Friday, July 17, 2009

Jinja and the Pretty Princess Net

Jinja is east of Kampala and the home of the source of the Nile. So we figured that being as I’m here I should probably go check it out. The plan was to leave early but due to a series of delays – as is common in Africa – we didn’t leave until much later. Think like… 4:00pm. Traffic in Kampala is nasty so a 90km drive took us something like 2 hours. When we did make it to Jinja, Zoe and Billy spotted a Chinese restaurant and the energy in the car hit the roof. They’ve only ever been to one Chinse restaurant before so they hugely enjoyed telling me everything they knew about plum sauce, sweet and sour pork, fried rice, spring rolls and so on. It was fun, I let them do all the ordering and had all sorts of Africa-style Chinese food.
After dinner it was getting dark so Freddy made the call that we’d be staying the night. Hotels are competitive along the Nile and we stayed at one called Paradise. It was pretty awesome, Billy’s favourite part was that there were flush toilets instead of pit latrines. By that time it was very dark outside, but Brenda and Fred were dead set on me seeing the source of the Nile and the falls. We ended up hiring a cab (called a ‘special hire’) because the route to the falls was so twisty and unmarked. It was cool to hear the force of the water but we couldn’t really see much in the dark. During the day there’s a whitewater raft that you can do down the rapids and if you’ve got 2000 shillings to spare there are kids who will hang on to an empty yellow jerican and jump into the falls. I hear they just vanish for a while under all the white foam and then pop out at the bottom, smiling and paddling their way back to the edge to do it again for the tourists.
Definitely not something I’d be up for.
Back to Paradise Hotel we went. Zoe and Billy’s little cousin Tyra had come with us as well, so we stayed in two rooms and split up the wildest members of our party. 5 year old Tyra slept with Zoe and I while Fred and Brenda stayed with Billy.
When we woke up the next morning we had an excellent breakfast courtesy of the hotel and headed out to get a glimpse of the Source of the Nile. The currents are so strange looking, the water wells up from underneath and makes the surface ripple and boil all over the place. It reminds me of when we have scuba divers at the bottom of the Y's pool actually.
The drive back to Kampala was much faster than the drive out to Jinja, and I spent the rest of the day re-packing my backpack and generally hassling the kids. Billy wants me to come back soon so that he can beat me at Monopoly again and Zoe is hoping that we can swap more music at some point. I may have gotten her hooked on swing, once I was packed I taught her the jitterbug stroll and Tyra joined in. Kealo, the lady who helps around the house, thought the whole thing was hilarious.
Phil picked me up, I said my goodbyes and we headed out to Entebbe. My flight left so early this morning that it didn’t make sense for me to stay anywhere other than next to the airport. We ended up checking in and sleeping for a few hours before I was due at the airport. When we walked in to find rooms Rona was the concierge on duty. She happily showed us around and answered all our questions about prices, then informed us that the Deluxe room size would be best because otherwise we wouldn’t fit. I was confused at first, what did she mean? Of course we'd fit, it's not like the rooms were closets. Phil understood what was going on right away though. They had a short discussion and later when Phil and I were eating dinner he explained that Rona believed we were planning on sharing a room, and that it was squishy to fit two people on a twin bed. No no Rona, that's not the plan. We did have a good laugh about it though, it definitely explained the stranged looks she kept giving us.
I’d would like it noted that my room was equivalently awesome to Phils' even though his was bigger. This is because my mosquito net came with plastic gem-things along the side. That’s right, I got the princess mosquito net! Yee ha!
Rona was a great help in getting my masks and baskets packed into a box too, she provided me with plenty of newspaper and tape so a big thank you to her for that. A brief 2 hour nap later and it was 3:00am and time to get back in the car. I lucked out with security and managed to be just ahead of the crowd the whole time. The immigrations officer had a good giggle at me though, apparently I needed to fill out some forms before I left. Unaware of this I sleepily stumbled past customs and did not initially recognize that it was me they were yelling at. Needless to say once I knew what they wanted I was happy to fill out the bright yellow cards next to the big sign on the wall saying ‘Exit Forms: Immigration’.
Safely on the plane I slept all the way to Nairobbery, as I have learned Nairobi Int’l Airport has been aptly nicknamed, and met a group of three Brits headed down to Uganda to work in an orphanage. Phil, Rosa and Claire are all about the same age as myself and they met on the flight down from London. We chatted and hung out until it was time for my flight to board, they had a layover of no less than 7 hours and weren’t sure they wanted to leave the airport to explore. I am definitely glad my layover was short, there is nothing to do in Nairobi’s airport.
I boarded and bid ‘goodbye!’ to the Brits. The best part of this flight was that the plane was a 777 and it wasn’t a full flight at all. I found myself a window row and curled up along three seats for a nice long sleep. Before we took off we had a bit of a funny experience though, before we even got off the ground we were all sprayed with some sort of insect killing gas. Between that and the strange disinfectant block they had in my bathroom at the hotel my nose was toast. The poor little thing has been running and sneezing ever since.
On the bright side though I’m back in London. It’s grey and rainy, as London tends to be but I’m staying at this excellent little hostel in zone 1, so most everything I want to see tomorrow morning is in walking distance. That and really… who can beat a hostel that’s got murals and maps on all it walls and doors? I’ll definitely be staying here when I come through again.
The strangest part about being back in a developed country is how white everything and everyone is. I’m surprised at how accustomed I became to being the only mzungu around, whereas in London even the buildings are clean and white. It’s like everything glows or something. Very strange. The best part is how little dust and the smell of diesel is kicking around in the air. Kudos to that!

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