Maybe me and a select few of my friends are the only ones that have these moments, but do you ever experience something and think “This is why a video camera should follow me around. This would make for awesome TV”?
Today was one of those days. A video camera should have followed Zena, Jenny and I around on our day trip.
Chronologically, let’s begin.
7 am – Wake up, get ready.
8 am – Out of the orphanage to the main road in Nansana. We all got a rolex (an omelet in a chapate, pure deliciousness for 700 UgSh), and we boarded a taxi to the new taxi park in Kampala for 800 UgSh. We arrived in the new taxi park about 30 to 45 minutes later and asked around to find a coaster (a minibus) to Masaka. We found a coaster, were told it was 8000 UgSh to Masaka and sat on it until 10:45ish am.
A view from the coaster of the insanity that is the new taxi park.
10:45am – The coaster leaves for Masaka.
A man on the coaster was reading this. There is no escaping American politics. I am somewhat (almost pridefully) carefree about the election. I’m not voting, I don’t have an opinion, whoever wins will be just fine in my opinion. Well, being here in the midst of election season has recently made me feel really guilty for my attitude. I’m really lucky to live in the United States and have the opportunity to vote, so many people here have formed much stronger opinions than I have and would probably give a lot to cast their vote. Anyways, as silly as I think politics are…next election, I will learn about my options and cast an informed vote. Thank you Uganda.
11 23ish am – We blew a tire on the way to Masaka.
Noonish – We arranged with the driver to let us off at the equator which is about 2/3 of the way to Masaka. We paid the full fare, but were let off right were we needed to be. We stopped at the Equation Cafe, run by AidChild, and got muffins and drinks. Mmm, a fruit smoothie and a cinnamon muffin (8000 UgSh) made me miss SImply Cinnamon. From there we proceeded to do the touristy thing. See below.
Yes, it’s no big deal that I stood in the northern and southern hemispheres at the same time.
Noonish to 1:45ish pm – We shopped around the equator. It reminded me of a minature Amish country. There were a lot of stores with the same things. We went into almost every store and I would have made all my McCracken side of the family proud with how many things I picked up, looked at and put back down. Anyways, 22,000 UgSh later, we decided it was time to head out.
1:46ish pm – We boarded a taxi towards Kampala. We told the conductor we wanted to get off at the Mpanga Forest Reserve.
2:24 pm – We were let out at the Mpanga Forest Eco-Tourism site. The trip cost us each 5000 UgSh. We walked about a kilometer up the road and found the reception area completely deserted. Finally, we found a woman who gave us each a map and sent us on our way.
2:30ish to 4:45ish pm – Zena, Jenny and I hiked in the Mpanga Forest by ourselves. We saw a lot of butterflies, one hornbill and all of zero monkeys. To be honest, it was Atwood meets Africa. It was kind of a bust, except to say that we trekked (haha, that’s a stretch) in an African forest all by ourselves.
A nice sun break in the trees.
There was a really overgrown, viney area. Tarzan and Jane, anyone?
One of the few really cool things we saw was this butterfly. In the shade, it was a blah brown color, but when the sunlight hit its wings, they became a brilliant blue.
4:46ish pm – We made our way back to the trailhead and used the bathroom facilities. Before we left, we were greeted by the woman who gave us the maps and only then informed us there was a 5000 UgSh charge per person for the hike. I made a bit of stink and told her there was no mention or signage of the charge and it was a poor way to conduct business to tell us of the fee after we hiked. Hello PMS, I didn’t realize I met you along the hike. She apologized, we paid and off we went.
5:09 pm – We made out way back down to the road and waited for a taxi traveling back to Kampala. We stood there approximately 8 minutes and then decided to walk along the road towards Kampala which was 37 kilometers away. We weren’t going to walk the whole way, but all the taxis that passed were full and we’d have a better chance of catching one in the nearest town, Mpigi, because people would be likely to get off the taxi there.
Along the walk we passed the guy and his cows. I asked him if I could take a picture, he obliged and this is the result. It’s totally cool, Uganda is like a huge petting zoo.
5:33ish pm – Upwards of ten full taxis later, a conductor finally decided to pick all three of us up for 3000 UgSh back to Kampala. There were 22 people in the taxi. Mind you, the taxi is a glorified van and has seats for 12 people.
6:27ish pm – We arrived in Kampala and had to switch taxis to get back to the new taxi park. There was a lot of confusion, I gave the first conductor a 5000 UgSh note and was waiting for my change, or balance as they call it. The conductor of the second taxi (there was bit of a war as to what taxi the mzungus would get on) was insistent that I sit in his taxi and he would get my balance, as to assure we would ride with him. He handed me 1000 UgSh and I thought he’d come back with the other 1000. After a bit of waiting, I asked him about it. Oh, language barrier, I loathe you. The first conductor had left and the second conductor was saying he didn’t know that I was owed more and there was nothing he could do about it now. Did I mention I started PMSing at somepoint today? I got really sassy with him. I told him that HE said HE would get me my balance and HE was now responsible for the rest of it. And if HE didn’t know what balance was owed to me, HE should have never told me to sit on the taxi and wait. I then proceeded to tell him that he conducts business poorly. He was really apologetic and I was being a jerk and not having any of it. I sat the entire taxi ride without looking at him, staring angrily ahead as I had a mental conversation with myself and Jesus. We were discussing, that as a Christian, if there is a point when it’s acceptable to be a sassy jerk and call people out on unethical business practices, or should you just brush everything under the carpet and forgive, no questions asked, no tantrums thrown. I never did get a resolution to the mental dilemma, but we paid 500 UgSh and arrived at the new taxi park regardless.
6:30ish to 7:07ish pm – There was a major shortage of taxis headed back to Nansana and a lot of people who wanted one. The scene was hilarious. One taxi would pull up and a swarm of people would crowd around it forcefully trying to get in. The girls and I stood there with a bit of shock and awe about the entire scene. We couldn’t commit to getting on a taxi because too many people always got to it before we even knew what was going on. Finally, we approached where the taxis enter the park. After quite a few attempts, I finally asked one driver where he was headed. “Nansana.” “NANSANA! GIRLS! OVER HERE!!” We got to the taxi in time to miss the swarm and be some of the first to board.
7:08ish pm to 8:17ish pm – The trip home was awful. We went a back way to escape the traffic. Imagine off-roading in your mom’s minivan.
8:18 pm – We got off at our stop in Nansana (1200 UgSh), picked up some sodas, chocolate and dinner food (4400 UgSh). Back to the orphanage and into our room we went to enjoy our dinner treats and end our girls’ day out.
I’m really proud of us for accomplishing all of today with no help from a travel agency or a tourism company. It was us and some information from the book my dad got me. Public transportation here (as aggravating as it may be) is efficient in its own way, and people don’t intentionally conduct business poorly. Monkeys aren’t easily spotted in the Mpanga Forest and to do a water experiment at the equator costs 10,000 UgSh (we passed). But despite all of that, today was a full-on adventure. I hiked in an African forest without a guide. I stood in the southern and northern hemispheres in the very same moment. I bartered on some of the items I bought today. All in all, today was pretty great and the experience, no matter how many shillings I spent, was absolutely priceless. Haha, you had to know the cheesy Mastercard line was coming…
I love you and I miss you, but I still can’t get over that I was in both hemispheres today.