Hello. Finally I am trying to get my holiday thoughts written down. There's a lot of detail, mainly to remind me about the little things, but hopefully they'll not be too boring! And not every day is as long as Day One. But here it goes...
The first impression I had of Uganda was when the plane banked over the outskirts of Kampala. Lush tropical green punctuated by tin roofs and rusty red roads cutting through everything with no real sense of order. Lake Victoria stretched as far as the eye could see to the south. As the plan landed and taxied towards the hanger I was relieved not have a repeat of my experience at Addis Adiba airport where my plane nearly took out an elderly gentleman in a brown suit who was wandering a little too close to the runway.
My first mission was to find a way of getting from Entebbe Airport to the hostel I was staying at in Kampala. It's about 50km and I was told there was a bus that would take me there. The problem was, everyone in the airport wanted me to take a taxi, which was surprisingly expensive at about 60000 shillings or £15 or roughly all of my planned daily budget. Seeing as I am the type to take the Tube rather than the Heathrow Express to the airport on the basis that it was a trap for tourists and people on expense accounts, I stood my ground. Eventually the lovely man at the information desk came over and directed me to the bus stop, saying there'd be one in ten minutes for 1000 shillings or 25p. I sat out there in the sun for 20 long minutes, with one persistent taxi driver insisting that at 2pm the last bus had left for the day and I'd be stuck there. After 30 minutes I was starting to believe him when a large green bus pulled in and the driver and his passengers waved me on board.
What followed was that special first hour or so you get when arriving in a new country - the unfamiliar landscape, the unfamiliar people - the shock of the new. As we drove alongside the lake I saw men with gigantic bunches of bananas tied to their bikes, colourful shop fronts painted up with the latest advertising campaigns (mainly for mobile phone companies) and school children heading home. The heat of the day started to cool into late afternoon and the sun started to become my friend again rather than an angry yellow ball of ouch. I chatted to my fellow passengers, and a woman sold me a nice cold bottle of water, and another woman sold me my first ever meal of matoke. The driver put some radio station on that was playing East African pop music of some sort and I started to feel like I was really on holiday. Until we hit peak hour Kampala traffic.
Kampala doesn't have traffic jams. Kampala is a traffic jam. A traffic jam made up of hundreds of matutus and boda-bodas and people weaving between the cars selling things and cyclists (no cycle lanes in this city). It takes us an hour to get from Entebbe to Kampala's outskirts and then another hour to get to the city centre, which surprisingly isn't that far (more on which later). I am dropped off and stand there, looking confused until a fellow passenger takes my hand and guides me to the nearest matutu stop where I can get a ride to my hostel, the Red Chili Hideaway and my base camp for the next two weeks.
By this point it's past 6pm and I'd not had a chance to call my friend Amy, who I planned to meet that evening. My mobile wasn't working (I realised when I got home that I'd sensibly blocked overseas calls when I took out the contract, clever and sensible when you are in England but when Uganda, not so clever) and looked around in vain for a pay phone. I decide I'll be at Red Chilli in the half hour so all would be fine. Hilariously, my first experience in a matutu goes hilariously badly and I overshoot my destination by quite a distance. By the time I manage to get back to the place I should have gotten off it was getting towards 8pm and I was feeling really guilty at not having contact Amy yet. I trudged up the hill to the hostel and as I arrive at the gates two boda-bodas pull up with Amy and one of her journalist friends, Sarah. Great timing! I checked in and we sat out on this lovely terrace drinking icy cold beers and eating delicious pizzas and catching up on the latest gossip and making plans.
I then pretty much started to wind down like a toy low on batteries so was gently guided to my dorm bed and left to sleep the sleep of the dead, the sleep you get after spending far too many hours on trains and planes and buses. Not even the world's most annoying frog that sounded pretty much like this but somehow like it had its own mike and amp set camped outside my window could keep me awake.