This past weekend, nearly two months after I first arrived in Uganda, I finally made my first trip to Jinja. Kristen couldn’t believe that I’d been here so long without visiting the adventure capital of the country. To rectify the situation, we took a coach bus from Kampala to Jinja, and then a boda into town. Our plan had been to work at one of the cafes that had wireless internet, but not long after we’d eaten lunch and set up our computers, the power went out. With no indication that it would be coming on again anytime soon, we decided just to make our way to the Nile River Explorers (NRE) camp near Bujagali Falls, where we were staying. The camp is located right on the Nile – the picture to the right is the view from our banda (tent), taken while I was lying on my bed. Pretty stunning scenery…
There are endless options in Jinja when it comes to adrenaline-inducing activities. Although I hadn’t originally planned on going rafting while in Uganda, after seeing the video of that day’s group going over the rapids, it looks like way too much fun to pass up. Another thing on my wish list in Jinja was to go bungee jumping, so on Sunday morning I took a boda down the hill and checked in for my jump. Just like the first time I went bungee jumping in Nanaimo, everything went smoothly – no detached retinas or snapped cords to report, thank goodness. And what a rush! Unfortunately, since I went by myself, I don’t actually have any photos or video of my jump, but I did find this YouTube video of someone else’s jump from the same place. I forgot to ask about the water touch option, but otherwise this is basically the same as what I did:
When I got back to our camp, Kristen and I had a delicious lunch at a restaurant near NRE, and then spent most of the rest of the afternoon swimming in the Nile and playing in the tamest of the whitewater near the beach. We caught a shuttle back to a hostel in Kampala, and slept there for the night. When Kristen our dorm room the next morning to take a shower, she discovered a group of monkeys playing on a picnic table not more than twenty feet from our door. Luckily, they stuck around long enough for me to get some great video of them, unlike the monkeys we saw on the rooftops at NRE, who all disappeared from view before I had a chance to get my camera out. All in all, it was a pretty cool way to start the morning.
Given all the time we spend in the village during the week, with no significant body of water close by, it’s nice going to a place where water and greenery are everywhere you look. The fact that it’s a pretty straightforward trip from Kasana to Jinja is another point in its favour. I’m already planning to go back in a couple of weeks to go rafting, and Kristen and I will be there at least once in January to do a kayaking school. No doubt there’ll be lots to share about those adventures as well!
Last weekend, after arriving back in Kampala from Entebbe and getting settled into our accomodation for the evening, Vanessa, Ali, Dai, Ashley and I took a special hire (taxi, basically) to the Ndere Centre. The centre is where the Ndere Dance Troupe hold all of their shows, and is also the headquarters of the Uganda Development Theatre Association. The Troupe started in 1984, and later spawned the UDTA – both aim to use culture as a means of social transformation and human development, and to help socially-disadvantaged, talented young people break the cycle of poverty. You can read more about the troupe on the Ndere website. At the show, the emcee brought on stage one of the big donors of the centre, who had helped to fund the education of all the dancers and musicians in the troupe. Quite an innovative and inspiring group, needless to say.
Finally, a much delayed recap of our weekend in Entebbe. Last Friday, after meeting up with Ali and Dai at their house in Katikamu (a neighbouring district), we took bodas to the taxi park in Wobulenzi (the town where we had our pedicures done the other week). From there, we got on a matatu to Kampala, and another to Entebbe. Kristen had already arrived at the Backpackers hostel by the time we arrived, so after catching up with her for awhile, the five of us headed down the hill to a restaurant for dinner. Lots of laughs later, we made our way back to the hostel, where we ended up playing cards until the early morning. Saturday Kristen had to head back to the airport to pick up her bags, which had gotten lost amidst all the itinerary changes she’d had on her trip back from Canada. While she was off doing that, Ali, Dai, Vanessa and I spent some time in town and eventually headed to Goretti’s, a restaurant on the shores of Lake Victoria. Quite a scenic spot to eat the much-craved pizzas we all ordered for lunch!
