After a decent night’s sleep we awoke (well, Doug and I did) and took a short walk outside. Last night David broke his toilet seat by sitting on it to work on his palm-top computer, which explained the loud crash in the middle of the night. It had rained while we slept and was still cloudy, but clearing. There wasn’t much movement — even the roosters didn’t crow until after 7:00am. We had a hearty breakfast at the hotel (fruit, eggs, sausage…) and prepared to leave. Some of the others couldn’t believe how light I had packed, but I guess I’ll find out if I left any essentials out as we hit the more rustic accommodations. As we readied ourselves outside, the proprietor joined us in our pre-tour’ group picture.
We left town and biked down a stretch of highway into Kampala. The women bought some mangoes along the way. The children seemed ecstatic to see us; huge smiles, waves; some chanted, “How are you?” over and over and one called out, “Give me money.” Maxine was well behind and said that after we pass they all line up to watch us and she has to dodge them all. The landscape is very lush, but their buildings are often very run down. We see many Africans carrying things on old Chinese bicycles. I also counted two cats and one dog as roadkill, which came as a bit of a shock at first.
Some of the hills were quite long; in first gear it still seemed a chore. Downhill, however, I get a lot more speed then the others and have to ride the brakes — an incentive not to follow too closely. As we got close to the city there was construction on the road, but it was still fairly smooth-going. The closer we got, the harder the air was on my lungs to breathe.
Our hotel is on a busy street. We brought our bikes in around back and set up in our rooms — Doug and I sharing a double (again, quite nice… MUCH bigger room, but older, and even a mini-fridge and fan… I put my water bottles in the fridge just for the heck of it) and headed out to see the city. We left our luggage behind and riding my bike without panniers was like floating, although the hills soon quenched that feeling. We first stopped at the Tanzanian embassy for David to pick up a visa, then to the Kampala Museum. The museum had the smell of old books; many things were type-written and I had the general feeling that the museum itself should be in one. Again, no pictures without payment. We spent the time looking the various exhibits; from animals to music and early history.
We went to the exchange office where I parted with $70.00 US. Then on to… lunch! We pulled up to an Indian restaurant where we had … uh … sauces and stuff. The highlight was definitely the passion fruit juice, though. Nourished, we cycled over to the Makere University and looked at some student art. Then, we found another restaurant where we had a round of passion fruit juice — thick, cold and fresh. Then, to the post-office so the others could mail things. I, unfortunately, left all my addresses at home. Oh, well!
The post-office was on a busy downtown street. A man wearing almost no clothing and his thin, deformed legs bent in the air was crawling along the hot sidewalk. I sat with some of the others on the edge of a cement wall. As I sat there some children were hanging nearby, and I couldn’t help but think they wanted to grab my bag, which was resting beside me.
Tuckered out we came back to the hotel. Had a bath in the tub (well, more like pouring water over me, actually). I called my mother (9:00am local time), woke her up and told her that I was okay. She was quite groggy. It cost 3500 UGS ($5.00 CDN) per minute, so it was quite short.
Kampala is bustling with people. We don’t get as many stares here. There are ramshackle buildings, but also newer ones. Most of the restaurants have a sink in the corner for washing. Quite sanitary. Saw garbage being burnt in dumpsters, soldiers with machine guns and kids asking for money. At one point we came near some government buildings, but they had big cement blocks barring the way, and it didn’t look wise to get close.
For dinner we walked over to a nearby restaurant. It was a bigger place, and two stories. We sat on the upper level. My meal involved rice and beef in a spicy sauce. VERY spicy, in fact. We concluded the meal with a special, flat birthday brownie for Christine (Maxine had baked it back home) with Doug’s mag-lite sticking out of it.
While just a small gesture, the birthday ‘cake’ made me think of how quickly our group had bonded, and how natural it was feeling to be with them. I’m enjoying their company, and having people with a similar (North American) background to share the experiences with is great.