Ok, so last I left off I was in Arusha, Tanzania. I went on safari, and was just about ready to head out of town.
I went and bought a ticket to Kampala, Uganda for the 17 hour trip, well little did I know what I was in for.
As far as the camera thing goes, it has been slow. I set up a paypal account but they have limited it so I cant get it going because they saw the IP address was from a hut in Uganda, and they don't think its me. This has really put a damper on things, but I promise to get this done!
Before I go on about that there was something that I failed to mention in the previous post. In Swahili the word for traveler is mzungu, so everywhere you go the people here yell something like "mzungu, buy this - mzungu, buy that". The other one they use in east africa is just blatantly calling you white man - ex: "white man, whats up - you want tshirt". When you go to a village little kids bumrush you and all want to shake your hand and be your friend because you are a bit of a phenomenon being white and all. Its actually like the coolest thing.
Babies run to the bus when your on the road, and the kids just love you. It almost makes you feel like a celebrity. So if you like little black babies (Rachel, pay attention) then east Africa is for you.
Also, if you want to do good in the world then east africa is for you too. I didnt know a thing about Africa before I came, but volunteering is HUGE here. There are way more volunteers than travellers, and they come from all walks of life, but most being doctor types. So if your in some dump of a place eating rolexs (more on this later) with other mzungus, don't be surprised if they went to Berkeley, Oxford, or Cambridge even though they are covered in dirt and are wearing rags.
Ok, so back to the bus - the bus was 2 hours late, so while waiting I started talking to these two aussie sisters (Emma and Georgina) who were also going to Kampala.
Then, when the bus gets to the station there these guys who bumrush the fuel tanks and start siphoning fuel (by sucking on a hose) from one tank to the one on the other side. We were convinced that there was some sort of leak, but they told us it was no problems. As this was happening we were conjuring up the bus breaking down, and having to sleep in it overnight, and all this other stuff. Then we started laughing as we realized we were watching this guy drenched in gasoline do his thing as we were smoking a couple of cancer sticks about 2 feet away - bozos!
Yeah, this is safe...
Whatever - so we get going, and the ride was ok, with the exception that none of the road was paved, and we never stopped to use the bathroom (no toilet on board), and the bus was more cold than the one in Panama! In the night the people left the windows open, and it was like an icebox. I had shorts, and a long sleeve shirt on and tucked into it like a ball and slept sitting up (the Aussie girls def got a laugh of this site). All the other people who were expecting this were bundled up like mummies to withstand the subarctic Siberian climate within that bus. Then came the border crossings. When I was buying my ticket I was originally thinking of going west in Tanzania to Mwanza, then heading north to Kampala because I wouldn't have to go through Kenya and pay a visa, but this journey takes 45 or so hours, and sometimes the road is impassable so I opted for the 17 hour trip from Arusha to Nairobi, then to Kampala (that comes along with Kenya visa fees).
Border crossings by bus in the middle of the night are never fun, but this shit was bananas. Being the only mzungus on board, me and the Aussie girls stuck together, but we figured basically its the usual routine (get a stamp to leave one country, get a visa in the next) and you have to walk from one to another. When we went to get the Tanzanian stamp, everyone said don't do anything because you will get robbed, and basically run to the stamp house. Well, it turns out there is absolutely no lights on in this area, and once they drop you off the bus heads to some unknown area and your left alone with no clue what to do. Well, we got our stamps and then walked the .5 kilometer walk on this huge bridge and through this small town with crazy guys sitting by fires, and really hurt up shops that were all closed. It literally looked like a scene from Mad Max.
When we were paying for the Kenyan visas, we (the Aussies and I) were debating whether we should get the full visa for $50, or the transit for $20. Well I really wanted the full, but was low on dollars and wasn't sure of the price of the Uganda visa so I played it safe and went with the transit (I will just have to come back for Mombasa, and Lamu).
