Tuesday 31 October 2017

Intrepid Travel Gorillas & Game Parks - Day 4

Oh yes, two mattresses are the business. What a shame we had to get up at 5.30 this morning for our long drive into Uganda. We’re already so well schooled that we were all packed up and on the bus heading out of the gate five minutes early, just before 7am as the sun was lighting up the spectacular flowers of the campsite’s flame tree.

Then it was the mixture as before: that is, an endlessly fascinating literal roadshow of African life as we trundled towards the border, today’s destination the city of Kampala in Uganda. Everything seemed in hi-def, the colours intense: red soil, green trees, brightly painted buildings and signs, kids in smart uniforms heading to school, even the coffins at a roadside stall, gaudy purple and bright blue. There was the usual cast of characters along the way, not just people but animals as well, like the donkey hitched to a little wooden cart plodding along quite unsupervised, as was a pair of oxen ditto.

Then we got to the border, a narrow muddy river crossed by a ramshackle bridge crowded with trucks and pedestrians. The actual immigration process was very straightforward and I had time to notice on the TV on the wall that the All Blacks have chosen their fly half for the upcoming game against South Africa at Twickenham. It was a bizarre contrast with all the notices on the walls warning of terrorism and identifying possible bombs.

The countryside changed almost straight away: greener, lusher, wilder, more rural. Even the cattle are different: lots of Brahman-types, suddenly. There were crops spread out to dry on the ground, people filling water containers, children skipping with ropes… it felt less developed.
Once we got to Lake Victoria, though, and crossed the Nile, everything was suddenly big and new and smart, with neat gardens and no photography allowed. The police carry automatic weapons and are not to be messed with.

We carried on, looking forward to getting to an actual hotel for tonight but suddenly something awful happened. I looked out of my window to see an old black station wagon trying to overtake us and just sitting there, for far too long. A car coming the other way had to veer over onto the roadside. Then, just as I glanced away, there was a loud crash and a scream: an oncoming small truck had collided with the station wagon as we kept going, not seeing the actual collision behind us but knowing it was not going to have a good outcome.

It was shocking. We all felt stunned and anxious, but there was nothing to be done. The traffic was so thick we couldn’t get back if we’d stopped, so we just carried on. A good half an hour later, an ambulance passed us, siren blaring.
So we were a bit subdued when we finally arrived at Red Chilli, where we had actual rooms (without ensuite - this is Intrepid Basix) for the night – already a novelty for us. There was beer by the pool, there were mosquitoes, there was spaghetti bolognaise for dinner, and finally there was bed: very late for some, but early for the sensible ones (me, natch). Tomorrow breakfast is at 5.30am ahead of a 9-hour drive to Kalinzu - and chimpanzees.

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