, etc. Primarily, this was to avoid any type of tour, but also because they were getting on my nerves. Second, Bananas. No bananas for me. Bananas are the work of the devil. Okay, maybe not the devil, but they are everywhere. I am tired of bananas. Bananas bad. They are everywhere, but I made a plan to not eat any for the whole Uganda route. Okay, a bit insane couple of points, but you gotta have a strategy, especially when you are kinda getting lazy and bored (not the Malaria as you might expect as this plan came about before the fevers and therefore naturally.) I gotta get out of Africa!

Okay, the route I chose was West. A good direction as I came from the East and South is Tanzania. So west I went. I jumped on a Posta Bus (Bus run by the Postal Service). A very good idea in a not so efficient continent, so I felt the need to support it. Basically, the mail was being driven to different destinations every day, so someone was brilliant and decided to just hire a bus and take people at the same time. They are on a very strict schedule and cannot afford break downs so their buses tend to be in better shape than most. Plus, they are on a slightly stricter pick-up and drop off schedule than a regular bus so they are more efficient time wise.

My first stop was Fort Portal. FP is located fairly close to the DRC border and sandwiched between Lakes Albert and Edward. Beyond that, most people go there to visit one of the parks surrounding the area. Not much to add about FP except I stayed at an old Wild West looking hotel and played pool with drunk Boda Boda drivers (moto taxis).

My next stop was a bit more interesting as I camped out at a Community center by a Crater Lake. The place was in some rolling hills and had great views of the valley and also of the oddly placed meteorited lake. Supposedly, crocodile and hippo free, but it was a little too chilly for a swim so I couldn’t tell you for sure. The biggest fun was that the center was a school for the local community so every day all the kids from five to ten came from the closer villages and attended classes. The building was a single walled open air structure but was fairly nicely set up with nice bench desks, chalk boards, and decorations. You can tell some NGO organization came through and set it up. There were about thirty kids every day and they spent most of the time (while in class) going over consonant and vowel pronunciations. Pretty routine stuff. The kids basically ran the class and especially by one young girl who couldn’t have been more than six. The kids would go up to the board one at a time and start reading off each pair of letters and the class was to repeat them. When this little girl went up the class paid a lot more attention and followed along very attentively. The hysterical part would come when she felt that they were not giving her enough emphasis and she would smack the board with the pointer and repeat the grouping. A real drill sergeant in the making. The teacher, well, I am not sure what she was supposed to be doing, but she spent most of her time wandering around outside, sharpening pencils and then throwing it at the kids, or yelling when a group started to get out of hand. If it wasn’t for the fact that she was pretty, well endowed and didn’t wear a bra, I would have let my mind drift off as well. Recess which lasted a lot longer than class time was spent playing a bunch of different kinds of games ranging from soccer to a type of ring around the rosey tackle game. There was also a bunch of different kinds of monkeys all over the place even the Black and white Colobus. Not what I was wanted to see, but what can you do. I still didn’t eat any bananas.

Oh yea, the taxi ride out to the place. I broke my all time car jamming record with 11 people in a four door Toyota car. Now these were full grown people, with a couple of big mamas thrown in. How you do it is put four people in the back seat at a kind of a slight angle and with shoulders parallel. Then two more people wedge themselves on the laps of the four, sitting kind of like one of those Egyptian poses. Up front is two people per bucket seat and the driver sticking his head out the side window. The eleventh person does another Egyptian squeeze on the passenger side seat. We went 25kms on a bumpy dirt road like this. It wasn’t half bad for me as I got a corner back seat sitting next to a biiiig mama who basically engulfed half my body which kept me warm and cushiony.

After a night stayover at the Wild West place, I headed down to Kasese. Kasese is the end of the railroad system, a base camp for trekking the Rwenzori mountains, visit Queen Elizabeth NP, or are into hot and dusty. My only memory will be of the guy who I had the discussion about me being an American. I get these all the time when I am asked where I am from. Usually it’s a couple minute discussion about my family history as well as the melting pot history of the US. The most effective answer I have come up with is when I ask them if they know Fifty-cent, Tupac, Michael Jordan, or Michael Jackson. They of course say yea. Then I ask them what are they African or American. Usually the reply is American. Then I give them the “well, then why can’t I be American.” That usually gets a quick resolve. This guy however we had a two hour hoot sitting on the deck . It was in total enjoyable and a laugh a minute, but ended with him telling me that he will go to his death bed before he agrees that I am American. That was a pretty good repute, so I gave him that one. Afterward we went to some helatious club out in the warehouse district.

