21.06.2009 - 02.07.2009
After years of people complaining that i didn't put up entries often enough, now people are complaining that i'm putting up too many. I just can't win. But in my defence, i've had a lot of free time on my hands in recent weeks and so have used some of it keep you all bored. When i resume my normal lethargic attempts at keeping up to date (eg: i don't), you can assume i am either healthy again and don't have the time, or that Hamish has won.
I spent 10nights in Kampala, but even now i'm not really sure why. Apart from the inevitable chores and recovery I didn't really seem to do anything. And as for achievement...? Erm... nope. Don't be silly. Though i wandered around town quite a bit, I didn't even make it to the Kasubi tombs, probably the biggest tourist 'attraction' in the city. Why? Erm... Again, I don't know. In fact my biggest impression of Kampala as a city is the fact that every 3rd person seemed to be wearing a security uniform of some description, and carrying a large gun.
Life pretty much revolved around the hostel, and certain patterns developed. I would have breakfast in the restaurant, sitting at the same small table where the same chicken would invariably come and join me in the chair opposite. After making a fair racket for the next while, it would lay an egg on the cushion, and then quietly wander off to amazed looks by recent arrivals. I would also engage in discussions about the obscene size of one of the hostel dogs, and the curious state of the goat who was very obviously pregnant despite the lack of, well, any other goats, leading to the slightly worrying conclusion that one backpacker who passed through was either extremely drunk or extremely desperate. Or both.
As it is now coming into tourist season – lots of students are suddenly filling up East Africa, bringing with them rising prices and swine flu amongst much else - I would also wonder at the constant stream of overland trucks coming through: Only one night was without any, whilst 2 or 3 a day were not uncommon and 5 arrived on one crazy day. It just seemed very strange that there were so many in Uganda, almost all fairly full, and especially as most of them are so cunningly designed that it's pretty much impossible to see anything out of them at all! And I also wondered at the sheer moronic-ness, ignorance and down right rudeness of the hoards of 18/19year olds who passed through at weekends. One night was so bad that – quite honestly – if i had had instant access to a machete or shotgun at around 4am, I would now be doing some serious time as a notorious mass-murderer. Why are these people let out, is what I want to know, let alone how are some these allegedly intelligent human beings (the horrific group in question were young American law students interning at the Rwanda War Crimes and genocide tribunal in Tanzania, for crying out loud).
I had entertained vague plans of a few day trips as well, but the only one i undertook was to Entebbe, 35km away on Lake Victoria, home to Uganda's main airport and the former capital city. It was certainly pleasant enough, though it was a slightly odd place: there didn't seem to be anything even vaguely resembling a centre. We wandered for a couple of hours around it's main attraction, the Botanical gardens (where, local legend has it, some of the original Tarzan films were made, though it seems unlikely) which were certainly very pleasant and a relaxed way to spend a day, but it was more in the way of a grassy park with trees or even an arboretum than a garden. Of flowers, which I would have thought would be an integral part of any botanical garden, there were none. There were some monkeys and plenty of birds though, which seems a pretty decent trade off to me.
Eventually I headed south. I didn't have much in the way of a plan, to be sure, but south was there, i hadn't seen it and i had some days. Besides, the Northern hemisphere was boring me again. And thus I ended up in Kabale near the Rwandan and Congolese borders in an area of beautiful landscapes and terraced hills that looks in places like England, Slovakia, St.Helena and China. Pretty much anywhere, in fact, that is not African. The town wasn't much, but the surroundings pleasant, and it had obviously been of importance in previous times judging by some of the large colonial villas dotted in the hills. The standards have degenerated though, as i, a grotty looking and dodgy sounding backpacker was greeted warmly at the White Horse Inn one afternoon, whereas in years gone by VS Naipul had been banned, and Paul Theroux kicked out.
I was pretty much as south as I could be and as I was sadly unable to visit the mountain gorillas – the price of permits is horrific, whilst shared genes means that anybody who is sick is not allowed to visit anyway – i figured I may as well keep going. The Rwandan border is just down the road, and it seems silly not to cross it.