Last Weekend in Jinja

Kristen snaps a photo of Yosam and I on the boda.

Hard to believe, but this past weekend was my last one in Uganda. To commemorate the occasion, Kristen and I took a trip to Jinja that we had been talking about doing for months. We’d been interested in taking a boda trip somewhere, and once we found out that there was a “shortcut” to Jinja that avoided going through Kampala and involved travelling along backroads, we were sold. Yosam, one of our regular boda drivers, was a natural choice for who to call – he’s been one of the highlights of my time in Africa – always friendly and entertaining, and we trust him. After working out the departure and payment details, Yosam and his brother, Patrick, arrived outside our house, ready for the 100km trip to Jinja on Friday morning. Apart from one flat tire shortly into our adventure, we made it without any problems, and treated Yosam and Patrick to lunch at the Nile River Explorers Camp. Kristyn, the other Shanti volunteer, opted to take matatus to Jinja instead of joining us on the bodas, and so met up with us shortly after we arrived. It was a beautiful way to get to a beautiful spot in Uganda, and certainly only added to my desire to get my motorcycle license when I return to Canada.

Practising my paddling technique at the beginning of kayak school.

Saturday morning, Kristen and I headed over to the kayak school where we’d signed up to do a day-long whitewater kayaking lesson. Our guide, Laurie, an experienced freestyle kayaker from the UK who is managing the kayak school while its regular owner is off on an expedition in New Zealand, took us down to the water in front of the NRE and taught us the basics of the paddling stroke and how to maneuver the kayaks. We spent most of the morning near the beach, practicing righting ourselves from the water and paddling in a straight line (easier said than done in the “play” boats we were in, which have a tendency to waver back and forth with each stroke). After a delicious lunch from one of our favourite restaurants in Jinja town, we hopped in a vehicle that took us and our kayaks downriver for the whitewater portion of the day. We ended up going over five or six very tame rapids. Nothing like what I encountered during the rafting I did on the same water last month, but definitely wavy enough to give you a taste of how fun whitewater kayaking could be. After making it through the rapids, we arrived back at the beach where we’d started the day, and paddled around a little more before taking our equipment back up to the kayak building and enjoying a Coke with Laurie and Ebra, another employee at the school. It’s been amazing to me how many different activities I’ve had a chance to do during my time here, and this one was well worth the expense.

A mother and baby monkey walk along the fence outside our dorm room.

Sunday was spent relaxing – it was a gorgeous day, and the three of us alternated between lounging and eating at the various camps and resorts that are all within a few metres of each other at Bujagali Falls. In the afternoon, when we were gathering our things to check out of our dorm room, we spotted some of the many monkeys that hang out around the area, and I managed to snap some adorable photos of them playing on a nearby fence and eating corn that they’d found somewhere. We carted our stuff over to where the free shuttle back to Kampala would be picking us up, and boarded that around dinnertime. It’s always a long trip back to the city on Sunday nights, because of all the traffic, but at least we were able to sit in more comfortable seats that we’d have had if we’d taken matatus back. We stayed at a hostel not far from where we were dropped off, and then Kristen and Kristyn headed back to Luweero early Monday morning. I stuck around a little longer so that I could buy my bus ticket to Dar es Salaam for this coming Saturday. I also had to make my first trip to the clinic since my arrival in October. At some point over the last week, one of the bug bites on my foot had managed to get infected and was making it uncomfortable to walk. The doctor at the clinic (whom many of the other Shanti volunteers have been to see for various ailments) is not renowned for his sterling bedside manner, but does seem to know his stuff when it comes to illnesses and infections. After assuring me that removing the scab on my foot wouldn’t be painful because the skin was dead, he proceeded to rip it off. Apparently something was still living, because did if ever hurt! No pain, no gain, perhaps? After prescribing me some antibiotics and having a nurse apply a honey dressing to the area, I was sent on my way with instructions to come back at the end of the week to have a new dressing applied. All pretty straightforward, and with any luck things will be cleared up in a few days. The infection sounds a lot more menacing on the insurance paperwork they gave me, where they termed it a “necrotic tropical ulcer”. With any luck, that’ll be the first and last medical issue I run into here.

It’s been a busy week already, running the last of the teen girls workshops before they start back to school next week, and getting all my projects wrapped up before I finish my placement in a couple of days. From Kampala I’ll take a bus to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, and then will board a ferry to Zanzibar. I’ll spend about a week on the island before returning to the mainland for my flight from Dar on February 7. Then it’s off to Los Angeles to meet up with Kelly for the last portion of the trip. Some 40 hours after I first board the plane in Dar, we’ll arrive in Maui. Should be quite an amazing next few weeks!