From Kasese I picked up another bus and headed to Mbarara. Here is where my plan fell apart. One thing about Africa is that even though it is highly commercialized with Safaris, it makes you forget how wild it can be. Just getting on a public bus and going from one city to another, Zebras, antelopes, buffaloes, and hippos kept popping up at the side of the road. A disappointment that part of my plan failed but enriching in that there are some areas where wild life is just part of life.

Mbarara was a bit more modern of a town with all the general amenities. I stayed there a couple of nights as I found a nice hotel that had satellite tv. There was also a good restaurant where one of the hotel staff showed me so that added to my reason to stay.

Masaka’s claim to fame is that it was one of the towns trashed by Idi Amin on his downfall. It also has a museum, but it’s closed. For me it was just a stop off on my way to the Ssese Islands.

Having some sort of sadistic attraction to islands, I decided to head out to the Ssese Islands, located in the northern part of Lake Victoria. They call it the Caribbean of Eastern Africa. It was a long day getting there because of bad information and a plethora of Africa time. First, some taxi guys I met told me that I should get down to the taxi rank about 7:30am the next day. No problem. Got up early and found a ride down to the taxi rank which is about twenty minutes away in another town. Got there and waited until 11am until we leave. Our first stop was at the Ferry station which took us across to the island. Well, we missed the 12pm ferry because the bus driver was relying on the little clock on the bus. The clock was however one hour behind so when the driver got a call asking where he was and telling him that the ferry was leaving, there was a quick snatch of a bunch of cell phones to check the time. Yup, it was noon and we weren’t even close. That little fubar caused a four hour wait at the dock as we had to wait for the afternoon ferry. From there it was a long bumpy ride across the most populated island of Buggala. I ended up getting dropped off in the city of Kalangala. There is a camp site at the beach which is popular with the backpacker crowd, but since I got dropped off with the sun quickly setting, I decided to grab a place at the top where the village was. Luckily a couple of kids showed me where a really nice place was. The place turned out to be a hotel and hotel training center. It was a very nice set up having the best view on island. They were also a very good humanitarian cause as they were staffed by 30 teenage girls who were transplanted from the North where they had been living in camps for the last couple of years because of the heavy rebel activity that forced them from their homes. The center was run by a very energetic lady from New York. It was good for the both of us to talk American and it turned out she had visited a few places where I had lived. The next day I made the hike down to the Hornbill campsite and ended up meeting up with a group of girls from Canada and a couple of guys from London who I had been running into a couple of times along this route. We ended up hanging out for a couple of days doing the standard beach stuff like football, volleyball, and lots of lounging on the beach. It wasn’t half bad. The only negative thing was that my cool Thermarest air mattress ended up being used as a floatey by the girls and the glue that kept all the ribbing together came apart and now there was this fat bulge in the center. Oh well, it helped me to determine that it as well as my tent was not going to be going with me on my next leg of Africa. When it was time to leave I got some great news. Just the year before a company had started up a ferry service that picked up right next door to the camp and went to Entebbe, a 30km suburb of Kampala. I wouldn’t have to the dreadful ride back to Masaka. The next day it was a really enjoyable three hour cruise back to the mainland.

Entebbe is the port city, and was less that an hour away from Kampala. I wanted to do a slow road so I ended up staying in Entebbe. It turned out to be a slightly expensive place to stay as it is a weekend resort area, a popular second home destination, as well as the International airport for Kampala. The only cheap accommodation I could find was at a sleazy bar place and a scuzzy room which included a pile of six used condoms in the corner and more under the bed.

A quick matatu ride and I was back in Kampala, at the Red Chili Hideaway hanging out with some more Israelis. I ended up staying there for four days just soaking up the amenities and good company.

One of the Israeli girls turned out to be an American from New York who had joined up with the group in a place called Sipi Falls where they had all gone for the Jewish holidays during Easter. She had just come back from the North where Murchisan Falls is located and gave it a so-so rating, so I quickly passed. Just another waterfall surrounded by exotic animals, blah. She did however recommend Sipi falls as a great place to hang out. It was located to the North-east. That was the general route I would take leaving Uganda, so I figured why not.

