A Long Journey for a Short Visit
01.04.2016 - 01.04.2016 22 °C
If adventure is what I've been after, adventure is definitely what I got. I got up at 5:30...actually I woke up before my alarm began. I was trying to be ready for pickup so Aludi could make it to work on time and I could use the internet before we left. He swore that we'd leave exactly at 10, the latest. Well, as they say, 'this is Africa' so we didn't manage to leave until 11...but as we were gassing up, he remembered he had to stop at the bank so we didn't officially get on the road until 11:30. Having no concept of what type of journey would entail, I had no idea that this was going to mean a very late night.
Since Aludi didn't get proper sleep the night before, he asked his driver to take a shift and we would send him back on public transportation when he felt rested. Joseph had been working for Caritasfor many years and even drove for them while Aludi worked on the peace and reconciliation commission in South Sudan.
When we started out, I noticed the clouds and noticed that we might get rain. Aludi said it might come in the evening...since I had been wrong before, I believed that he could be right...however, as we reached outside of town, he revised his prediction. The rain began almost instantly and Aludi said that the dirt road we were on would not be paved the entire way there. The red dirt contrasted beautifully with the dark clouds.
It really started to storm down...and I began to worry about some of the rivers that the road had turned into, but it began to clear just outside the hills that started the Karamoja lands. I even got out took some pictures...it was beautiful. However, as we began to traverse the one car road (one car wide), the rains began to pour down with a vengeance. We had just started seeing cattle and goat herds passing through but not a one of the people we saw, even carrying water or heading home, changed their patterns even though they didn't have an sort of protection from the rain. One boy worked very hard to get his cattle out of our way and I waved in thanks. He didn't have a hat or the local wrap to shelter his head or face from the pelting rain that Aludi had now, rightfully ccalled 'violent.' He simply nodded and smiled as I passed as if nothing were abnormal. Just after him down the road, we found 2 bulls battling it out head to head in the middle of our one car road...also seemingly unaware of the storm around them.
At one point, we came to a junction where both Aludi and his driver, Joseph, were unsure of which way to take. As we sat in the middle of the town trying to get Ngoya on the phone, I noticed people stood lined up against the wall under the awning of the market watching us. Besides the rain they hadnt seen in ages they were all getting something to talk about in yhe days to come. 😊
We moved on and after awhile down the road, Joseph stopped a boda-boda (a motorcycle taxi...name carried over from when taxis would carry people from the Ugandan border to the Kenyan border , border-border) carrying 2 passengers. In true Ugandan fashion, he said hello and how are you? Which was given the reply 'good!' even though they were all soaked and being pelted by the rain. He asked them if he wasm indeed, on the correct road to Matany and it was confirmed twice.
Later, the rain became so hard we could barely see and our road began to appear like a small patch of mud between 2 raging rivers...and we came to yet another unknown fork in the road. This time, the town market was straight ahead and we could see people under the awning but it was past a raging river that had sprung up with the rains. After a few moments, Joseph decided to go ask the people for directions...but as we attempted to cross, the SUV ended up on a 40° angle face down. Joseph tried the 4-wheel drive to no avail and I was sure we were never going to get out of there!
Joseph jumped out of the SUV and submerged himself in the river as he felt under the vehicle a couple of young men came from their shelter to try to help. I imagined a dozen scenarios of what would happen next... Since it was wet out, Joseph had the A/C on freezing but I had prepared for hot weather since I was warned that this part of Uganda was very warm...I had shorts and a tank top on but had put a light jacket on...Freezing already, I feared also being soaking set.
Joseph continued to work in the water and another young man showed up. Two of them started to try to lift the vehicle but Joseph told them to hold on. He jumped back in the car and tried the 4-wheel drive again. To my amazement, we easily climbed out of the ditch and were on our way, with the correct direction of course. Apparently, there was a rock blocking the 4-wheel drive from working and, once it was removed, we could shift. If anyone's paying attention, a 2005 Toyota Land Cruiser is the best vehicle to buy if you plan to traverse rivers...
We seemed to be on the road forever when we stopped to ask a man if we were still on the road to Matany. Again, we had the pleasantries while he and his son sat in the rain. He advised us that we, indeed, were on the right road but, it would be another 72 kms. It was already near 4pm...and the rain wouldn't stop. We crosed rivers where roads had washed out and waded through water that had been creeping up to the center of our road.
After awhile, we turned towards the last 32 kms to Matany...but we were met with black mud and began to spin out. The 4-wheel drive was put back on and we inched our way to Matany. Every time Joseph got the speed near 40km/h, we'd begin to slide as the back tires started to become uncontrollable. Luckily, the closer to Matany we got the more the rain began to subside...and the roads became manageable. In fact, it began to look like the area didn't have any rain!
At about 4:30, I had written an email to Ngoya that he had better be there when we arrived because the roads were treacherous! As well, I said I needed to eat. He assured me he'd be there.
When we arrived by 5:30pm, I was actually a little woozy and nearly blue from the A/C. First thing I did was go change into my jeans. We sat down at a place and I devoured the matoke and meat, even the liver even though I prefer not to eat it. We chatted for about 25 minutes and were talking about leaving the restaurant (a word I use in the most loose form as possible) when Ilearned we weren't planning to stay any longer than this! We had come all this way just to share a meal with Ngoya and be on our way to Kampala! I was in shock.
We said our goodbyes and were on the road again by 6:30pm. As we reached the 'main road' the rain picked up again but it didn't get as bad as in the hill country.
We got stuck behind a couple of trucks at one point because there was a heavy truck jn the ditch and someone thought it'd be a great idea to try to toe it with another truck. The muddy road was completely unforgiving...we turned on our 4-wheel drive and swiveled around on the side of the road bur still had to wait for the large truck to make a final decision before we could move. Once out of the waym I doubted that our Lnd Cruiser could get back into the middle because we were moving around so much but I was proven wrong once again, thank God.
I snoozed a bit but we went through Lira before reaching Kampdini where we finally said farewell to Joseph. I think it was between 9 & 10. I tried to stay awake for my friend but I was knocking out. We didn't reach the Unik Hotel until 3am...I was happy to not have any plans for Saturday.