Thursday, November 9, 2017

Intrepid Game Parks & Gorillas - Day 13

It was another noisy night for us doughty campers. Crickets, frogs and birds: good. Constant rattly trucks on the nearby road, right through the night: bad. But in the morning, while the others feasted on dainty treats at the hotel buffet, we had eggs and, for the first time, bacon, to the ironic accompaniment of the muezzin’s dawn call.

We’re covering familiar territory now, heading back towards Nairobi – not that it’s boring, at all. Today there were brick kilns smoking and crackling away, huge papyrus swamps, the usual villages with everything happening alongside the road.
It was misty, it rained, then the sun came out, and we stopped again at the Equator marker for a group photo, and coffee (a rare treat). Next we approached Kampala, around a new bypass cutting straight through slums so crowded and tatty that the mudbrick huts we’ve got used to seeing in the country look positively idyllic in comparison. There were market stalls laid out along the pavement, selling cheap tat, and behind them a stagnant stretch of water. There was also a nasty smell, presumably the attraction for a big flock of vultures hunched on the grass.

After that squalor, our lunch stop, next to the carwash in the bare carpark of a shopping mall, felt quite upmarket. The rain poured suddenly down, forcing us to eat in the truck for the first time – there are two tables midway, which until today have mostly been used for playing cards. We had to close the windows to keep out the rain and it rapidly became like a sauna. The salad, as ever, was fresh and crunchy; but everyone has now learnt to avoid the bread, which falls apart if you even look at it.

Kampala is notorious for its traffic jams and we got caught in one as we tried to leave the city, crawling along for ages beside gutters foaming with bright orange run-off. It gave us time to observe features, eg a big domed building on a hill, like a cathedral or basilica. “What’s that, Edwin?” “A church.” And so we left Kampala, unenlightened as to its history, points of interest, role in Ugandan life. Great work, Ed. There was also some, unfortunately not unusual, excitement when one of the traffic jams turned out to have been caused by yet another truck on the side of the road with a smashed-in cab. We passed two ambulances on their way to the crash.
We carried on towards today’s destination, Jinja on the Nile, where we will be spending two nights so that tomorrow we can choose how we want to experience its adventure offerings – everything from Grade 5 white-water rafting to a booze cruise. Tonight someone local will be coming to tell us all about it. It’ll be nice to get some actual information, for a change.

We crossed the Nile again and turned off down a side road, excited by a big posh sign reading ‘Jinja Nile Resort’ – but then drove straight past it and in the gate of a much more basic outfit, Adrift. We had a choice of camping in our tents, or dorms, or safari tents or rooms, so we spread ourselves out amongst them all (dorm for me tonight: a small, tall room with 3-storey bunks made out of polished poles).

Then we repaired to the bar above the river (notable for its displayed flags, which included NZ but *cough* omitted Australia - perhaps a nod to our introducing the world to the bungy jump, which they do here?) to make friends with the cute resident puppy, River (the resident black and white cat, nameless, is also very vocal and friendly – until he’s not. Typical cat). We learned what we could do – again an even split between full-on white-water rafting, the ‘chicken boat’ option, quad-biking, horse-riding, and just hanging out and maybe going for a stroll.

Dinner was more nice vegetables and an almost-tender stew, and then we went to bed, luxuriating in the knowledge that there would be no alarm in the morning.

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