Lucky guys in Uganda

June 29, 2012 (day 408) Uganda

In Kampala we again experienced great hospitality. This time we stayed with Carolyn, a Canadian expat, who hosted us at her tiny house in a northern suburb of the capital. We quickly arranged all the visa work and explored the cheap food stalls, very abundant in our neighborhood.

Time to wash the clothes

Time to wash the clothes

Not willing to spend too much time in the big city, we crossed it once again and headed to Entebbe. John, another WarmShowers member, accompanied us on that 40km ride on a busy road. After spending a few years in East Africa he has hosted many touring cyclists, including some who did spectacular routes and wrote excellent books and blogs about it.

Riding to Entebbe, located on the tip of a peninsula, we finally arrived to the shore of Africa's greatest lake. The meeting with Lake Victoria was not very pleasant, as incredibly huge clouds of tiny flies were coming over water and entering the land. For the first time I saw swarms of insects so dense that I could not ride through it with my eyes open.

Invasion of flies

Invasion of flies

The city seemed much more relaxed and green than the capital. We camped at Entebbe Backpackers hostel, which despite of the huge business that backpacking had became last years offered good service for acceptable fees. It was hard to spot any real backpacker among the visitors, as most of them used suitcases and often drove cars. Grubby clothes and overgrown faces also distinguished us from the other wazungu there, but the hot shower, wireless internet and Euro Championship viewed on a big screen made this disconnection from real Africa quite pleasant.

The biggest attraction of Entebbe, a big botanical garden, excluded us from the visitors by displaying a racist price list. Without visiting anything particular, we headed to the ferry harbour.

Going to the islands

Going to the islands

Crossing to the Sese Islands took a few hours and we arrived there just before the dusk. A delicious supper at a village delayed us even more and a few minutes later Michał learned that riding in Africa at night is not a wise idea. A huge boulder just in the middle of a dirt road sent him into the air over the handlebar. With some supernatural help he broke only two of five eggs carried in a plastic bag.

We camped at the doorstep of a jungle. For the first time since long we could make a campfire. The cloud- and moonless sky displayed millions of stars and in the absence of wind the lake reflected the outer space beauty in its' own way. Hundreds of fishermen boats, each of them equipped with a lantern, formed constellations on the black table of water. We watched that beautiful spectacle drinking hot milk tea.

Night over Victoria Lake

Night over Victoria Lake

Not easy to carry that on head

Not easy to carry that on head

On the next day we crossed the biggest island of the archipelago and arrived to the ferry just in time to be taken back immediately to the main land. The huge pastures, which promised another opportunity for camping, ended abruptly and turned into usual mix of villages and plantations with no single desolate spot. Failing to find a place for us, we arrived in the dark to the city of Masaka and found a guesthouse in its' outer district.

It was almost 4AM when somebody knocked on the door. “Hello, problem!” I heard before opening the door. “And there was a problem indeed”, as stated the police report filled several hours later.

The place where we had parked our bikes was empty. I looked around and found my vehicle laying on the ground several meters away, but the other bike was missing.

The caretaker was talking with someone on the phone, but obviously the other end was not police. Soon I discovered that African standards were somehow different from the ones I was used too. I had learned at home that emergency and police numbers might sometimes remain unanswered. But here our attempts to call them were refused by the network itself and resulted in no signal at all.

With the caretaker I walked to the local police station and demanded from the sleepy officers that they check the compound. The situation seemed quite obvious. With the door closed and high walls around the guesthouse, a thief could not descend silently and climb back with a bicycle on his back. Someone from inside must have lifted the bike to a person standing on the wall. That meant one of the thieves must have been still present within the compound.

The officers had a short look inside and tried to go back to sleep, convincing me to go personally to the main police station located few kilometers away in some unknown part of the dark city. They even had no phone number or other mean of contacting the superior unit. After a short discussion it was decided that the caretaker would bring the other policemen. We locked the door with our own padlock and waited for the arrival of reinforcements.

