“TIA – This Is Africa”, Kampala, Jan 30th, 2011

Sunday, January 23rd starts with a switch to French pancakes with honey instead of fried bacon and eggs for breakfast. Otherwise nothing special, I still try to clean the viruses off my lap top and play pool with Jonathon. But at noon I take off to another trip, this time with David, the Australian I ran into in the dormitory. He told me about Sipi Falls near mount Elgon and the great lodge he has booked there. I decided to join and would not regret it. Already at the Kampala bus park the adventure starts. Busses are parked where there is no space, people, luggage and animals are squeezed into seats and compartments where there is no space and sellers of everything usable on a bus trip or beyond are pushing through busses where there is no space. The chaos is not imaginable but David puts it in 3 letters, TIA, This Is Africa. A phrase taken from the movie “blood diamond” and it says it all. Accept, adapt or get crazy. From now on, every time we witness something odd to our standards we would say “TIA”, trust me, we would use it a lot.

Of course only after 2 hours of waiting we finally take of to Mbale, of course the bus brakes down (flat tire just at the area where they burn the land on purpose to create new fields), of course it takes 6 instead of 4 hours and of course we are ok with it – TIA – remember. So we adapt our plans and stay in Mbale over night, a friendly city, without hassle that welcomes us with a cheap guest house and an even cheaper beef stew dinner. As the lodge will serve us a full board we leave the next morning without breakfast and after a one hour ride with 14 people in a 7 seat car (TIA) we get rewarded with a beautiful landscape and a breathtaking lodge. David and I look at each other and agree: “right place, wrong partner”. These wooden huts with nice beds set on hills overlooking the rift valley with the sound of a 100m water fall are made for honey mooners, not for 2 men back packing. But we enjoy and latest when the “candle light dinner” is served (no joke) we take it with the sarcasm needed and laugh a lot.

Thomas appears out of nowhere, asks us a couple of questions and then tells us the schedule for the next 2 days. Ok, we did not ask for a plan but why not. TIA. So he becomes our guide and takes us right away to one of the great waterfalls near the lodge. Quiet a steep trek but the reward is astonishing. Swimming below the waterfall, with a rainbow along, simply one of those moments in life that burn into your mind. At darkness we sit in front of our hut, look at the stars, talk philosophically and realize the greatness of this day.

The next morning Thomas takes us to the second water fall, through farming fields and into a cave, a nice 4 hour trek.

After lunch Thomas is even more happy as he has finished “official” guide tour and now can make some private money by taking us on his private tour. It starts with one house of his sister and looking inside makes clear how simple life is out here in the village of Sipi. Thomas is doing quiet well, being busy with tourists and his own coffee field. Talking to him reveals his way of thinking and his knowledge about the western world. Some examples:

a) “What is an elevator?” --> when climbing I wanted to make a joke, asking for the elevator but it did not work as Thomas has no idea what that is.

b) “Oh yes, I heard they are killing people.” --> Thomas reaction when David said that cigarettes are not good.

c) “Are they killing each other for real?” --> it turns out that Thomas mostly only watches football games on the one and only TV the village has. They are happening for real. So when seeing a movie on TV he was wondering if that happens also for real. We explain him the concept of actors and so on…………………….

For the sun set we climb a smaller mountain and meet these friendly and interested children I just can not stop photographing. Here they are still wondering about white people. Tourism still is small and therefore these kids have not started to beg or claim money for pictures, that is so enjoyable. Our second candle light dinner is followed by another hour watching the stars and we do see shooting once as well. What a day in pure nature.

Wednesday after breakfast we had back to Mbale as David wants urgently to go to Kampala. I have decided not to go north from here (will do it later anyway) but to go back as well. So we sit in the bus, have paid already and the bus starts rolling out of the bus park. That’s the moment David says: “ok, lets do it”. What happened? Well, in the super market of Mbale I ask a white girl for directions. She walks us to the bus park. David jumps into my conversation with her and takes over. I let him have the pleasure. Sitting in the bus he does not stop kicking himself for not asking her for a phone number or anything. I offer him to stay here and search for her. After 20 minutes, the bus has started to roll: “ok, lets do it”. (his urgency of rushing back to Kampala has disappeared, smile) So we check into the guest house from 2 days before and start walking along the streets. In the house where she supposedly works nobody knows about her. Then, like in a movie, we spot her, Nicole from Puerto Rico, working here for an NGO since 6 months. David gets her number and arranges that we later have dinner together and go for a drink. He is excited. How should this story continue??? They fall in love, get married????? Well, unfortunately TIA is not always funny. The power cuts off just around meeting time. She is afraid to leave her house in that part of town she is. Long messages back and forth between the two lead to nothing. Finally David and I go for dinner alone, play pool, watch premiere league and go to bed around 2pm. I feel sorry for him but the day was so much fun, leaving the bus and actually finding her is sooooo cool, he knows that and comments in the most self iconic way possible: “another one bites the dust”………

Thursday takes us back “home” into the back packers in Kampala and becomes a relaxing day. So is Friday until David, Stewart the Scottish, Timo the Finn and I go to the Reggae festival we where looking forward to so much. However, the music is bad, more talking then anything else, it’s a concert rather than a festival and after 10 minutes Timo gets his wallet stolen and has to rush back to cancel all his credit cards and so on. TIA. We all go back, play pool and chill. The night to Saturday is heavily influenced by “Martin, wake up Martin” I already wrote about. In the evening we go to a fantastic Chinese restaurant and an R&B bar, dancing till 4am in the morning. Being up so long makes Sunday start late and short. Nevertheless it holds 2 surprises for me. First Omri comes up to me and asks if we would do something together on his last night in Uganda and then I find a great internet café and have a wonderful Skype call with my whole family. A group of 6 goes for an Indian restaurant, then to an Irish pub and finally to the “posh” bar for dancing. I nice good bye night for Omri and David but still I call it the day at 1:30am as I want to enjoy the great Murchison Falls Safari that starts tomorrow morning at 8am. Will I see lions…………………….?????????????????????

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1 Comment

  • Sorry, had to use it for nefarious SEO reasons ;-) Alles Gute auf der Safari aus Singapore. Nach vier Wochen Thailand jetzt noch bis So SIN, dann weiter nach SYD. Dann sind wir auch wieder ernsthaft online. Vielleicht reicht’s ja mal auf einen Skype Schnack. Liebe Grüße, Tom

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