This marked a sad moment in my travels. The rest of Africa is not to conducive to tent living as places are very cheap to stay and camping out would be a very dangerous proposition. So, I became truly homeless when I gave my tent and sleeping mat to one of the cleaning ladies at the hostel. That tent was probable the best investment that I have made on this trip and gave me a little sense of having a home. Now, I am one step closer to living under a bridge. The big good point is that I am packing extremely light. No more lugging stuff and strapping my bags to the roof. My pack is small enough that I can just keep it on my lap or stuff it under my seat. Ah yes, efficiency.

After a night stopover in Mbale as transportation is not so common up to Sipi, I found a taxi that was heading to the falls. I got dropped off right in front of the lodge which was a pleasant surprise. The place was actually fairly inspiring as it was built on the hillside of a ravine which had a view of three large waterfalls coming down the mountain side, the large ravine which steep sides were heavily farmed, and ending with a 100km views of the open valley. I met the new managers of the place which happened to be another couple of Israelis who had stopped there a couple of weeks before and were offered the job of running the place. They had a lot of good information about the Middle East and I gave them my favorite spots of southern/eastern/central Africa. The girlfriend was also the chef so she gave me some samplings of Israeli cooking which was a great change from my usual African fare. This is also where the early warnings of Malaria kicked in. Just a sniffle here and there. A sneeze. The thoughts of “hmmmm, must be some sort of allergy.” After the fourth day and the start of coughing and a fever, I was getting an inckling of what was coming. I still figured it was just a cold or flu, but I figured it would be safer to head to Kenya and some more mainstream facilities.

I made the decision to make a run for Eldoret, Kenya, a fairly modern University town and a place that would have a good pharmacy, clean hotels, and a hospital if necessary. Well, the journey from Sipi entailed a taxi to Mbale, a crammed bus to Tororo, a matatu to the border, getting caught in the rain between the two border posts, a long four hour matatu to Eldoret. When I got off that last Matatu nine hours after I left Sipi, I was in deep shit. The fever, headaches, and joint pains had taken off. Sitting around the lodge the effects were minimal, but after the long uncomfortable haul it killed me. I dragged myself to the hotel, dropped off my stuff and headed to a clinic. The clinic doctor was a middle aged Indian with terrible bedside manner. He took one look at me and went “uhf.” While checking me out he scolded me for waiting for so long. Then we went into this fifteen minute speel how it wasn’t Malaria. I kept telling him it was and that I had it before and it was the same exact thing except last time I treated it myself. Then there was another ten minutes of why I shouldn’t treat myself, with me just thinking this is exactly why it would be better to treat myself. Finally, he took a blood test and confirmed it was Falciparum Malaria. Now things changed to how I needed to be more careful, how I needed to come earlier, how I blah, blah, blah. He finally, got me a malaria cocktail and I was off. He recommended stopping back so he could check me out as he was worried about being alone. He said I was going to get worse that night and next day but after that I should be okay. I told him that I would spend a couple of days there anyways as I couldn’t head through Northern Kenya until I was 100%. I was sick for the next two days and that’s all I want to remember about that. I didn’t die.

Three nights in Eldoret were more than I could handle so I took a short ride over to Nakuru. This is the start of where I would then head north to Ethiopia. Since I was still feeling a bit rough, it was a couple more nights of recovery and rest.
And after leaving Nakuru, that brings me up to date to where I am now Nyahururu.

So that’s it. I am 90% recovered and still have two more stops in Nanyuki and Isiolo before I leave my happy tourist trail and go overland through the Northern part of Kenya and into Ethiopia. I don’t know much about Ethiopia but I need to do a couple of things in the south so it might be a while before I am back in internet land. So, I am fine, No worries. I just might be out of touch for a bit.



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-6 responses to “Uganda. Check.”

  1. Jon says:

    steve,

    Hi there and sorry about the malaria. Shots in the ass are not to be
    missed… I came across your website while looking for info on The
    Virgin Islands. I have a line on a summer job on St. John and am looking
    for info about places to stay for the summer! All I can find online is
    tourist villas and such. Any month to month places geared toward
    travelers? Any help would be appreciated and hope you feel well sooner than
    later!

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