In spite of the rain and floods doing their darnedest, I managed to leave Tanzania for the first time in 5 months and fly to Uganda on Christmas Eve. As instructed by Roo I gave him a call on landing and he rocked up on the back of a boda boda (motorbike) to pick me up, much to the amusement of the Ugandans waiting for taxis as two mzungu (white people) sped off on the bike. My initial nerves at being on the back of a bike for the first time disappeared very quickly and for short distances (we pushed this too far for my back, legs and bum on occasion) I am a big fan of the form of transport.
We then caught the bus straight to Jinja, about a 3 hour drive away. Jinja is a smallish town, is one of the three sources of the Nile and is where Roo had been based for the past five weeks. Christmas Eve evening involved checking in to the hotel and trying my first ‘rolex’ (from ‘rolled eggs’), which is a type of omlette rolled inside a chapati - delicious and very cheap street food.
Christmas day dawned and it became apparent that Santa HAD found us in Uganda - excellent news as Roo might say! We opened up our stockings and Roo proposed (the full story will have a separate entry…) Having drunk our bottle of champagne before 10am, we had a Skype call with family back home and then enjoyed an-almost-proper-English-Christmas-meal on the banks for the Nile. The giddiness of the engagement and early drinking made for a lethargic afternoon and evening.
Boxing day we headed to the village where Roo volunteered with SPW in 2008. It was the first time he had been back and it was great for me to see where he had been placed. We visited his ‘Mama and Papa’ (the two people who’s compound his house had been in). Turning up out of the blue may often fluster people back home in the UK, but Mama and Papa didn’t look in the slightest surprised to have Mzungu Roo walking into their garden three years after he was last there. They were obviously delighted to see him and kept saying how grateful they were they he had made the effort to visit them. We whiled away a few pleasant hours listening to their political views on Uganda and the UK and being stuffed until bursting point with food cooked from their garden. Continuing on the ‘stuffing’ theme, we then met a couple of Restless Development Uganda colleagues that Roo had been working with for pork in the evening. When I say pork, that is exactly what I mean - a tray of pork chunks in a sauce that a group of people share with their fingers.
The next day was our big travel day and we had to get from Jinja to Fort Portal, via the ring shop who told me I needed to eat more Matoke (savoury bananas, plaintain) to fatten up my fingers. We left at 8am and arrived in Fort Portal late afternoon, checking into our hotel and then walking into town for dinner.
From Fort Portal we travelled to a tiny village on the outskirts of a wetlands park the next day. This was where my new found love for boda bodas was pushed too far as we spent 1 hour 15 mins sandwiched on the back of Richard’s bike. Richard, however, proved to be an absolute gem and over the next few days always asked Roo to say hello to ‘that woman’ when Roo called to ask him to pick us up.
The reason for heading so far out, apart from the experience of semi remote living with no electricity or running water (to be fair not unusual in Dar!) was to visit the monkeys in the nearby wetlands. We did this on the Thursday in a 3 hour guided walk. Unfortunately the people we were walking with were perhaps less enthusiastic to see monkeys, and we had fairly limited success as the group was fairly noisy and marched round pretty quickly. However, the sceneary was stunning and, never the big animal lover, I was very happy with that.
In the afternoon Richard drove us to our next hostel, half way between the wetlands and Fort Portal, which was situated on a crater lake. Apparently crater lakes were not caused by an asteroid shower (Roo was mightily amused when I mooted this suggestion) but are a series of long-dormant volcanoes which now have lakes in their craters. Very similar, if you ask me. The lake was beautiful and we went for a quick swim - I really wish Dad had been there as then we would have gone on a long one together - it was difficult enough to tempt Roo to doggie paddle a few metres!
On Friday we phoned Richard who came to pick us up from the hostel and drive us back to CVK. On the way back he took us to visit his house - which after the engagement and alongside the swimming was my favourite moment of the holiday. It was a really lovely gesture and we felt honoured that he wished to show us where he lived. As I complimented various things around the home he kept saying, ‘Thank you for appreciating,’ and then was obviously chuffed to introduce us as his friends to some of his neighbours. We left for the rest of the journey and he insisted we take a big bunch of bananas.
Back in Fort Portal again we spent a very relaxing afternoon and evening mooching around the town. The town is very developed for an African town and wealth is obvious as all roads are tarmaced and poverty is not so visible as in other towns/villages I have been to. However, when we returned, our lovely relaxing evening was somewhat spoilt as we entered the room and there was a giant RAT sat on top of the bananas Richard had given us!! Naturally I left the room pretty promptly, leaving Roo to chase it out the window. We assumed it came in as one of the bananas was open and it must have smelt them. We therefore removed Richard’s Rat Trap (as bananas shall henceforth be known) and I spent a semi-sleepless night hoping the rat was far, far away.
Saturday was our last proper holiday day and New Year’s Eve. We left Fort Portal early to head back to Kampala (the capital city) and there had a wander and picked up my newly resized ring (having decided while stuffing my face with matoke may help the ring stick on, it would do nothing for my appearence in a wedding dress in a few months time). Our NYE was incredibly quiet, partly as I had not slept well the night before (again people, it was a massive RAT), and we just about made it to midnight and through a few glasses of red wine to say goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012.
Sunday we woke up early and left for Entebbe, the airport town a couple of miles away. Apart from a delay in Kilimanjaro and me leaving my raincoat on the plane (no, I never will learn), the journey was easy and I was thrilled to discover not a single cockroach in the bathroom upon our return (they must have heard Roo was coming back).