Wednesday 8 November 2017

Intrepid Travel Gorillas & Game Parks - Day 12

We were back to Intrepid-normal with a vengeance this morning: up at 4.30am for a 6am departure. We wound our way up out of the valley and down the other side, leaving the volcanoes behind. Ed warned those of us “afraid of long drops” not to sit on the left. By now we’re all pretty inured to the horrors of the long drop – but of course he meant the steep hillsides that, even so, were intensively cultivated with all sorts of luxuriant crops.
Everyone was going to work, or already at it: the woman plodding up a steep track with a baby on her back, a load on her head and a mattock in her hand; the men sawing a log lengthwise the old-fashioned way, one above and one below; or washing their motorbikes in a stream; or hacking at a rock face and scraping off minerals to shovel into heaps; or builders standing on precarious wooden scaffolding.
There was less work happening in the immigration office, when we got to the border, and a long line outside it, but we were eventually recorded and stamped, and set off again switching back to drive on the left. We had a photo stop – only about the third in the whole trip – with a long view down to Lake Bunyoni over more terraces, as well as some goats and now, again, the long-horned cattle they prize here.
We had an audience of only three boys and four cattle at our lunch stop, so, hardly awkward at all. We really shuddered at the litter all around though, so noticeable again after the neatness of Rwanda. Such a shame.
Then we carried on, the roadshow continuing: bricks and blocks being moulded by hand, stacked in the sun to dry, and fired inside tomb-like kilns; villages all with the same set of windowless stores, selling food and vegetables, plastic goods, wooden beds, padded chairs, metal doors, and workshops repairing bicycles and motorbikes, welding things, making wooden doors. Oh, and pubs with pool tables under thatched shelters.
We passed back through Mbarara and after 250km and more than 9 hours from departure got to our accommodation for the night. It's a pretty fancy hotel with rooms that anyone would be happy to stay in, and in which, apparently and in our recent experience unusually, everything seems to work as it should. Not for us hard-core campers, though, eschewing the upgrade and pitching our tents on an appealingly soft and tidy lawn. The main shower, some distance away, had flies and beetles crawling all around the basin; and the other unisex ones in a line nearby didn’t have any sort of door or curtain. They eventually found some to hang up – but they didn’t sort out the hot water. Still, the day was sticky enough for that not to matter.
And so we ended the day in the usual manner: a beer in the bar until dinner was ready, which we ate under a big pergola while Ed gave us tomorrow’s briefing. It’s a 7am departure tomorrow. Cushy.

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