We awoke to a room without power. Fortunately, breakfast was still possible so Doug, David and I headed down at 6:30amhalf an hour earlyand waited for the others. Lack of power didn’t affect their ability to serve us our breakfast. Back in our rooms, after fumbling with our flashlights for a while, I found a neon light on the wall that operated by battery (I get the inkling that power outages are common). That helped.
We found our way to the CRAZY bus terminal. Our bikes were hauled on top of the busthe workers were climbing all over the side of the bus as they loaded a variety of things on thereand our gear was spread all over the inside of the bus. We had to take special care to watch everything closely. The bus eventually filled upsome sat in the aisle and some stood. I sat next to Christine and the others were scattered in the front. A woman sat next to me in the aisle on what looked like a big sack of sugar. Christine and I barely said anything to each other throughout the ride.
All told, the trip took over six hours and took us through forest, villages and countryside. When stopped, people walked under the windows, holding up things for salefrom combs to loaves of bread, things cooked on sticks and, of course, pop. I saw a run down building among the others with a sign that said: “24 hour photo lab.” Hmm.
At one point the bus stopped while some workers up the road shovelled a mound of dirt piled in the centre to the side to repair it. The bus crew went up, grabbed the shovels and took over to hasten the journey. It rained (again) overnight and so the morning remained cloudy, which was nice because it kept us relatively cool, making for a pleasant temperature on the bus.
Upon disembarking at Fort Portal the sky was clearing, the sun shining down on us. We pulled our bikes and gear off the bus, huddling protectively around everything while people gathered around to watch in curiosity. Our first priority was to find a restaurant. Nearby, we found a place and ate a large helping of matoke (thick banana mush, but not sweet) with peanut-sauce (yum) and meat. I was stuffed. We met an Englishman who gave David some new directions. (At one point he startled me by smacking a cockroach making its way across the table, commenting, “I hate these bloody things.” Earlier I had pointed out the bug to Doug, who hadn’t thought it was a roach. I would rather have remained ignorant.)
We cycled about 16 km down (mostly) nice, winding, dirt roads lined with houses, farms, goats, cattle, people and children. Most of the way we had nice views of the lower valleys and the 16,000 foot Ruwenzori mountain peaks in the distance.
We made our way along at a leisurely pace, waving and greeting the people who would stare and often laugh to each other as we rode by. Many, especially children, called out, “How are you?”some happily, and others quite shyly. Some would laugh happily when I answered, “Fine!” Many of the older Ugandans couldn’t help but laugh at us.
We cycled up a hill to the Nyankuku-Kichwamba orphanage where we were greeted by several of the ‘orphans’I remember Patrick the best17 years old, who has lived here for 10 years. He guided us on a walk, showing us their crops (banana treesmostly for beer making) and tilapia ponds. We saw the schools, the dorms and other buildings. He explained that 7 months ago a rebel group came down to the community. There were 80 children, but they don’t know how many died; they found some burnt remains but the children had fled and were afraid to come back until recently. I noted some serious looking armed guards nearby.
NOTE: A few months after returning to Canada some tourists were kidnapped from the Kibale National Park area. The National Post also ran the story of what had happened at the orphanageonly the article said that all the children had been killed and burned by a rebel group. I suspect that the numbers and facts had been exagerrated by the Ugandan government for propaganda purposes. As for the kidnapping, it was a little disturbing. I still contend, however, that I was at much greater physical danger during my four days in London than anywhere we went in Uganda. I still find it hard to believe that Ugandans have the capacity to be violent, but I think of things the chilling things that happen here, and realize we’re not any different in that respectjust different circumstances.
As we walked we had many breathtaking views of the valleys and mountains. It’s cooler up here and quite nice. Doug and I took some pictures of children but many were too shy and ran away when we asked or pretended to try and take pictures. I had the opportunity to lift a bunch of bananas; the things must weigh close to forty pounds!
We found our way back and unloaded our gear in our roomsround, cement guest houses with what looked to be thatched roofs, the wicker furniture inside lit by kerosene lantern. Maxine and I were sharing the room, and Christine came in and offered me a taste of banana ‘beer’. The stuff almost burned the hair out of my nose. (I later found out there are two kinds of beerthe one I had was more like a liquor. Her water bottled smelled like the liquor for the duration of the trip, to my amusement.)
We met Morence, a quiet spoken man who told us how he started the orphanage and how it has been kept going; he asked us questions about where we’re from and answered our own. He began the community with his own money; it started small, and children kept coming. Much of the funds come from the generosity of tourists. David donates money each time he comes. The water is hauled up here. It’s really very beautiful. Everyone is so hospitable and well educated. Towards evening we sat down for tea (my first time drinking tea, actually). Nathan found the evening quite cold, and the rest of us North Americans thought it was funny.
We were offered the chance to bathe. By the time I was ready it was dark, so I washed by flashlightand did a rather poor job at that. (Basically two buckets in a clean, tidy, outdoor bamboo ‘stall’ with a rocky floor.) Dinner immediately followed. We sat on benches at a low table in the dining room building. We had a fine tasting meal of the peanut sauce… and cabbage? … on a bed of rice with a Pepsi. After the meal Patrick and his friend talked, at David’s urging, about the various ethnic groups around, including nearby Pygmies… Eventually, at around 8:30pm, we decided to head off for bed.
“I don’t understand why people fight when they can be doing good.”
– Morence Mpora