Uhoh! A strange pattern is emerging! Move 1000km and then stop for long than expected periods of time. Maturity in long-term travel is how I am looking at it – focusing on the detail of an area as opposed to trying to gauge how life is like while passing through for 24 hours or less. I’m in the capital city of Kampala, once known at the city of 7 hills, but with large population growth my knowledgeable quote became stale about the early 1990’s soon morphing into 13 large hills surrounding various neighborhoods of the city of 1.2 million people. It’s the most relaxed East African Capital city I’ve been to as of yet, although it has its own challenges to deal with. Traffic is a mess, but certainly nothing compared to the throngs of traffic in Nairobi, or the sidewalk driving that occurred in Dar Es Salaam Tanzania. Minibuses cart people around, but more common is the Boda Boda, a 125cc or less motorcycle that often rides dangerously through oncoming traffic lanes to get passengers to their spot at a fraction of the price of the standard taxi vehicle. Still, public transportation in East Africa is expensive. 5km usually equates to $10 to move you around, but don’t think the drivers are making lots of money at it – some will wait for half a day for a fare due to the amount of competition they face. I’ve been riding, but not much due to some health issues I was working through. In fact, my last post had me writing about heading to Jinja before coming to the capital, but after a frustrating day of riding on dirt roads (my choice), lack of energy (medication reactions), getting a rock thrown at me by kids in a village (first time), and punching someone in the head enroute into Kampala (I told him 3 times to stop touching my stuff), I opted to B-line into a backpackers hostel where I knew another cyclist was residing and opted for rest.
I managed to connect with a friend who I met in Nairobi a few months earlier, moving over to their house, being introduced to their friends spending a few days riding on speedboats on Lake Victoria (which is much more scenic than what I saw on the Kisumu, Kenya side which seems to be infested with weeds), tests of physical endurance dangling in the air with safety belts on obstacle courses, and checking out the nightlight, albeit sober, without beer in hand, as I watched the rest of the patrons evolve into jovial to flat out stumbling messes. Do I look that as well too? On the weekend I was even invited out to Entebbe to go camping, some 40km away from Kampala – a lush green affluent neighborhood of greater Kampala where fine restaurants exist housed inside planes recovered from the 1973 Palestinian bombing on Entebbe, Pizza places that surpass any similar type of restaurant in the Western world both in presentation, price, and taste. Camping at the Entebbe Sailing Club was lush, even though the skies opened up and drenched everything on the day that all us campers decided to stay extra. Lesson learned even off the bike, stick with the original plan. Highlight however was being able to spend some time with a Ugandan friend I had spent a lot of time with in Nairobi. Saying goodbye and even See ya soon sucks, but thankful for the time spent. I also got over my issue with eating food that was covered in insects, Our food was discovered by ants, and based on news I’ve read recently, the UN actually recommends we chow down on these things more often.
Upon return to Kampala back at the hostel, I found myself turning into a small celebrity. A few days earlier the press had caught wind that I was in town and came for an interview. I’m usually pretty aloof to accepting these sorts of opportunities – press being notorious for grabbing bits of information and spinning them, or misinterpreting what was said. I was pleasantly surprised to catch wind that articles had appeared on the Daily Monitor’s website in multiple pieces (One being a review of my book, The other talking about travelling through Africa, with the other giving a synopsis of my travels). It wasn’t until I was out in public where I was stopped by many people proclaiming that they had seen my photos and story in the newspaper. I tracked down a copy of the newspaper, flabbergasted by the detail and the fact that I managed to get the centre pullout of the Sunday newspaper. Here’s a picture of the full article, You’ll have to click to zoom in on this high-resolution article.
Then things got weird. Someone appeared at the Backpackers Hostel I was staying at curious to put a face to the name, quickly turning into a week of nonstop entertainment, as I struggled with the side effects of my medication (vomiting, feeling like getting punched in the gut every hour, irritability, lack of appetite, insomnia, headaches, constant urination woo!). First, I found myself as a guest on NBS TV’s morning show “The Morning Flavour” – answering a few questions, conveniently avoiding questions that could affect my personal safety, even cracking a few jokes along the way. You’ll even get to hear me talk the way I talk to most people in Africa, conveniently missing words when not required, and even having an accent that sounds similar to a Quebecquois. It was a cool opportunity and many photos were taken with the crew and staff. Funny, I think they just grabbed photos of the website, so there’s a ridiculous amount of headstands from around the world broadcast across Uganda. A few surprises were said throughout the show (which unfortunately I don’t have access to, only the clip below) involving my appearance the following night at a “Ballet Performance” – I tried to keep my surprise down wondering what that meant. Am I performing? Am I dressing up in a tutu? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?