After a stopover in Nairobi, we continued to the border with Uganda. Uganda wasn't so bad, with the exception that as a team we were out of money. The Aussie girls bought the full Kenya visa, and didn't have enough for Uganda. I lent them all my money in dollars and we exchanged for Kenya Shillings, but this still wasn't good enough. We literally sat at the border and were begging to be let into Uganda with the money we had, and somehow it worked!!! I mean, who does that: getting into a country with not enough money for a visa - so cool!
The promised land, at least if you dont have enough $$$ for a visa
So when we got to Kampala we hit up some ATMs (none of us had money), and went to a hostel. The place was good, and after some food we went exploring. When I say exploring (keep in mind these girls are Aussies) we really went to a bar, then one more, then bought a bottle of booze and proceeded to drink it all. Uganda is pretty cheap, thats why I came here, so drinking isn't so hard on the wallet. The next day we started off by exploring the local market. We got these wraps with chipote, two eggs, onion, and tomato for $.50 each, and then topped it off with pineapple (probably the best I've ever had) we bought off some bicycle which really hit the spot. Then Emma wanted a purse so we talked to a seamstress and they drew up plans to make one handmade to her specs for $8. I'm not even a chick and I think thats cool. After we changed our hostel by taking the matatu (local transport minibuses). Well, the traffic in Kampala is treacherous, and it took us 2.5 hours to go across Kampala, and oh yeah by the way when we transferred to the second one we had to go through New Park. That place is absolutely mental. There must be 3 to 4 thousand matatus in there, shops, restaurants, people sleeping, etc all with like one foot between these buses. So when we got to the other hostel (backpackers) we did more exploring. We walked to a market where for less than $1 you can get beef, rice, beans, and plantains. We soon learned that literally everywhere you can get the chipote, egg, and vegetable wrap at 700 shilling ($.40) each. Well, the Aussies are on the same level as me, and these soon became the staple of our diets. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner we were slamming these guys down, and man are they good. Later from our Frankie we learned that the name of them is a Rolex (very fitting name, considering you don't need anything close to even a timex to afford).
That night we just hung out at the hostel, and this guy working there Frankie was dishing out bags of booze left and right. Yeah, you heard right. Cheap booze here is served in little bags. You get 100ml (about three shots) in a little bag. The best is Africa #1 vodka, and the worst (and of course cheapest) is Africa Waraji. Waraji smells like pine sol, and is pretty nasty, but for like $.60 for a bag its a reasonable way to go and have a good night out and not kill your wallet. A good cocktail that never fails is the Running Man (fake African Red Bull), and Africa #1.
Vodka & running man - a classic!
Well, anyways - after a couple of drinks Frankie busted out his guitar, and man is that guy good. He put me on to a lot of good music. He was black, and grew up in London, but his friends were a bunch of fuckheads and were getting into trouble and doing drugs. To escape from that lifestyle he just came to Uganda, and lives here now (and works at the hostel we were at). Its a little crazy, because the Ugandan people look at him like a mzungu even though hes black. He doesn't speak Lugandan, but regardless he gets labeled as a mzungu which is a little crazy. So we had a lot in common, and we really got a long. That guy is cool man. After jamming for hours the conversation turned to what I would assume is a highly debatable topic in philosophy circles - is the world better or worse as a result of the course of the slave trade and colonialism.
As a newbie to Africa, I was really interested in this one. I can tell you whatever you need to know about South America, but man - I really don't know a thing about Africa. Frankie's point (keep in mind hes black) was that slavery brought blacks to all ends of the globe so that now the lineage is established those people are allowed to prosper in countries where their social group wouldn't normally be. In addition to this colonialism brought with it the establishment of formal governments (which leads to the counterpoint), infrastructure, and brought these countries further toward development than if they were left alone. Frankie, as a black man living in Uganda also noted that there is in his opinion an innate sense of jealousy of all Africans toward one another that stunts their success, and for this reason it was necessary for the modern world to intervene (all interesting). His other point was that regardless of the ethnic group, whenever there is mass immigration from one point to another for whatever the reason that there is always going to be hardship and loss of life.
