I arrived in Entebbe, Uganda last Monday after a long overnight flight stopping in Dubai. For much of the journey I was ferociously kicked in the face as I slept by the South African sleeping next to me. That this brute was only two years old and in no way conscious of what he was doing should in no way take away from the indignity suffered upon me. (The wonders of last-minute-booking.com).
|Lake Victoria, or at least a very photogenic small part of it.|
The hills are misty
On the hills of Kampala.
Misty are the hills
Admittedly it’s not the best poetry ever written, but as a matter of self-justification I might add that I had had only two hours sleep over the previous forty-eight hours due to the toddler monstrosity. That night I had little sleep due to the arrival of a tropical storm whose thunder and lightning shook awake even a weary traveller like myself. By the time the morning came, I was exhausted. And subsequently came my long, long, long journey to Soroti.
|It was once said by a great poet, 'The hills are misty/On the|
hills of Kampala'. Very true.
Before I came here, I imagined Uganda as a clay-reddish colour, similar to the hills of Zululand (or at least Zululand as presented in the film ‘Zulu’); I imagined lots of dust, where the occasional tree that emerged on the landscape was leafless and dead. With retrospect, I realise that I was imagining Botswana. Uganda, on the other hand, is astonishingly green, so much so that I (like the British imperialists of the 19th Century) cannot help but be reminded of England (even if it is a little hotter than Blighty…). Flowers bloom, trees are resplendent in their garments of leaves, the grass grows thick (the prose is somewhat purple…). The hills around Kampala (the misty ones, in case you forgot) were once considered as being so similar to what the Victorians imagined as ancient Israel that Uganda was genuinely suggested as a future home for European Jews instead of modern Israel.
It was this greenness that first astonished me on my long, long, long journey to Soroti. I even travelled through a rainforest (which the government is trying to cut down so as to build more sugarcane farms). The second astonishment was the roads. Richard, my driver, had warned me that Uganda roads were bad. Nevertheless, for the first three hours, I thought, ‘Nonsense!’ Even when the occasional pothole came up, I thought this was no worse than English country roads.
‘Richard, my dear friend’, said I, ‘I have seen much worse in the nation of India! This is a fine and veritable example of modern engineering I see before my eyes!’
Dear reader, how wrong I was. Soon, I was thrown up-and-down like the Greek economy, shook from left to right like the Labour Party, even at one point hitting my head on the window, like…well, someone hitting their head on something like a window. Potholes in almost every conceivable shape filled the road. Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head. Some were deep enough to lie down in. Most of the time, it was easier to drive on the dirt track on the side of the road than it was to dodge the frequent manifestations of tarmactic guerrilla warfare. Finally, at one point, we were driving simply on dirt track. Or at least, so I thought. For I realised that I was actually driving through one big pothole, with semblances of road still existing. I looked from pothole to road, and from road to pothole, and from pothole to road again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.
|Technically, this is not a dirt track, but an elongated pothole.|
Though the distance between Kampala and Mbale is six times as long as from Mbale to Soroti, the journeying time for both was equal. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why road taxes are actually a good idea. My arrival in Soroti was, to put it mildly, a relief.
Thus ends today’s instalment. Tune in next time for further fun and excitement from the imaginatively named, ‘Ugandan Adventure’. Still yet to come: weddings, funerals, your narrator being overwhelmed by vicious mobs of five-year-old, your narrator being paid homage to as if he were a tribal chief, Germans, starch, goats and much, much more!