The other officers seemed to me a bit smarter and even brought a dog. We filled reports and the guests, leaving in the morning, were quickly questioned by the police. No results, though. Exhausted, we collapsed and slept until the late afternoon.

We were thinking about how to proceed. Buying a used bike was the simplest option, especially that Kampala had offered the best choice I had seen on the continent. Michał also thought about getting a cheap Chinese motorbike. With no conclusion we came back to the guesthouse from a visit in the town, just to find the owner there.

In a few polite but firm words I explained that we expected he would cover the loss, which occurred on his poorly guarded property. I dared not to mention the real price of the bike, not to kill him on the spot. Instead I suggested he would think how to help us solve the problem, while we stay at his place for free.

Just a few hours later he called, asking if the bike was blue and had lamps. It was not the case, but he heard some words of encouragement. The hope, albeit small, was back.

The next day I was woken up by another call, and learnt that “somebody had seen that bike”. Just a few hours later, coming back from toilet, I saw Michał smiling and holding his miraculously recovered vehicle. A policeman appeared soon, wrote a quick statement that we are satisfied with the results of the investigation, and everybody was happy.

Round numbers

Round numbers

The happy end had charged us with new energy and having eaten and rested well during that unplanned two days stay we headed to Fort Portal using minor roads. The asphalt soon gave way to a dirt road, where speeding matatus created huge clouds of fine orange dust, which quickly colored our clothes. We were dirty but happy, as the density of population dropped and it was again possible to camp in the wild.

Up and down in the dust

Up and down in the dust

After the first night spent on a pasture, the second one was less of our choice. Late afternoon rain made us look for cover at a roadside hut. Before anyone discovered us, we discovered enormous patch of fresh mint in the garden. Having found such a delicacy in Africa we could not resist taking a bit of it for the evening tea. Eventually, after a few hours of sitting and doing nothing, we used a short pause in the rain to move to a construction site on the other side of the road. The place was quite clean and already inhabited by a crowd of bats.

A dry place at construction site

A dry place at construction site

The landscape was gradually changing into what we would experience for the next few hundred kilometers. The hills grew higher and higher and the valleys deeper. Riding there was a serious physical effort and we welcomed the Kampala – Fort Portal asphalt road with a great joy. Hills remained but the surface was much smoother than dirty and bumpy rural tracks.

In hills and rains

In hills and rains

The bush soon turned into a mix of fields, swamps and rainforest patches. The latter appeared quite often, finally offering some wildlife to see. It consisted mostly of birds and butterflies with occasional monkeys jumping the trees. Nothing bigger, but smelly traces of elephants were visible.

The nature must have favored us as the next rain called for a stop at a site of some failed tourist business. A huge, abandoned restaurant stood at the edge of a forest. Large wooden house standing on planks offered plenty of space to sleep and a few sets of chairs and tables. Hidden from the road, it attracted no other visitors. However, some two men used the spot to keep their goat and donkey. They arrived in the middle of the night and went to sleep under the house, without even realizing our presence before I walked over their heads in the morning.

A lovely place for a rainy night

A lovely place for a rainy night

The last leg to Fort Portal was a pleasure to cycle. The hills, not too steep, were covered by lush greenery of tea plantations. We arrived to the town, which is known as a starting point for safaris into nearby parks. The presence of wealthy white tourists was a warning for our wallets, but once again Uganda did not disappoint us. A small sign saying “Economy Lodge” pointed to a place perfectly matching our needs and budget.

Tea before the rain

Tea before the rain

Ugandan greenery

Ugandan greenery

Comments:

mama
mama
7 years ago
Fotki jak zwykle świetne! Dobrze, że tym razem dobrze sie skończyło z kradzieżą! :)
Trzymamy kciuki za dalszy ciąg, życzymy emocji, ale umiarkowanych i czekamy na wieści!!!
Robb
Robb
7 years ago
Jak widać . .Afryka pełna przygód ;)
R+A
Muszka
Muszka
7 years ago
Możesz ujawnić w jakich okolicznościach znalazł się rower ?