Uganda trip report

 

Uganda



If there's anyone who knows Uganda, it's their president Yoweri Museveni. In 2014, he said "I visited Spain, it is very hot and humid in the summer. I think Uganda would be a better destination. But most people are unaware, because Uganda is poorly promoted as having 'some chimpanzees and so on'. Uganda is a good place on the globe where you go and have a nice life. We are right on the Equator but because of the high altitude, we have snow-capped mountains, but even when there is no snow, the climate is very mild - very good for the human beings". He may not remember his date of birth, but his words were convincing enough for me.
When I landed at Entebbe airport, Alvin the guy who came to pick me up brought his sister along. Once we were alone, he asked me if I would be interested in making her a bride.

 

Kibale market

We started the day with a drive towards Kibale {West Uganda}. We stopped by a local market on the way where they sell all kinds of fruits, vegetables, clothes and food. One of the most interesting sight was the red bananas, which taste like yellow ones.


 

The witch doctor

Our next stop was a village up the mountains to see a witch doctor, also known as "spiritual healer". They supposedly heal all types of physical, emotional and spiritual illnesses by "talking" to the spirits of ancestors.
The witch doctor usually charges two goats for a consultation but I managed to haggle it down to a pack of mint and a pat on the back. He was sat surrounded by herbs, bones and decorated his body dead animals skin. He started his ritual with drumming and chanting to summon the spirits, then "allowed" an ancestor to possess his body so they could communicate, before throwing sticks and bones to interpret the guidance he had received. He ended by delivering a very cryptic answer "your future is bright but it's also uncertain". Even horoscopes are not as vague as that.

He then showed me some traditional medicine for sale, made from plants and animals. There were potions for physical and mental illness, love, luck as well as more unusual ones such as counteracting witch-craft, dreaming of bush devil, luck for hunting or suppressing fear of ghosts.
Many western doctors believe traditional healers to be charlatans, preying on the superstitions of local families. It's probably true in some cases, but these healers are deep rooted in the culture and belief systems in Uganda.


 

Queen Elizabeth National Park

QENP is a park with plenty of wildlife. The best time for a safari is just before sunrise, so we spent the night in a village very close by, where a "hotel" room was $2 a night, which looked more like a construction site. There was also a "cinema" next door, which was basically someone's house with an old TV and chairs. We started the safari very early the next day, saw a few animals then spent hours looking for leopards and lions without any luck.


 

Masaka

On our way back towards the capital, we passed by many villages where the people and especially children would start screaming with joy whenever they saw a foreigner. I also noticed an excessive number of bars, even tiny villages in the mountains would have a bar. Alvin explained "Uganda is one of the biggest alcohol consuming nation in the world. Despite poverty, people consume love alcohol so bars are quite common."
Another common sight were the boda-bodas which are motorcycle taxis. The name comes from "border-to-border", as they were the only way to cross the no-man's land between Uganda and Kenya during the civil war.


 

Equator Line

Half-way through our drive back, Alvin decided he was going to make some extra money, so just like taxi drivers in Morocco, he started hustling for passengers going the same way, until he picked up two ladies.
We then stopped by the Equator line, where a guy showed us how the Earth's rotation affects water movements. The water spinned clockwise on the left of the equator line and counterclockwise on the right. On the equator, it did not spin.


 

When we arrived in Kampala, the roads were chaotic and only few areas had electricity. "It's because it's illegal to have electricity 7 days in a row here" joked Alvin. We stopped to drop off the two ladies we picked up along the way. With the streets so dark, when I opened the door, there was a big hole by the kerb I didn't see, so my left foot went straight into the sewer. Luckily we had 2 bottles of water in the boot so was able to wash off all the sewage, but my shoes were unfortunate casualties.
Then on our way to the airport, Alvin decided he suddenly had to pick up a female friend, so ended up taking a long detour. She came with us to the airport. After he dropped me off, he asked if I would be interested in getting to know her better. "Hang on, are you telling me you took a 2 hours detour into chock-a-block traffic just so I can meet your female friend?". "Yes, I think you two would be a match made in heaven". Uganda was nice, but people like Alvin is what will make it memorable.


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