Mombassa, Kenya to Kampala, Uganda
03.04.2010 - 09.04.2010
Here in Mombasa where it is ridiculously hot and humid, and no running water in my crappy hotel to take a shower! Arrived here early this morning on the overnight bus from Nairobi, got checked in to said crappy hotel (although, and I did check, there was running water this morning) and then headed out for some sightseeing: wandered around the Swahili-influenced Old Town with the carved doors and picturesque fretwork balconies.
Passed by the landmark giant aluminum elephant tusks (definitely an eyesore, but at least they're not ivory!)
and then over to the 16th c. Portuguese-built Ft. Jesus, jutting out toward the Indian Ocean.
Now thoroughly in need of a shower, will have to make due with a large bucket full of water my hotel has given me to bathe with... ah, Africa - I'd expect nothing less!
Spent my Easter Sunday on a bus from Mombasa back to Nairobi, now back here having dinner at the same cafe restaurant along the conglomerate row of bus companies along Accra/River roads, waiting for another overnight bus to Uganda.
I'm getting ready to turn in for the night, in my dorm room at the hostel (haven't been able to say that for a while!) here in Jinja, Uganda. Took the overnight bus from Nairobi, where prior to taking off, all passengers were video taped by a worker for the bus company... "Security", I was told, as previous trips had experienced robberies, with faux "passengers" tipping off their bandit friends along the road as to the timing/whereabouts of the bus location. Fortunately, the only issue of the ride was the driver's lack of concern about blaring his radio the entire time - guess he's not familiar with the concept of sleep during an overnight bus ride... Got stamped out of Kenya/stamped into Uganda in the wee hours of the morning. Was dropped off at a gas station along the side of the main road around 04:30 as the bus was continuing on, and waited for the sun to rise to head into town. Found my way here to the hostel where I was able to book a white water rafting trip on the Nile River for today. Met a good group to join on the raft - couple from England, the Israeli and Swiss girls and our Zimbabwean guide.
It was one of the best rivers I've rafted - class 5 rapids, and these were definitely class 5!!
One time the raft went horizontal on the left side and the English guy and myself got dumped out (somehow the Israeli girl behind me stayed in), but other than that we stayed dry the whole day!
BBQ dinner at the rafting company's campsite out at Bujagali Falls afforded some amazing views above the river to enjoy our well-earned Nile Special beers.
About to head over for some drinks at the bar in the campsite hostel here in Kampala's Bugolobi neighborhood. Today back in Jinja was spent relaxing at the hotel campsite with good breakfast and free wifi (ah, yes... I missed the good ol' hostel atmosphere), then wandered around the town a bit (I chose to walk instead of taking one of the many "boda bodas" (bicycle or motorbike taxis) all over town),
enjoying the pretty relaxed atmosphere and stopping off lakeside (Victoria) for views of the supposed, "Source of the Nile" (Burundians dispute this).
Looks like I'll be spending some time here in Kampala or the immediate area - today I visited the UWA, Uganda Wildlife Authority, to register for a mountain gorilla tracking permit over in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, in the southwest area of Uganda. I signed up for next Wednesday the 14th... I can't remember the last time I spent a week straight in one place... maybe NYC? But one thing is certain - Uganda seems much different than other African countries I've visited... fairly good roads, frequent transportation, very little begging, foreign couples - and I mean white, or "Mzungu" - sometimes with their children, freely roaming around the towns and virtually no harassment - like nothing I've seen in Africa, probably since isolated southern Morocco/Western Sahara. Therefore I have dubbed Uganda, "Africa for beginners".
Today I checked out of the logistically unfriendly campsite hostel in Bugolobi (requiring me to take a "matatu" minibus or worse, "boda boda", back and forth to the city center every day... for a week? No, thanks.), and checked in to the centrally-located hotel across from city square. Paying a bit more for a "real" hotel, but it seems there are enough backpacker tourists staying here to still feel "hostelish". I visited the entirely underwhelming National Museum - dust collecting on the stuffed animal/displays that showed ridiculous expressions.
One of the guards was asleep on the bench - likely not used to much museum activity?
Getting ready to head out for the famed Kampala night life. Today I headed over to the one highly recommended sight in the guidebook listed for Kampala, the Kasubi tombs. What I expected to see was the century-old, largest thatched mausoleum in Africa. What I actually saw - after paying the 10,000 USH entry fee, was a fenced-off huge orange tarp covering the remains of the largest tomb, having burned down 3 weeks ago!
Needless to say the mandatory guide showing me around the surrounding smaller tombs dedicated for kings' wives,
while explaining how UNESCO plans to rebuild the large tomb by next year, so I should "come back to see", was not not a great consolation...