here, there, everywhere

Road Tripping

In Africa, Uganda on January 13, 2017 at 10:26 pm

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After two well-spent weeks in Kampala it was time to leave the city and head to Mbarara in the south, but rather than taking the highway directly there we decided to do a road trip to see more of the country.  We left early-ish on Wednesday morning in a minivan owned by a friend who also gave us the driver, young Sam, who would provide a bit more of an adventure than anticipated as he drove like a bat out of hell.  We definitely got where we were going quickly but acquired some bruises along the way.  The drive to Fort Portal was unadventurous and truthfully I slept for most of it so I have nothing to report on the scenery between there and Kampala.  But when I came to we were in a totally different part of the country, it could have been a different world for how little it looked like the city – lush green hills and trees everywhere, cooler and fresher air, cleaner streets, and an awful lot of white people.  Westerners especially like this part of the country for the cooler temperature it offers so there is an abundance of travelers but also those who have settled down here for whatever reason.  We had lunch at a lovely little restaurant, found a hotel, then headed to the Amabere Caves for a little bit of sightseeing.  I’ve seen some of the reviews of the place: the caves are are small, the waterfalls are small, the tour is over-priced, it’s a tourist trap.  I suppose if you don’t have locals to show you around or share why they love the place then you could say some of these things, but what were you expecting?  I loved it, the small trek in and out made for a lovely afternoon.  At the entrance the guide met us and gave me my pet name.  Everyone who goes there gets a pet name (if you at least talk to that overpriced guide) that stays with you for the rest of your life.  Young Sam and Lil Bro are both kings in the local language.  The guide stared at me for a few moments then announced I was ‘Abwole’ which means cat, something about being observant and wise.  Nobody called me that for the rest of the trip.  We then ‘trekked’ a short distance to the waterfalls and checked out the caves before returning to the parking lot where we got back in the minivan and tested the crap out of it by climbing a ‘road’ to the crater lakes.  The road was like a single-track mountain bike path and just as exciting.  I don’t think they are called potholes when they extend for more than 10 metres. The whole time we could hear the undercarriage bottom out and if there was suspension at the beginning of the ride I was fairly certain this finished it.  But the arrival at the top was well worth it with views of controlled burns all around, a setting sun, and the lakes framed by all of it.  We spent a while up there taking in the beautiful scenery before heading back down a different way (better roads here) to the town and the end of the day’s sightseeing adventures.

After a night in a rather nice looking hotel which turned out to be less than nice as it was next to a nightclub, and as I mentioned before Ugandans love their nightclubs, we got up the next morning to check out a local lodge before heading out.  The Kyaninga Lodge is a beautiful place to visit and stay as long as your teeth are still in your head after another pounding drive and you have enough money to afford the treehouse rooms.  I can’t deny it is rather stunning, the location is beautiful and the lodge itself is wonderfully constructed.  It’s just, it’s just… a white guy built and owned it.  And yes, he’s socially conscious of where he’s built this place, but considering the price of accommodation and the fact that locals don’t own these places makes it feel rather colonial.  It’s hard to get away from that feeling throughout the whole country, and yes, it was a British colony at one point, but still, it would seem, and the locals will confirm this, that Westerners are buying up the prime real estate and turning it into a revenue generating stream.  What will eventually happen to the Ugandans who want to live on their land but can’t afford to because outsiders inhabited it and made it unaffordable?

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After the lodge we hit the road, literally, and headed south for the rest of our journey.  We crossed the equator and spent some time taking the token pictures, then got on a long stretch of gutted highway to Kasese.  Along the way we stopped at another lodge just on the fringe of Queen Elizabeth National Park.  By this point we were all pretty tired from the heat, dust, and constant jostling in the vehicle so we grabbed a quick meal somewhere south of Kasese before burning for Lil Bro’s parent’s house in Mbarara.

Dusk had settled and the town lights were blazing when we finally pulled in around 8pm and were greeted with hugs and kisses from Lil Bro’s mom and dad who were now my Mom and Dad.  I guess in a strange way that meant I was finally home.  And for disclosure purposes, 99% of the pictures in this post are courtesy of Lil Bro.

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