© Rohini Das, 2015

© Rohini Das, 2015


“One hundred dollars,” said the immigration officer at the border-crossing.

“What?” My eyebrows orbited. “Since when?”

“Since July 1st ,” she answered.

Up until then, a Ugandan visa was only $50. For some illogical reason, right when they need as many tourists as they can get, they’ve decided to raise the entry fee to a hundred. And neglected to tell everyone. I was stamped in for 60 days and walked through the border town of Mabala, the Mars-red earth dusty like my childhood room. I walked about 2 K’s before Charles, father to six children, collected me.

“I buy second-hand Japanese cars and import them via Mombasa, Kenya,” he explained his ways. “Then I get a driver to drive them to the border where I collect them to sell in Uganda.”

He dropped me off in Tororo, at a bus stop where I met Bob, a mechanic who had been to China and Dubai.

“I didn’t like China,” he said. “Very racist people. And Dubai as well.”

”When people fear something,” I began my two cents, “or don’t understand why something is the way it is – like different skin colour – then that fear is turned into hatred bred by ignorance which then becomes racism.”

He nodded in agreement as we chatted for about an hour before I managed to flag down Andrew and Connie who took me and another Ugandan to Iganga, a hundred K’s down the road.

“We are on the way to a funeral,” said Andrew.

“My condolences,” I said gravely.

Andrew has four kids. “But I want more,” he said, placing his hand on Connie’s. “Connie will give me six.”

Connie looked at him skeptically.

“Does Connie know?” I asked.

“My father had thirteen children,” he said, ignoring my question.

“Thirteen?!?” I exclaimed.

“No, thirty. Three-zero.”

“Thirty?!?” I fell back into the seat.

“My mother gave birth to 16,” he said proudly.

Jesus. Poor woman.

We arrived in Iganga, a busy smallish town as dusty as the Outback. I hiked it, trying to flag down trucks and other vehicles that were not matatus who couldn’t understand why I was brushing them off.

Finally, Samuel took me on board.

“I’m in a hurry,” he said. “So I will be going fast.”

“Fast is good,” I said nervously. “As long as you get us their safely.”

“Always. I hurry but I’m safe.”

“Where are you headed?” I asked.

“To a barrier.”

“A barrier?”

“A burial.”

“Oh, a funeral.”

Hmm, two rides in a row heading to a funeral. Must be something in the air. Perhaps the dust.

He began to give me driving lessons, as though I didn’t know the logics of driving on a road.

“You see this lane?” he said, almost pushing a motorbike out of the way. “This is the fast lane. It is for cars that are going fast. He should move to the left so I, a fast car, can pass him. Then, when I pass him, I will return to the left lane to let even faster vehicles overtake me safely.”

“Of course,” I said, trying not to roll my eyes.

He dropped me on the outskirts of Jinja where I began to walk and managed to flag down Steven who had passed me twice on the road. He dropped me off in the centre of town. I spied a pick-up truck with two young locals just sitting and chatting who had laughed when I was trying to get a lift into town.

Pretending like I didn’t recognise them, I approached the vehicle and excused myself. “You guys know where the Nile River Explorer camp is?” I interrupted.

“Yeah,” Holinise said. “Get in, we’ll take you.”

“Wow,” I said. “Thank you so much. I’m not interrupting you, am I?”

“No, we are just conversing,” Denise, the driver, said.

They took me to the hostel where I met Mark, my contact, and in the afternoon I was on the back of the camp truck heading to the campsite on the Nile River. I met Ross, the manager, was placed in the dorm room and began to set up for that evening’s gig.

Good vibes here. Good vibes.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Uganda | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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