Days 6 and 7: 24 hours in Uganda
Why Uganda? I’ll tell you: Foreigners working in Rwanda need to have their visa renewed every three months, even so after a five or 12 years’ stay in the country. Which amounts to four visas per year. Non-expiration visas cost a fortune and are extremely hard to get. So if, hypothetically speaking, your visa expires and your new pass arrives too late you will be forced to leave the country and re-enter again. In case that sounds sort of cryptic to your ears: It happens on purpose. The world has become a small place.
Anyway, it turns out that Deirdre has to leave the country with and for a friend, and she asks whether I would like to join. I say yes, what else should I do?
The bus terminal in Kigali. We closely miss the “Greyhound” to Kampala, the next bus only leaving in the evening. So we try to get a taxi to Kabale. Like swarming bees all the drivers pounce on us. Jean de Dieu, the driver of Project Air, recommends us to go with Abdul.
We settle on 30.000 Francs and off we are, passing Kigali suburbs and then out of town through the hills. Rwandans love it orderly, it seems. Roads look tidy, people are dressed neatly, no matter how poor they may be. I see women in need of everything save CANTIENICA® lessons, so artfully do they balance even the heaviest loads on their heads, hands-free, moving sleekly and gracefully.
Houses built of clay stones nestle alongside the road, the first building in every village is branded “Tigo”. Tigo is a Rwandan telecom company selling SIM and prepaid phone cards.
Eventually, the road surface changes from tarmac to “natural”, which means clay-coloured dust. Abdul, following a lorry, cannot see anything anymore. Pickup trucks are passing by, many of them. After a close to two hours’ trip we finally reach the Ugandan border. Deirdre’s friend, i. e. the one with the visa problem, is being extremely nervous.
But we pass the Rwandan side without any trouble, if you don’t count in the queue getting longer and longer because locals simply jump it, until we finally decide to use our white elbows to stand our ground.
Behind the barrier, everything is different: rubbish piling up alongside roads, I see people in rags – and young women styled in an utterly tacky way. The Ugandan officials look all dressed up and we have to pay 50 dollars each for a one-day tourist visa.
We continue our ride. Again, clay stone buildings alongside the road, and the dust is getting heavier. Everywhere rubbish between houses, cows, goats and the occasional turkey share the scarce space with the humans. “That was the road from where AIDS was able spread out to everywhere,” Deirdre’s friend says. “Long-haul traffic and prostitution.”
Instinctively, Abdul changes from right- to left-hand traffic. Alongside the road, all kinds of things are offered: “Bull Wash – New and Strong” I read. We pass by a hotchpotch of playhouses, coffins, clothes, fruits and greens, motorbikes, prostitutes. A bicycle shop next to some tailor workshops. In most cases, it is men who are sitting behind the sewing machines.
Children carrying huge water cans on their heads, bicycles, often with three people on them, and motorbikes with five on them. We pass quarries where whole families – from toddlers to grandfathers – take down the rocks hammering them into smaller stones to build houses and pave streets. Rutinda is a small village with a berth where boats, dugouts, and dugout-style motorboats are waiting to carry people over lake Bunyonyi.
Being Swiss, as you may well know, I do know a lot of beautiful lakesides. And what can I say: lake Bunyonyi is breathtaking! Google that, have a look yourself, it is worth the pain. Peninsulas, islands. Forested islands, reed islands. Hills and bays. 700 bird species! Many of the lodges and resorts around are as “bio” as can be: camphor earth toilet, organic food and everything.
We are lying on a small beach enjoying the sunset and taking delight in reading a sign saying: “Our birds and fish are permitted to take revenge, should you pee into the lake!” We eat fresh-caught crayfish, drink local beer, and sink back again into our wooden beach chairs watching the sky ignite, star by star, planet by planet. Twittering birds, slurping fish, the occasional cry of a monkey or a cow mooing. The silence around is breathtaking. “That was the sound of the planet before we spoiled it,” Deirdre breaks into it.
We spend the night in a family cottage, sleeping under mosquito nets. Eventually all human sounds die down. Silence goes right through me. We sleep like logs, a sleep that would make up for three nights.
Breakfast in the morning. The milk powder definitely is not organic, but pine-apple and passion fruit pulp are – and perfectly so. We explore the peninsula hiking, get drunk on the scents and colours around. We return, again with Abdul, who insisted in coming from Kigali to take us back there. Our trip back to Rwanda is uneventful.
Oh, I forgot: on the earth toilet, a mosquito must have got me. There is a huge itchy bite spreading on my right thigh.
Now has come the time for a bit of CANTIENICA®, the perfect cure after sitting around so much.
NB: One night in the cottage on lake Bunyonyi is 60 dollar per person – drinks, dinner and breakfast included.