Adventures in Africa

Chapter 4 - Uganda (Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja)

Soon after we arrive to the crater rim the storm ceases. We pitch our tent and set fire. Our ranger tells us his aspirations. Now he works for the government in a rather minor position. He hopes to progress as fast as possible in order to have a "government stomach" which is the sign of richness. When I tell him about the manager Michael, who changes money in very bed rates, on the limit of fraud, he does not blink his eyes. He doesn't mind if the way to get government stomach involves corruption. Even the mayor of Kampala is corrupt, and while visiting the US he was jailed because he spread checks without cover in a former visit to the US. When the ranger speaks about this mayor his eyes shine as if he is an idol who has to be imitated. We can't really convince him that it's wrong. Especially when he claims that this is the way everybody goes, and why shouldn't he do the same? Unfortunately the ranger has a very typical African way of thinking, and we think it is one of the reasons why Africa is so underdeveloped - everybody thinks only for himself and tries to get as much as possible, legally or not, from the country.

Our ranger Moses.

Next day we walk all the way down. Around noon rain starts to fall, and continues till the afternoon, when we arrive to the end point, the village of Kapwata. We set our tent, buy some milk which when boiled do not overflow (a sign that it was diluted with water) and are attacked by fire ants. These ants have workers (big) and soldiers (huge). The soldiers are very devoted to their role and their jaws function only in one way. In the moment they close on you, they will never open again, even if you try to chase the soldiers away. The only way to get yourself out of the jaws is to kill the ants...

We are ready to leave Sipi falls area in favor of the capital city Kampala. Kampala is not a pretty town but we enjoy it very much because of the motorcycle taxis that we use a lot. In the evening the people go out to drink beer in beer gardens (pubs under the sky) where they watch (illegal) videos on TV. The hotels look much better than they really are. I was so impressed by our modest hotel that I asked in the reception "What facilities do you have here?". I was hoping for a swimming pool. The clerk showed us a room and said with pride: "We have a bad, and we have a chair, and we have 2 glasses"...

In the hotel's restaurant we tried not to react to the sight of running mice and agreed that the place to eat was the market where they sell fresh fish (especially Nile perch) from lake Victoria for less than a 0.5 US$ per kilo. By the way, the market is open 24 hours and during the night is lit by candles, which we found nice. We also gave our boots to be fixed in the market, and I must say that they did an excellent job (maybe because we paid them so much (2$)?).

The hotel's laundry service didn't let us down. I mean, it was not better than the other services. They washed all our laundry together and thus colored all our cloths blue... Only the manger himself (a government stomach type) was ready to compensate us (a free night) and that was only after we argued with him fiercely.

As Israelis we were curious to see Entebbe's airport. In our handbook it's written: "Entebbe became famous in 1976 when an Air France plane from Israel was hijacked and was forced to land there. The Jewish passengers were held hostage as demands were made for the release of prisoners in Israeli jails. All but one of the prisoners were rescued when Israeli paratroopers stormed the airport building. You can see the control tower of this building even nowadays...". What they don't write, is that from this control tower was shot the commander of this operation, officer Yoni Netanyahu, the brother of Israel's current prime minister, Benjamin.

After visiting both Kampala and Entebbe, we took off to Jinja, where the American missionary invited us. On the bus a woman was selling all kinds of homemade medicaments. It was written on the etiquette "expiration date is 2 years after manufacturing date". Guess what was the manufacturing date? 1/1/99 (then it was 5 months in the future...).

Jinja is a small town that escaped the destruction of Idi Amin's era. All the houses are one floor high, and several neighborhoods look a bit like rich residential areas in the US. As the town is small, the common vehicles are bicycles including the taxis. The market is small and the pineapples are sweeter than honey (and only for 0.25$ per kilo including the peeling service).