The Ugandan National Contemporary Ballet was performing in a theatre in preparation for their European Tour which is commencing in the upcoming months. During costume changes I found myself on stage fumbling through a story of how I ended up in Uganda, answering the common questions I find myself asked on the road daily, and plugging the sale of my book – Desperately trying to get rid of some copies due to the added weight and strain it is causing to the ride, ripping bags, with no ability to carry extra food in the event of desolate times. Fast forward a week later and I only carry a dog-eared colour copy that I show to others – the rest have been picked up and placed for sale in high-end restaurants around town and bookshops via contacts I have met). A strange experience at the Ballet, but a wonderful 1.5 hour show which contained a lot of laughs and some black light trickery for the final performance.
It didn’t stop there. I found myself the next night in the VIP section of a Fashion Show, put together by a well-known musician in Uganda, Hellen Lukoma. The dress code was white, so I wore all black and figured my skin colour would act as the entrance for the white – It worked, and the show was a nonstop parade of who’s who in the country of singers, actors from popular TV series, and movies. My arm was sore from shaking hands all night with my new ‘friends’ opening up many more doors to events in the upcoming weeks. At some point over the past few weeks I’ve felt a bit paraded around, but at the same time has been quite fun, a different experience, and I have some good stories to tell and memories of Kampala. Kampala now takes the title of my favorite East African city.
I had to wait for a few weeks to get the go-ahead from doctors that I was clear to ride away from Kampala, so I occupied my (sober) time doing writing, performing some well needed bicycle maintenance, patching holes in panniers, and getting a chance to meet other travellers along the way. Technically, while the internet has been available I’ve started to repair many of the issues with this website as I’ve heard reports of Blank white pages, issues with rendering of maps, and other oddities. I reset some of the links on the gear page as well to go to proper sites again, keeping the website up to date is a lot of work! The next update of the website will remove complexities of navigation as it’s grown well beyond what I originally intended this “blog” to be. I also spent considerable time fixing errors in the book – 3 months after publishing typos keep being reported to me – shamefully I update the manuscripts and reupload them to both the electronic and hardcopy publishers. I handed out a couple of complimentary copies in return for reviews (good or bad!) and it seems to be adding a bit of buzz to the book along the way. If you, the reader can commit to a review on Amazon, GoodReads, or Smashwords I’ll even send you an electronic copy at no charge as well! Finally, I worked on a new presentation, filled with all sorts of flashy video effects to keep people interested on a screen in stead of looking at me while I do public speaking. When I do it of course
Cleared from the Doctors, I’m now ready to head west to travel around Uganda a bit more before crossing into Rwanda. I’ve had a surprisingly awesome few set of weeks in Kampala, and although I’m tired from the constant go-go-go aspect of the events I’ve attended it kept my spirits up through some pretty tough mental times. Bonus, is that this slowdown means the rainy season is pretty much over, so I’m looking forward to sleeping in the bush again as opposed to schools, being able to have a beer after riding, and new places to explore. Not looking forward to the mountain that are approaching – Rwanda, my next country is known as the ‘land of 1000 hills’. Gulp. I’m committing to sticking on Tar roads as much as possible to keep my spirits up and not piss me off for riding . I can’t head out yet from Kampala it seems, as a review of the entrance requirements for Rwanda have since changed for Canadian’s! What was once a no charge/knock on the door of the border with a smile asking to come in/90 days no questions asked policy has morphed into an apply online/hand over $60 USD/hope they accept you affair. I was looking forward to one of the few “free” entrance countries to save a few dollars, but that seems to be a thing of the past for any future countries as well. Was good while it lasted. The only problem with the application is that the online website is down, so I will have to find an embassy in town here and wait days to gain approval. Frustrating, but certainly is a sign of things to come for any countries in the future as they all seem to have their own entry requirements, some even having to send my passport back to Canada for a few weeks. How this is going to go down is beyond me, paired with few warnings from separate foreign affairs offices it’s bound to see that my plans are about to change yet again – Hang around, It’s gonna be a wild ride..