04.26.2017 26 °C
I'm gonna make this very long, 19 hour story as short as I can because I don't really want to relive it. How about a bullet point version? I'm ok with that.
- we waited in a dark smokey alley for our bus to come while guys dealt Khat (google it) through their stall windows.
- the guy we booked our tickets through said their bus was in an accident and so he found us a new one. Spidey senses start going off as early as 15 minutes into this "adventure".
- waited about half an hour to board and then after boarding waited 2 hours past supposed departure time to start moving.
- bus ran out of fuel 5 MINUTES into journey. We hadn't even passed our hotel yet. Conductor got out a jerry can and ran to a petrol station.
- Josh and I all the while contemplating whether to get off and suck up the $70 and try again the next morning.
- the driver doesn't understand slowing down for speed bumps and Josh and I are in the last seat of the bus, our luggage behind us in the seats that don't fold down. There are speed bumps THE ENTIRE highway. The whole highway. Every tiny town has about 6. No slowing down. We're gonna be sore tomorrow. We got air about 10 times, I had the wind knocked out of me twice. I yelled at the driver from the back seat once.
- the border was fairly seamless, the bus was searched. We departed at 7:15 am, only 45 minutes from scheduled arrival time. We had another 5 hours to go.
Side note - the sun came up after the border and we got some amazing views of the beginning of Uganda. It's so much more green here and jungly than Kenya, and we even crossed the Nile river! Some photos to break up this aggravating post:
- we were stopped by two small army and police checks to do a small search of the vehicle and we were let go.
- we were stopped by a larger military search where our conductor was clearly not complying (all in Swahili) and the military gent was not happy with his pace or his unwillingness. He shoved him aside and did the search of the luggage behind us himself, all the while his giant fully automatic submachine gun was pointed into and jabbing at Josh's leg. Cool. I wasn't scared of the man but my heart was racing re: gun pointing at and pushing into husband for 3 minutes straight.
- we were transporting cargo (ie. not just passengers.. huge mistake.. never should have booked with this company.. live and learn!) so hence all the checks. At 4th check some packages were confiscated and we left without them. Like huge boxes of napkins. Why were we transporting napkins over the border??? Josh and I are convinced there were other things in those boxes and bags. Our conductor tried to bribe the military guy right in front of us and he pushed it aside. Clearly the napkins were important to him!
- I didn't pee in any of the stops because they were all holes in the ground. I regretted this when I didn't get to pee for over 17 hours. Pleading to the bus driver he finally stopped on the side of the road, broad day light, and offered for me to get out. I shouted, "on the side of the road?? NO" from the back seat. He then asked me to be patient and wait until we stopped "in a few minutes". An hour later I was able to pee into a hole. A guy then asked for money to use this hole (with no running water or hand sani or TP or a door that closed) and I resisted the urge to finger him and said, "I don't have any money!" And brushed away my tears.
- our final unannounced stop was to a customs office half an hour out of the way of the station to once again search the car. This only occurred because we were transporting cargo and not just passengers. This is where I finally peed. And through my tears we decided to cab the rest of the route. An hour later our very nice cab driver dropped us off at our hostel and I breathed a very large sigh of relief.
That trip takes the reputable companies 10-12 hours. It took us 19 and it would have been longer if we waited for the bus. I have written two strongly worded reviews and texted Johnnie, the guy who we booked through, several to-the-point text messages.
Our hostel is nice.. we were greeted by some sweet pups who are less taken care of then I would like them to be. Our front desk staff don't speak the best English, and when I asked them for help arranging a few things I got a lot of blank stares and a lot of broken English. So I tried to take matters into my own hands and book the few things I really wanted to get done, but nothing was coming together. Josh had a few beers (they're $1.40 Canadian each!) and I had one and it went straight to our heads. We couldn't help but have a quick nap and then we forced ourselves up to head out and get some food.
We're off the beaten path so our hotel suggested we get Boda Boda's. They are EVERYWHERE here, masses of them, it seems like everyone is in a bike gang. They said they don't trust them so they called the ones the hotel uses, they finally came and were very sweet and charged us next to nothing. We asked to be taken to a restaurant and a grocery store. Lots of blank stares. "You want food? What food?" We were delirious and tired and both couldn't make decisions. They talked about a mall 7km away, we said yes even though we wanted to stay close to the hotel. 25 minutes later we were at the mzungu mall, essentially. We were wide awake from the ride, it was super safe but man those guys can weave in and out of traffic. There is no way to describe it, they don't pay attention to street lines or rules or directions, we head up the wrong way through traffic all the time. But they sure get there faster than a car can! The traffic here is way more insane than Nairobi, in my opinion, and maybe 20 times more motorcycles.
We arranged for a pickup from our new friends and we quickly got some food into me. Including tip my hummus, pita and veggies was $6 and it hit the spot well. We then headed to a spot for Josh to get fish and chips, I ordered a coffee and sorbet, Josh had a Tusker and also ordered a cake for desert. Total cost at the second stop including tip was $30 Canadian. Cheap compared to what we were used to! And this was a fancy place with lots of foreigners.
Making our way back through the hills of Kampala we saw the Gaddafi mosque, the largest in Uganda. The views are stunning every direction you look since it's so hilly here, not like flat Nairobi. The whole afternoon I was wishing we never got on that bus and we cancelled the rest of our trip and just stayed in Nairobi and our comfortable, sweet hotel and we could visit the kids and friends and know where we are. But I guess this is travelling, and Josh said we've been incredibly lucky all trip and that I finally got the true African experience. Hakuna Matata. It means no worries, and it's a mantra you must live by to be sane here.
The views on the bike and the busy streets and the sunset on our way home made me realize, it's all good. And now sitting on the balcony of our hostel drinking really good red wine and getting emails about our plans coming together for the next few days, it's all worth it. So very thankful to have Josh next to me. I was in full out meltdown mode today, I cried on 5 separate occasions, and yet he's calm and he makes sure I'm fed and happy way before he meets his own needs. So thankful.
City tour booked for tomorrow, and then a fun and relaxing few days booked for the weekend in Jinja, which is the city on the Nile. So excited and so happy to be here, finally.