This is the first part of a six day adventure that included a safari…. I went to Kasese, a town next to Queen Elizabeth National Park, meeting a friend, (Luke, from the UK who is living in Southwest Uganda and who I met volunteering with Sprout Care Foundation,) to do safari. This is that story….
On Thursday February 11, I left TAATA Kids Guest house, which I call home right now, for the latest adventure. I had my big backpack and my messenger bag stuffed. I don’t feel comfortable on boda bodas (motorcycle taxis, the number one way that Westerner’s die in the third world) so I REALLY wanted to take a matatu (a minibus/van taxi) to the post office to get on my bus that would then take me 6 hours to Kampala. The bus was Posta Bus aka Post Bus, which is the bus service that the Uganda Postal Service has. The Post Bus seems to be the best bus in Uganda for two reasons: it leaves at a scheduled time and they don’t pack it full, so I have always had a free seat next to me when I’ve taken it. It’s a great no hassle way to travel. The biggest problem with Post Bus, is it only travels once a day, the other buses might have 6 a day.
So, I’m heading out of the guest house at about 9:25 am to get to town and catch my bus at 10 am. Another volunteer, Esther walked me down to the closest “matatu stop”. We say good bye and there is a matutu that I see about 200 m (or yards) away, but it’s not moving so I get slightly worried that I might not be early enough for my bus. Also, the matutu will take me to the town center and then the post office is about 5 blocks away that I would have to walk if I don’t want to boda there. So, at the last minute, less than a minute after Esther started to walk away, I, for unknown reasons, just jumped on a boda boda. I don’t die, and we got to the post office and the bus is there. I pay the guy and as I start to walk towards the bus, it starts to pull away!! It’s only 9:43!! I wave my arms and jog after it and holler “Wait! I want to go on the bus!” Thank God, it stopped and let me on. I paid my 15,000 shillings and plopped into my own two seats with my bags. Yay!
About 6 hours later I get to Kampala. I was hoping to get a package at the post office in Kampala, (my Uganda travel book that I left in Kalisizo over a month ago) but it hadn’t arrived yet. I saw my handsome, young, buff security guard again at the post office. I’m not sure I mentioned him before, but he’s the one that helped get me a beer when I was stuck at the post office a month earlier.
I had a fine evening in Kampala. I went to the Oasis Mall that has a 24 hour Nakumatt (which is like a super Walmart) and also the Garden City Mall, which is next to it, where I ate my delicious Indian food and wine at Nawab and also found a good bookstore, Aristoc Booklex, although sadly it closed after I was only in there for 20 min. I could have used 30 more. I bought Persuasion by Jane Austen. At Nakumatt, I bought a book called The Rosie Project which I have started and like, about a science professor with Aspergers trying to find a wife. It’s from his point of view. It’s sweet and hilarious.
My Kampala hotel for the night on the way to Kasese. This is not the one I had tried previously, but this was the New City Annex. I don’t recommend it! It was 60,000 USH (about 18$) for a room with toilet and shower (aka self-contained), no tv, no wifi, small bed (twin maybe). The worst part was it was RIGHT outside reception and it had, the often seen in Uganda, open space above the door, so you can hear everything. I heard every word that was exchanged with every person who came. Lots of Americans came, I don’t know why and I didn’t get to look at them (no peep hole!) I can tell you that after 9:30 pm, everyone who came, people who HAD reservations, were told that there were no more rooms.
The first American guy that this happened to was very upset, fought up a storm and eventually got a room. He was fighting for his cause for over 30 minutes. I could hear that he was with some American women, but that he demanded to have his own room (so I took that as him being single, but I guess that could also mean he had a woman somewhere else). He sounded handsome (although voice has NO correlation with looks), and I day dreamed that he could have been “the one” but I was in pajamas and also had zit medicine on my face, so I wasn’t about to go out there. I’m reading during this time, and then I see…. a bed bug! I holler out “Shit!!!!” (Pardon the vulgarity, but it is the word that came out.) Isn’t that nice? Anyone outside my room certainly heard me and a couple minutes later I heard the American guy ask about my room and if it was occupied. Turned out, in the end, that he spoke very good Luganda so that intrigued me even more. In the end, he got a room. The next people who came did not. I never saw any of the Americans. I decided that on my way back through Kampala, I’d stay at my previously used hotel, The Pacific Hotel.
After waking up and packing up I headed to the bus park. I took a boda boda. I was scared, the driver tried to squeeze between cars and stuff like that. Once I told him that I “prefer he not drive in tight spaces like that” he didn’t, so that’s good. I get to the bus park and take a Link bus to Kasese. I have taken Link before and it’s not bad.
So, it’s 6 hours to Kampala from Mbale and another 6 hours to Kasese from Kampala. And although on the Post Bus I get to have two seats to myself, not so on Link. I have to sit next to a guy. He was fine and nice, around 20 maybe. We exchanged some words and he pointed out interesting things to me on the drive. I mostly was listening to NEEDTOBREATHEon my phone/earbuds and staring out the window at the countryside. I love NEEDTOBREATHE and it especially matched what I was feeling. It was very hot and when the bus was moving and air was whipping in on me it was nice. When the bus stopped it was VERY hot. I felt a little bit like Joan Wilder on her bus ride through Columbia, but really it’s much closer to Greyhound than the bus she took.
Leading up to this weekend trip I actually have been feeling weird. I’ve worked so hard for the past year to get to Africa and now I’m here. Now what? I’m struggling with the ideas of who I am and where I’m going and what I’m supposed to do. Thoughts come into my head about what I should do after Africa, if I should apply for jobs (if so what kind) or try to do my own business or try to do an African thing, where should I live, blah, blah, blah. I try to knock those thoughts out of my head as soon as I catch them. I’m here for a learning experience and I’ll figure out the future later. It’s still hard and these thoughts and feelings did affect my trip. Your mind is bound to wander when you’re on a bus for a total of 24 hours!
When I get to Kasese, there is a guy, Stuart, (who will also be our guide/driver for the safari,) who is going to pick me up from the bus park and take me to the hotel. Usually, every time I get off the bus about 10 guys ask me if I need a taxi or boda. So this happens again, I just say “No, no, no” and keep walking off to an area where I can at least stand out of the mild mayhem. A car pulls up quickly between me and the rest of the crowd and the driver says “I can take you”, I was about to say “No” but then I thought it could be the guy, so I said “What’s your name?” He says “Stuart*”. Jackpot! I feel relieved, I shake his hand and melt into the beautiful idea that my long journey is now over. He obligingly takes me to the ATM (Stanbic Bank does take ATM cards that do not have the chip if anyone needs/wants to know) and to a store where I can buy wine. It’s Ugandan Passion Fruit wine by Bella. To the hotel.
*Stuart is not his real name. I have changed it and you will see why in the next post.