“Two rides,” I said to the Gypsy Queen. “I predict two rides to Mbale.”
After a loving and warm night with Ruganzu, Grace and the kids, we were dropped off at the bypass on the road towards Jinja by Ruganzu where we parted ways.
Our first ride was on a truck driven by, Charles, a Kenyan heading to Nairobi via Busia, the main border town on Uganda’s side of the sphere. He wasn’t a fan of Ugandans. Or South Sudanese. In fact, he didn’t much like people but something,
“Told me to stop for you.”
He dropped us off at the turnoff for Busia. From there we hitched another ride on another truck that was also on the way to Kenya only this one was going via Tororo, where I had first entered Uganda.
The turnoff he dropped us at was exactly that – a complete turn off.
“It appears to be that we are in the middle of an African version of Fuckville,” I commented.
The only signs of life were the four boda-bodas and two matatus chilling in the shade. I knew we would be harassed but usually I answer their want of taking us somewhere with,
“It’s OK. We’re waiting for friends,” and the matter is left.
But put two idiots in a round room and tell them to find the corner, you kinda get the feel for what we had to deal with in Fuckville. And it wasn’t enough that they tried to get us to ride with them or get in their matatus (who always have the uncanny timing of stopping and harassing right when a convoy of four potential rides fly past), there’s always one that thinks he’s helping us out by trying to stop a vehicle for us.
“Just go, rafikiki,” I strained, my attempt at remaining calm slowly wavering. “We don’t need your help.”
Eventually the two idiots left and before long a car pulled up heading directly to Mbale.
“Missed by one ride,” I said, referring to my morning’s prediction of two rides. We rode with Ouja who was heading to Mbale for a meeting.
“I work for Child Fund,” he said. “We are working in 39 countries. Maybe you can promote us?” he asked after we shared our Footsteps Through Africa adventure.
“We try to target the lesser known NGOs,” I said politically. “If you’re in 39 countries, you don’t need our promotional abilities.”
He laughed as we hit Mbale, taking the detours due to the broken bridges, watching the waterfalls cascading off the foothills of Mt Elgon, standing at 14,177 feet (4,321 meters). We couldn’t see past the foothills due to the cloud cover but you could feel that something large that nature had created was in there.
Sukali Hostel is just on the outskirts of the centre of Mbale town. From our room we could see Wanale Falls and the plateau that rises up to Elgon’s peak. We were met by Moses, the manager and that evening after a lovely dinner of spaghetti and a drop of whiskey, we called it a night.
Early the next morning, before the sun was even up, something came knocking on my stomach’s door.
‘Dude, we gotta go,’ it said.
“Gimme a minute,” I responded and headed to the bathroom – an action that would repeat itself throughout the day. In fact that evening I spent 40 minutes in the bathroom. I could barely eat or even drink, forcing myself to take on H2O.
By Sunday afternoon I was a bit better and by the evening I was a little worse.
Shit, and not just figuratively.
“If I’m better tomorrow, we can hike up to the waterfalls,” I suggested after my last run.
Nabifo, the owner and mutual friend of Ruganzu’s, had arrived on Sunday and was keen to hike with us. Just a week prior she had hosted Mbale’s TEDX talk with a strong turnout.
That night, although slightly weaker, my stomach felt settled. I attributed it to the whiskey.
“It looked like the glass wasn’t dry,” GQ had said. “And the tap water here isn’t very good for consumption.”
So I finally swore off all consumption of alcohol. It had taken its toll on me – health-wise. Besides, being an Australian I’ve drunken enough for two lifetimes.
But it was the next day that would render me void of a want to live.