I’m writing this entry on Thursday night, after a completely fabulous day spent at the maternity centre and with the women’s group. Vanessa has been hard at work translating and printing the information for the educational posters that will be going in the birth house. Since formatting is her least favourite part of the entire process, and my type-A self loves doing that kind of stuff, I was helping her cut out everything and arrange pictures and text on the bristol boards. We’ll head down to site early tomorrow morning to hopefully finish everything up, and then we’ll be catching a matatu with Ali and Dai later in the day and heading to Entebbe, via Kampala (travelling pretty much anywhere in Uganda generally involves going through the capital). Kristen was supposed to have gotten in today sometime, but we just heard from her that it’s been a miserable series of delayed and rerouted flights back, and that she’s now scheduled to arrive at 3:30am on Friday. Luckily, the backpackers’ hostel where we’ll be staying offers shuttle service from the airport at any hour, so at least she’ll be able to head right to a bed and catch up on sleep before we meet up with her tomorrow night.
After spending last night in Kampala, Vanessa was back in Kasana Sunday afternoon, in plenty of time for her “birthday party”, such as it was. She’d invited Khoon and Celia, two of the volunteers we met on the safari, who work at a hospital in Kiwoko, as well as Ali and Dai, and another Jaica volunteer who lives in Luwero. (Jaica is the Japanese peace-corps type group that Dai’s placement in Uganda is organized through). In the end it was the seven of us, plus another Jaica member, Micki, who lives in a nearby town. We had a delicious potluck dinner, with homemade flatbread that Nancha, one of the Jaica volunteers made, and baba ganoush Vanessa whipped up on Friday. Ali and Dai brought pork from one of the stands near their house, I made potato wedges, Celia baked a vegetable and cheese bread, and Vanessa made coleslaw. Very delicious, and incredibly filling.
Vanessa, the other volunteer that lives in the house with me, will be finishing up her placement with Shanti this coming Friday. She’s going to do some travelling around Uganda for a few weeks, and will be flying back to Canada in December. Before that happens, she’s been busy finishing up projects and ticking items off her to do lists. One thing that she’d been hoping to do for a while was to go to the market in Wobulenzi, a town not too far from Kasana. Martha, one of the midwives at the centre, goes every Friday to have her toenails painted, and had encouraged us to come check it out with her sometime. So on Friday Ali, Vanessa and I took a matatu to Wobulenzi with Martha, who led us to the tucked away spot where the nail people set up. By the time we’d arrived there was already quite a lineup, so we sat down and made ourselves comfortable. After leaving briefly to grab a market lunch, and playing a game of Ludo (the Ugandan equivalent of Sorry that Ali bought from a young vendor walking by), it was time for our pedicures.
My apologies for the long delay in getting this blog entry up. Given the slow upload speeds in Uganda, and the number of photos that I wanted to share from the safari, I had been waiting until I could go somewhere with a better internet connection to post anything. Unfortunately, electricity has not been on my side… I have managed to get things sorted out now, and have posted a Flickr album of the safari, which you can check out here.
After a busy end to October, with our only day off last week spent in a nearby hotel, Vanessa and I are very much looking forward to our three day safari trip. We’ll take a boda to the Luweero post office tomorrow morning, where a bus will pick us up en route to Masindi. Given the rarity of seeing Mzungus (or other foreigners) around the village, it’ll be interesting getting to know the other people on our tour. The company we’re going with take a maximum of only eight people, which is nice since it will eliminate the need to travel around in a giant bus or the like. According to the itinerary they sent us, Saturday morning (at 6:45am!!) we’ll head out from our camp on a four hour game drive around the Nile Delta area of Murchison Falls National Park. After a quick lunch we’ll be off again, this time on a three hour boat cruise along the Victoria Nile to the base of the Falls. And as if all the wildlife viewing wasn’t exciting enough, Sunday morning we’ll be going on a guided walk to the top of the Falls. This will be the first time I’ve travelled anywhere to the north of us, and from the photos other volunteers have taken, it certainly looks like there’ll be some stunning scenery.
A bit of an administrative day around here. It’s just Vanessa and I in the volunteer house for the next few weeks, and today Ali wasn’t around either, as she went to Kampala and Entebbe with Ben, the Shanti driver, and Emma, the lab technician, to do some shopping for the centre and to mail another shipment of bags. We had lots of visitors around our place this morning; Ben and Emma came by to get the Shanti vehicle, and two of the textiles women, Robinah and Rose, also came over to drop off the most recent order of bags. Once we managed to get everything packed into (and on top of) the truck, Ben and Emma headed off to pick up Ali.