Top of Mt Doom, NZ, black and white
Top of Mt Doom, NZ, black and white
  • Uganda - Rafting and other stories
    • 28/08/2017
The scenery changes subtly as we round the northern side of lake Victoria, still very green, relatively flat, with groves of banana trees, and the countryside dwellings including more little round huts with mud and stick walls and thatched grass roofs.
A local family gives us a tour of their farm, where they grow enough to be self sufficiency and a surplus to sell and trade for what they don't produce. The many children want to hold hands, stroke arm hair and freckles, take photos and are generally as fascinated with us as we are with them, despite the fact that these tours happen every day! The kids also tug at the strings of white mans guilt, pleading for help with their school fees, a request you really want to help with, but not by giving them cash directly, especially when upon comparing notes it seems they haven't got their stories completely straight. The community we are staying in also contains a foreign sponsored school and clinic, as well as the hostel and rafting companies providing a load of jobs. Interestingly though this creates something of a local divide between those earning a wage and therefore not having time to farm their own food, and the subsistence farmers.

The day rafting on the Nile was fantastic. The river is not miles wide here but not a rocky canyon either, and has a series of grade 5 rapids separated by tranquil stretches, so falling out is not particularly problematic. The guides are all local, have competed internationally, and are genuinely hilarious. Our raft flipped a couple of times, which was almost certainly on purpose, but just adds to the excitement!
The rapids used to extend further, but hydro electric dam projects are changing the character of stretches of the river.
Uganda apparently exports the electricity to Kenya!

When it rains here it rains hard, and submerges parts of the road causing traffic chaos. By which I mean vehicles using the wrong side of the road, pavement etc, but somehow not creating loads of accidents - until this morning when an artic lorry has gone into the barrier and is hanging half off the dam bridge!

The campsite had a bar with sports TV, so was able to see the super hyped mayweather vs McGregor disappointment, and Liverpool spanking arsenal. Also had a massage to ease the rafting aches, and then a sunset booze cruise on the river, watching kingfishers, fish eagles and otters.
So hardly slumming it so far.
Local specialities include the "Rolex" a chipati pancake filled with your choice of meat, veg, or the ever popular banana and chocolate spread.
For our last evening in Jinja, a local lady named Happy cooked us a delicious multi dish meal, including plantain, black beans, cabbage, spinach, banana, and then stopped to chat in the bar which was hugely interesting and illuminating.

Uganda is half Muslim, creating divides between neighbours over the keeping of pigs.
It is common practice for a man to have multiple wives, who then vie for attention. Three is considered a sensible number.
Happy is an independent single mother and runs an orphanage. She mentions the children's excitement and fear of seeing a "proper" toilet for the first time and her embarrassment at being a country girl visiting Kampala for the first time and not knowing how automatic doors work.
Uganda is a Commonwealth country and English is taught in schools from an early age.
Many people have little money, but they are self sufficient and are generally happy, in contrast to our western wage slavery rest race, but the very real lack of clean water and healthcare dispels ideas of this being a utopian existence

Today the road continued to Kampala, through more towns with colourful buildings lining the roadside, hand painted as giant adverts for products, which don't necessarily relate to the businesses operating below, of which many are metal working, carpentry, motorbike parts, and as we reach the city, more frequent electronic stores.
The finished goods on display look fantastic, wrought iron gates, wooden bedsteads, sofas, despite the craftsman visibly working with rudimentary tools.
The motorbikes are exclusively one model of Honda, which I guess makes the maintenance and spare parts industry a lot simpler!
In Kampala we stop at a mall for supplies, a surreal oasis with metal detectors to get into the supermarket, and products imported from everywhere - but certainly not cheap.
Long driving day tomorrow!


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