East Africa Day 16 – Uganda (Kampala)

Uganda — By on October 13, 2009 12:01 pm

Time to leave Rwanda.  I went to the bus station by taxi for the 7:30am bus to Kampala.  The 7:30am bus didn’t come.  I got on the Jaguar Express bus I saw, past the beggars, misfits and scam artists that bus shelters seem to attract.  I sat next to a pleasant chap who was studying at the university of Kigali.  He told me this was the 8:30am bus, and that the 7:30am bus hadn’t come.  It was 7:15am.  I didn’t want to hang around on the bus longer than I needed to.  I got off and took a stroll around, and found an internet café.  I checked out facebook, and changed my status to ‘Neil is in Uganda’, which sounded unreal.  Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya – in a month.  If anyone can do that, I suppose I can.

Back on the bus – it finally set off at 9am.  Had a nice chat with my new ‘busfriend’.  He told me about marriage rites in Rwandan society.  He told me if you want to marry a girl, what happens is the family of the would-be-bride, if they accept the would-be-son-in-laws offer, contact the father of the man and he visits their house, where they ‘bargain’ over the price for the woman.  A woman means money – a woman must be paid for.  Usually, the price was 10 cows, but now, my busfriend said, it’s common to give 3-4 cows and some money – but never money alone.  Cows are important, but in poorer families, goats can also be accepted.  Even in the cities, these traditions hold sway.  It was interesting to hear that.

During a brief stop at immigration, where I had to pay $50 for a Ugandan visa (my last $50 – lucky I had that left!).  I met a Rwandan girl called Alice, and sat between her and an older gentleman for the rest of the journey.  Alice is a computer student.  We chatted for a while, but she wasn’t incredibly interesting, and when you don’t click you don’t click.

Uganda seemed to be a place of endless hills and tea plantations – very nice indeed.  When we reached the bus station in Kampala, however, it was dark.  I hate arriving in a new place at night.  Especially a city with a bad reputation in the middle of Uganda.  The bus was besieged by taxi drivers and touts.  I pointed to one, a beefy shaven-headed guy.  ‘You’.  I said, and we headed off to his taxi.  I hopped in, and, window down, we began crawling through the maddening, chaotic streets of Kampala.  As usual in Africa, talk of football was what loosely bonded me together with a stranger, and this time was no exception.  He was an Arsenal fan.  Everybody in Africa supports either Arsenal, Liverpool or Man United.  Chelsea didn’t seem quite as popular, surprisingly.  We talked football on the route, then, up and down impossibly crowded streets – now in the chaotic, shady And dark end of tone.  That’s where I had chosen to go to, and to Aponye Hotel.  I checked it out.  Horrible area, but nice inside.  I got a double room for the price of  single – 60,000 Ugandan Shillings.  Delighted,  I showered and changed, but not before walking with a security guard to Barclays Bank, where at last I was able to draw out some money.  Thank goodness.

Changed into a pair of jeans and headed out into the Kampala night.  I walked to Kampala Road, and tried to find Masala Chaat restaurant.  The streets were full of people, some of them babies sat down on the street with mother lying in wait behind for money.  Grubby urchins, as black as night, were running around barefoot asking for money, in their tatty shawls and t-shirts.  The whites of their eyes and pearly white teeth were all I could see.   I gave up on Masala chaat, and went to Dominoes pizza instead, where I had a bottle of Nile Special – brewed from the source of the Nile – and a delicious meaty pizza.  I went to Mateos for a drink after and saw a lady sitting alone nursing a soda.  I joined her.  Her name was Diane, a Ugandan working at a bank.  We hit it off and went to Rock Garden for a drink.  A nice place (though crawling with prostitutes) set in leafy grounds and part of the Speke Hotel.  After a drink, I went back to my hotel – an exhausting day.

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