"Let's hope we don't end up in Sudan."
Trip Start Jun 09, 2011
26Trip End Aug 30, 2011
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It was a good, but long, journey up here today. I had some really nice company in Paul and Andrew. Paul is the program officer based in Kampala. He is visiting the Kitgum and Pader sub programs this week. Andrew is the manager of Pader sub program. Pader is a district and town about an hour south of here. Andrew came and picked me up this morning (well, at 10.30, an hour late in true African style). Then we went to the office to load the car with some supplies that were being taken up to the offices here. And then we set off to pick up Paul on the way. They're both really nice and I learned quite a bit from them. Including why the Ugandans indicate when they meet traffic on the road (when driving, and they meet another vehicle they indicate to the right, this has puzzled me for some time). The reason, apparently, is to warn the cars behind them that there's traffic coming so they will not try to overtake you. When they asked how we do it in Sweden and I explained that we use our eyes and look to see if anyone is coming they just looked at me like I was from a different planet. I was also told that there's a lot of counterfeit products in Uganda, including the water bottle that Paul refused to buy from a street vendor. When I was asked if we have counterfeit water in Sweden I explained that we just go to the tap and pour water into our glass and drink, we don't usually buy bottled water. They found this amazing and very fascinating that you could actually drink the water. I thought it was fascinating how they did not seem to know that in many countries we drink tap water....
Something that continously amazes me is the amount of things, and size of the things, that they manage to fit on their bicycles. Often when it's a big load though (such a several meter long wooden planks) they walk with the bikes. In Kampala they are usually overloaded with matoke (a type of banana). While here in the north it ranges from bundles of wood, grass, charcoal, jerrycans for water, bags of rice etc. Today though, I saw something that topped it all. A man had strapped a bed frame onto his bike rack (I think that is what Sarah told me it's called. Pakethållare in Swedish). And it wasn't just a small bed, no it must have been atleast 1.20m wide. Made out of wood. And it was strapped onto his bike rack, and he was biking. In other words, he was not pushing the bike, but biking with this giant bed on the back. I was sincirely impressed. I wish I could have snapped a photo but we were driving and the camera was in my bag. I'm also trying to see how many people they can fit on a bicycle/motorcycle. I think the most I've seen so far is five. Quite impressive....
I was also introduced to Ugandan snacks today. Gonja (I think that's how it's spelled) and cassava. Gonja is a sweet type of banana that they fry. It was very delicious! And cassava is a shrub-looking plant that they grow a lot here and you eat the root. The roots were quite big, I was surprised at that. It had been treated in some way but I could not say how. It didn't taste that much. Maybe a bit like potatoe... It was mjölig, for all you Swedish speaking people. (flour'y? :P)
Yet again I was amazed by the size and power of the Nile when we crossed it. It's my favourite part of the drive :) It's such a beautiful spot with baboons playing in the trees (and on the road). At some point I'm going to see if the driver can stop so I can take some proper photos.
And then after we had passed Gulu the adventure started! First of all, the road was really bad. After Gulu the tarmac ends and it's dirt road. This said dirt road was truly terribly today. Much worse than when we drove down a week ago. Due to the rain they've had this week, or so they told me. And then, we got hit by a bicycle! I know, it sounds ridiculous, but that is what happened! We were driving along the road and came up next to man on a bicycle when he suddenly turned and went straight into us. He got away with just a couple of bruises, but still. Paul and Andrew got out to talk to him afterwards and a crowd gathered. They were stood out there for quite a while while I was hiding in the car thinking my whiteness might make them think we can give them lots and lots of money. After we drove off Andrew said that if this had been Karamoj-land (area in the east of the country where the Karamoja are inflicting fear on the population through cattle theft and the use of heavy machine guns), they probably would have been severely beaten, if not worse. A small crowd would have gathered and they would have jumped them. So I was very glad that we are not in that part of the country!
And then, the final adventure almost took place as Paul decided to take a short cut to Kitgum. So we turned off the main road (a small dirt road) onto a smaller dirt road (but a better one with less holes). And as we drove on Paul kept asking us: "You're sure this is the right way?" and then he would follow it up with: "I hope we don't end up in Sudan. Lets ask people frequently for the way so we can tell if they start speaking a different language." Now, I'm pretty sure we would have noticed the border control, but then again. This area is full of small roads and some of them might very well lead to Sudan without a border control. But don't worry, we made it to Kitgum as planned and arrived just before dark! Poor Andrew had to keep going to Pader in complete darkness all on his own. They say it's an hour's drive, so it's probably about an hour and a half.
But yeah, now I'm here! I had some dinner (back to rice diet, today I spiced it up with beans), and now I am very tired so I think I might go to bed despite it being nine o'clock. When I come up here I switch to "daylight-mode". In other words, when it's dark my head tells me I should sleep. And then I wake up all by myself (and the noise of people doing laundry and washing and cleaning and singing and God know's what) around seven. The life in the bush!
Tomorrow it's back to boreholes!