After arriving in Kampala I spent a night in my private hostel room which was really good, and the next day as noted earlier, D helped me into Kampala so I wandered around a bit. It was my goal also to buy my ticket to Cairo but I ran into a snag. It was really expensive (like, $1000) to buy the ticket in advance from the US so I figured I’d just buy it here. After all, who the heck is going to Cairo from East Africa in August?? Well, apparently a lot of people. Not that they go to Cairo, but they then transfer to other cities. So, no luck whatsoever getting a ticket, which made me extremey anxious. So, I emailed my travel agent back in the US, and figured “Hakuna Matata”, it would work out in the end.
Anyway, unable to solve the problem that day, I went back to the hostel, had dinner with two professors from a Gainesville, FL college who are here working at a hospital for pediatric infectious disease. They had a very good day, as they had just gotten someone to donate a $300,000 machine to the hospital which reads info that helps determine appropriate medication for HIV.
That night I had to move from my private room into a dorm, as that is what comes free with the Murchsion Falls trip. This is a case where I rue my cheapness. Unfortunately, my single was already spoken-for, so I was stuck. In the end, it wasn’t that bad. I took an ambien to sleep through the outside noise, and I spent about 20 minutes figuring out how to rig up my mosquito net from the window, and really was quite proud of myself. I even took photos! (which I am not having much luck uploading at the moment).
The next morning we met for the trip. The trip was made up of 8 people:
W: ~30 year old American getting his masters of American U, who had just spent 10 weeks volunteering at an NGO in the north, dealing with displaced people (aka refugee camps). W looks exactly like someone I used to go to college with, so that was a little disturbing.
S and A: Both were 20-something year olds from Costa Rica but educated in the US, worked at the same NGO as W. A has a law degree but looks like a thug. They are a couple and they were both really nice.
O: ~20 year old American from Wellsley who has family in Kampala and got an internship at a lab here for the summer
E and M: aka “the Germans” who spent their whole time together and rarely with the rest of the group. Their main contribution on the trip was to make us late for most things, and E had to stop incessently to use the bathroom.
V: A spaniard who is the first person I have met on this trip that I wanted to throttle.
We left Kampala around 9 in the morning, and for the first couple of hours the roads were OK. Then they became pretty pot-hole ridden. At lunch we stopped in Misindi for lunch. We stopped in the same place on the way back and the food was horrendous. On the way up the “vegetable pizza” was an uncooked piece of dough, watery tomato souce, cheese, peas, and carrots. On the way back the chicken was OK, but the fries were barely cooked. Those who had the fish said it was good, though.
After another 4 hours, we arrived at our destination. The trip up went very well for me, as I was engrossed in Harry Potter. In fact, we arrived at the campsite during a pivotal scene near the end and I was not pleased to be interrupted! As we were moving into our tent I ran into a couple of girls I’d met at the hostel the night before and told them I had about 100 pages left of Harry Potter and one of them, “B”, just lit up. She said she was a huge HP fan and couldn’t wait to read it. B is from Ireland and was taking time between her 3rd and 4th year of college to volunteer at a school in a village outside of Kampala. She was leaving back for Ireland right after she got back from this trip. I am so impressed by all these people who have come to uganda to volunteer their services that it leaves me in awe a lot of the time, and makes me feel very selfish.
I went off and spent about another hour finishing the book and then went to the restaurant area to actually be social. Even though I really would have liked to read thru the book a second time to focus on details I missed on the first read-through, I knew I couldn’t carry the book around with me forever. I could have tried to sell it when I got back to Kampala, but instead I walked up behind B, put it on her lap and said it was now hers. At first she didn’t believe me, but when I insisted she take it she was so happy I thought she was going to cry. She even had us take a picture together with the book for posterity. She also asked me to sign the book, which was fun. I inscribed it “a good read for those doing good works” and said she needed to pass the book on to someone else when she finished it as well. So, even though I’d like to read it again, I think passing it on was a good thing to do.
The campsite had about a dozen “permanent” tents (large tents with twin beds) some banda rooms, and a lot of self-pitched tents. As our group was composed of two couples, two single men and two single women, I was housed with V, who I had not yet realized was The Most Annoying Person Ever. We had a tent fairly close to the bathroom (not SO close as to have ill sound or odor effects, but close enough for convenience) which I considered a plus.
Mixed within the campsite was a family of warthogs. They just wander around the camp right at home. A couple of them are really huge and I have good photos of them.
Sitting around and talking after dinner were not only our group (except the Germans who didn’t do anything with anyone besides each other), but also 3 canadian med students who had spent a month volunteering in a rural hospital and were leaving for Tanzania after they got back, an american woman of indian descent whose name I didn’t catch, but who was spending several months traveling around africa after having spent 13 months in Darfur working with victims of gender-based violence, B from Ireland and E from Wisconsin who I had met the night before at the hostel and were working in a village school outside of Kampala, a German girl whose name I didn’t get but wanted me to tell her what happened in HP so she wouldn’t have to wait to read it (I did and she was happy with the results).
The two bad things about the campsite were that it was REALLY noisy, and that it didn’t have hot showers. I took a 2-minute shower before going to bed as the next day was when most of the activities would begin.