The counterpoint was that the white Europeans of the time came to Africa and developed boundaries based on what they wanted, and developed rules for the Africans that they were not used to. This proverbially fucked them up and was used as a method of control to keep them undeveloped and unsuccessful and therefore susceptible to exploitation through the slave trade. In addition, Ethiopia, which was a unique situation in that it was never under colonial rule was used as an example of how if Africans are left on their own they would either prosper or fail as a continent. This can also be ruled out by different environmental conditions from country to country, and the barren landscape and and arid conditions of Ethiopia. There also was minor Italian intervention near the Red Sea, untill they were defeated and sent running in 1896 by the Ethiopian Emporer of the time.
I haven't been to Ethiopia, so I didn't chime in on this situation, but if you have any thoughts email me at: email@example.com. Typically I stay out of political debates, but this one really fascinated me. Plus, it was with an international crowd giving different opinions which was cool (UK, two Dutch, some guy from Rochester, Aussies, Norway, etc.)
I rambled, so I am going to keep the next portions short. The next day we hit up the central marked in Kampala. We got there by Boda Boda. Bodas are small 125cc motorcycles that they use as transport. Its a good job, and it seems that there are millions of them around. Everywhere you walk theres a guy going "hey, mzungu - where you want to go". They drive about 10% of the time on the road and spend the other time driving on sidewalks, alleyways, between cars, and anywhere you could never imagine that a motorcycle can go. The traffic is so bad in Kampala, that they really are the only way to go, and man are they fun! The drivers are absolutely nuts, and take two people on the back no problem. They can take a 25 kilo backpack on the tank, along with me and my 10 kilo small bag like they are going out for a Sunday stroll. Oh yeah, and they crash a lot too. If you ever see a scar on somebody's face its a 90% guarantee that they were in a boda crash. I was in one too! We were driving across an ultra safe intersection (oh yeah, they don't turn the traffic lights on because they don't want to pay for them) and nearly T boned another boda. My driver reacted, locked up the back brake, and the bike slid out in a lowside, skidding on the pavement. We were going pretty slow so I just jumped off and nothing happened, but was that guy pissed. Anyways, back to the market that place is fucking nuts. The stalls are one foot apart, and there is an area for everything - spices, salts, tobacco, shoes, nuts, shirts, bags, pharmaceuticals, etc. It takes about one hour and a half to go from one end to another, but is well worth it for some good old fashioned exploring.
Frankie and Georgie on a boda
Market is nuts!
Special area in market for hooves - mmmm, my favorite
Frankie in the shoe section not looking too impressed
After the market, we met Mr. T - we thought he was cool till we found out he was ultra shady, and pos smokes ice
And on the way back home we saw this crazy guy who had a crowd gathered around. It turns out he was bench pressing a rock in his teeth.
Then he asked for someone to fight him, and everybody wanted the mzungu to do it (me), but I refused so this huge 2 meter guy did a Bruce Lee flying punch which landed square on his chest without a flinch. Guy was nuts.
Downtown Kampala - Theres no traffic issues here....
That night we hit up some good clubs in town. Kampala is known for its nightlife, and so Frankie, Emma, Georgina (Aussie sisters), and Iris (cool Asian from NY who studied Epidemiology, but for the time being is traveling to find herself [SE Asia & Africa]), and I hit up all these bars and had a really good time before grabbing some rolexs at 5AM and retiring back to the hostel. At the first bar (expat pub) we lost Frankie for 5 minutes, and next thing you know he was playing the guitar and singing with the live band. The owner thought he was good and played half the set in place for the regular singer! After we went to Steak Out, easily the best bar in Kampala, which was playing reggae banger after banger. I wore my jeans that have the Haile Selassie patch on them that I got from Philly. There was a ton of Kenyans, but even more Ethiopians there and when I showed them that patch dude, like every single one of them lifted me into the air with a big bear hug. Needless to say it was a hit. I traded travel bling with some guy and got such a good trade - a Kenya leather bracelet for one Tanzania. I was getting compliments for that thing all night!