Our host Brent lives in a nice house equipped with all western furniture and electrical equipment. He and his family, as well as the 5 more American missionary families, decided not to renounce on these luxuries since they will live here for many more years, and life in Uganda is tough enough at any rate. Here we were invited to eat good American food, most ingredients are imported from the US. We ate Pizzas, M&M and delicious homemade cookies and brownies. It tastes so well after 3 weeks away from home... These missionary families try to keep as much as American culture as possible. After all, one day their kids will come to the states and will have to integrate there. Once the American "bathing" girls and also the boys in their group were invited for an evening. We told them that we are from Israel. They thought a bit, and then one of them said triumphally, ah, Israel is where all the bombs explode! When we told one of the girls about Mt. Elgon, that we had to pay in Ugandan Shillings and that we didnÆt have enough local currency, she exclaimed "Oh, Nooooooooooo!!!" and looked at us sadly. Then we said "but Michael was willing to change money for us" and she hoorayed "Oh, Yeeeeeeees!!!" looking happily at us. It's amazing to see these (nice looking) girls and think that they will become nuns in the future...

Brent recommends us to raft in the source of the (white) Nile. We hesitate - the rafting includes grade 5 rapids, the Bujagali falls (5 is the toughest), and we have never rafted before. We decide to go and check first the falls from the land. For this we take a matatu. Even that we know already that in a 3 sits row the Africans put 5 persons, they still take us by surprise - this time they place Tali in between the sits, which means that Tali is sitting more or less in the air! At the falls we see that the rapids are not too bad: even if a person falls into the water there is a long enough section of calm water in order to have time to get up into the raft. We go back to town and succeed to take a lift. It was for free (which is very rare in Africa - normally you pay for everything, including this). In the back of the car - there is a goat. When we ask the driver about it he explains that it is Sunday's BBQ!

We decide to go and check first the falls from the land.

The following day is the rafting day. The guide, Pascal, a French playboy, is very funny. When he hears that weÆre from Israel he asks immediately whether it's true that the orthodox Jews make love through the bed sheets. When we tell him that we sleep in Brent's place he exclaimed: "You stay with Jesus!". The rafting itself is very enjoyable. In the difficult sections we fight not to fall of the raft and in the easy parts we jump out of the raft and swim in the warm water of the Nile.

One more day is over and we are on our last day in Jinja. We go with "Jesus" to a village in order to see how he is working with the locals. It's interesting to see how the people live and behave in their natural environment, and also to hear the story of Brent about how he made the connection with them. We sleep tonight for the last time in our tent in Jesus' courtyard.

In the following morning we take the bus to Nakuru, Kenya, from where we will try to get to Nanyuki, on the foot of Mt. Kenya, the next summit to climb. We cross the border back to Kenya: Bye bye relaxed Uganda, hello vibrant Kenya. Soon after, the violent atmosphere becomes something real. In Eldoret, a medium-size town about 100km from the border, we see a demonstration of Muslim Kenyans who want to construct a mosque in town. One tourist who is also a journalist gets out of the bus in order to take picture of the demonstration. Not even 5 minutes have passed and someone grabs the camera from him and runs away. He tries to run after the thief but the mob blocks him. After all, they didn't like him taking pictures. The tourist is furious but except of a declaration about the theft in the police, he can'nt do anything. 150 km more and we arrive at Nakuru, the 3rd largest town in Kenya, which we dislike very much. We have to get out of the bus and change to a tiny matatu. We are in alert. We keep our belongings tight to us, and I scan the surrounding all the time. Baggers touch us, drugs are offered to us by raster-men, and many thieves follow us hoping to find the right occasion to act. We try, without success, to find a matatu to Nyahururu, a small town on the way to Mt. Kenya. Next to Nyahururu are Thompson Falls, where a nice lodge is situated and where organized camping is possible. We see that too many people are around us so I decide to act as I did in the border between Peru to Ecuador. I join the thieves. I signal one of them, who looks rather a small fish in comparison with his fellow sharks, and ask him to show us the way to the right matatu. Both him and I know that this service is not free. The thief prefers to get 25 cents from us for sure than to try and steal 100$ without a guarantee for success. He takes us to the right matatu where we sit in relative comfort. All kinds of people try to sell us things through the windows. They are so aggressive that we prefer to close the windows and suffer from the heat rather than from them. At last we start our way. It looks like we succeeded to get out from Nakuru without loss. But not so fast...

Thompson Falls.

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Last modified: Sat Jun 12th 19:05:00 IST 1999