This weekend was a long weekend, and we had both Friday and Monday off of work. Therefore, we decided to make the ten-hour trek up to Kampala, Uganda, the capital of the country. Thursday after work we packed up, made dinner, and then made our way to the Nyabugogo bus station for our 8:00 p.m. night bus. Our friends Jamie and John were accompanying us on the trip, and we managed to snag some of the last seats in the very back of the bus. The bus was large and decently spacious. It had no bathroom, but at least it had a big TV playing Usher, Beyonce, and Celine Dion music videos on repeat.
At 8:00 p.m. on the dot we departed for the Rwandan-Ugandan border, which is only about two hours away from the Kigali bus station. When we arrived, there were already a ton of people at immigration. Everyone was taking advantage of the long weekend. We waited in line for a long time, got our passports stamped, and then walked over the border to Uganda where our bus was waiting. The first immediate difference we noticed between Uganda and Rwanda after crossing the border was ENGLISH! We understood what everyone was saying! Granted, they were mostly heckling us for money, but we understood them nonetheless.
After finishing with immigration we hopped back on the bus and tried to sleep for the remainder of our journey. This proved quite difficult because it felt like our bus was driving 100 mph (or should I say 161 kph) and the road was extremely bumpy. I started counting the number of times I would jolt awake because my head would bang into the window or Caitlin. I lost track pretty quickly. Still, before we knew it, we had arrived in Kampala at 7:00 a.m.
We had planned to go on a six-hour walking tour of Kampala as our activity for the day. Jamie and John joined us. Our guide, Joan, was very enthusiastic and fun. She led us all around the city and gave us facts along the way. First we visited a craft market, at which we all ended up spending way too much money. Then we visited a very large produce market. They had all the usual fruits and veggies we see at the markets in Rwanda, but also some unusual stuff like jackfruits and fried grasshoppers. We convinced the vendors to let us try them, but we weren’t that impressed. Finally, we went to the general market, which, according to Joan, is the largest market in East Africa. It was extremely overwhelming, but definitely very cool. We walked to our hostel, got settled, and then set off for the day. We purchased our first rolexes, which are delicious street food creations consisting of a rolled up chapatti with eggs with vegetables. Another difference between Uganda and Rwanda: street food is not illegal here… Then we hopped on boda bodas (the Ugandan term for a moto) into the city center.
After lunch, we visited several beautiful churches, walked through a hospital compound, past the Kampala Parliament, and ended at the King’s Palace. Nobody is allowed inside the actual palace, so we toured the outside. We saw Idi Amin’s torture chamber from the ‘70s and learned about the gruesome way thousands were tortured and killed during his regime. Finally, we made our way to the Gadiffi National Mosque. We put on traditional scarves and received a tour, which ended with a climb to the top of their tower, the highest point in the city. The view up there was amazing. After the tour was over, we ended our long, full day at a beer garden we had found online, because there was no way we could resist the prospect of draft beer!!
Saturday morning we woke up and travelled to Jinja, Uganda, which is about two hours away. Jinja holds the source of the Nile River, and has many different activities along it. Today, Caitlin and Jamie were planning on bungee jumping, and Sunday, Caitlin, John, and I were going white water rafting. After settling into the hostel, we took bodas to the bungee jumping place. Within 15 minutes, Caitlin and Jamie were on the tower, 45 m above the river. Caitlin jumped first, followed by Jamie. I was their official videographer (see Caitlin’s instagram for the full vid). We spent the rest of the day relaxing by the Nile.
After dinner, we went to the Nile River Camp hostel, which was hosting a “Jinjapendence Day” Party. By 9:00 p.m. all the muzungus were turning up. People were already dancing on tables and climbing on the walls. On our bus to Jinja this morning, we met an interesting guy named Sebastian who had just quit his job and was clearly looking for a good time. We ran into him again at this party, where he proceeded to buy us all many rounds of drinks. The next morning we saw him again and he told us he had 37 rounds of whiskey and 7 beers. We’re not sure if we believe him, but you can decide for yourself.
Sunday morning, we got ready for rafting. They debriefed us, gave us our lifejackets and helmets, and then breakfast. We travelled 45 minutes to the rafting launch point, separated into groups, and got into the boats. We made it very clear that we wanted to be “extreme.” Everyone who ended up in our group was more or less okay with this, so we were happy. On our raft were two American grad students who were working in Kenya, the two of us, and then two French men who were working in South Sudan. They were particularly funny because they kept trying to push each other off the raft, and cursing at each other in French. Our guide’s name was Josh. He was for the most part very mellow, but he liked to scare us with stories of people who had died in the rapids (by attempting stupid stunts), and telling us worst case scenarios for situations where our raft might flip. There were about nine rapids in total, six of them were Grade 5 Rapids, and we flipped on four of them. Getting tossed around in the rapids was pretty scary, but a total rush, although we both probably consumed about a gallon of Nile River water in the process. It was a lot of fun and we totally recommend it.
Crazily enough, this is our last week in Rwanda. We’re going to spend the short work week at GHI finishing up our projects and enjoying our last moments with the incredible GHI staff. After we were done, we had a large buffet and looked at pictures from our day. Our raft pictures were hilarious (see a few below), so we all chipped in and purchased them. Everyone in our raft got copies. At the lunch, we found out that none of the other boats had flipped even once. I guess all of them took the mild option when offered (lame!!). After rafting, we headed back to Jinja, packed up, and then hung around at our hostel until 11:00 p.m. for our 12-hour night bus from Jinja all the way to Kigali. This bus ride was just as interesting as the first one, but we were glad to arrive back in Rwanda early on Monday morning with the whole day ahead of us to unwind.