Crazy sticker in cab on way back home from club
Emma taking picture of self
Fish market near our hostel. Right next to the most important place in the world - the rolex market
Fish market 2
I like this picture
Emma & I travel bling. RIP Tanzania...
On my last day in Kampala I went to Kasubi Tombs. This is the burial place of the Kings of Buganda. In Uganda, there is a president and seven kingdoms, each wit a respectable King. Buganda is the largest (in size and population) and therefore is the strongest. The first Bugandan King that kicked the British out established a palace, and from then on the three that have succeeded him have been buried there. There are 52 rings to represent the 52 tribes of the Bugandan kingdom, and the main palace is considered the largest hut in the world. Under Obote (President before Idi Amin) in 1966 kingdoms were banned, the royal palace of King Mutessa II was bombed Idi Amin and his army, and eventually under exile in England the King was poisoned. Kingdoms (namely Buganda) were not brought back till 1993. In the royal tombs are the bodies of the four Kings of Buganda, spears that they possessed that were used for battle, fighting, and for ceremonies, as well as a pet cheetah of King Mutessa I who on his death was so sad he attacked everyone and was killed and preserved for the tombs.
My guide was a young aspiring journalist named Joseph. After we had a bunch of sodas and I showed him my pictures of his travels. In support of his goal I told him I would write in here about him as well as show the pictures he took. I think he will be very successful with his mindset.
Kings tomb from inside taken by Joseph
Me outside - picture taken by Joseph
Me and Joseph
Sad cheetah : (
Me at restaurant - picture taken by Joseph
That leaves off where I am right now. Yesterday I took the bus in the morning to Jinja for white water rafting in the Nile. The location is on Lake Victoria which is actually the source of the Nile. On the 31kilometer stretch you go on nothing under a class three, and hit four class 5 rapids. As an introduction to rafting, on the first rapid you jump out of the boat before hand and go through it just in the life jacket. For those who are not good swimmers this is literally insane because every step of the way you feel like you are going to get sucked under. On one of the rapids we had a set that started off with a class four, then turns to a class three. Well, we got thrashed in the four, flipped the boat, and I got thrown about ten feet and had to go through most of it with the life jacket bobbin like a cork! My favorite by far was a class 5 four meter (12 or so foot) waterfall that we went on going backwards!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Another good one was the class 5 at Bujugali Falls, which was so crazy we broke all the rubbers holding the boat together, and the floats in the middle of the boat started flying all over the place. I was at this hostel last night and watched the video from another group put together with music, and man when your in the moment you lose track of time, but when you see it in video that shit is absolutely nuts. There was a kayaker that went down this class 6 that was just absolutely insane. Our guide Jeoffrey has only been rafting for two months, and has already been to international competition in Australia and France. Hes so sick because all of his life he worked at Bujugali Falls taking money from people who want to see him jump and hit the class 4 rapids holding just a jerry jug with an avocado as a cork (MENTAL!!!!).
Rafting crew from left to right: Bozo the clown, Epidemiology PHds from Johns Hopkins, Kate from the Poconos (woot woot!) but living in Rwanda, Chelsea from Oxford, and weird older Navy guy who turned white when I told him I gave up on taking my malaria pills
Sunset over the source of the Nile with lonely fishing canoe
Rafting in Jinja is supposed to be some of the best in the world, and man - I can say for sure now I know why. This place is sick!!! I set a new life goal. Before I die, I want to hit a class 6 set on a kayak like this dude from Adrift (company).
Anyways, this is long as hell so im going to let you go. The Aussie girls are supposed to meet me sometime today in Jinja, so I have to find them!.
PS: If your wondering why some of the pictures look good in the end its because I have been using Emma's camera with my Sony chip in it. I still need a new camera. I think I will try and find a bargain in Kampala when I go back.