Day 147- Day 148: Big bad Kampala: A Challenge, and an unlikely 'Friendship begins'.......
The ride from Jinja went well until I hit the traffic leading into Kampala. I stopped at this cool looking coffee place, a franchise operation and the best in Uganda. They had wifi, so I could check out exactly where the accommodation I was planning to stay was located. I couldn’t believe my luck I was one intersection from where I had to turn off the main road to get there… Good gut feel again!
Eventually got to where the Red Chilli Hideaway used to be, and there was a sign saying they had moved further out from the CBD, and closer to Lake Victoria. Found it, and it was brand new, only open 4 dyas, and fortunately they had a room for me. It would be a good place to leave my bike, as I was due to pick up the 4X4 for my northern park expedition. I met this Uruguayan basketball player, Tata and we had some good chats, and I gave him a lift into the city the 1st afternoon, and then the next day I also took him in so we could buy Gorilla and Chimpanzee permits.
Riding into Kampala was very stressful, and particularly having a passenger on the back, and then dealing with an equatorial rain storm in rush hour traffic! I can’t see I ever feel bored!
The Red Chilli Hideaway was convenient, but it was a typical backpacker type place with those well known type of groupie people…Not my scene.
Well on day two, I was early for a run around the surrounds of Red Chilli Hideaway, and bumped into ‘Jerry’, this world marathon champion, looking local Kampalan, who was doing his stretch exercises at the top of the hill…. We immediately connected and in a few minutes just ended up talking about some amazing stuff….. I had already planned to pick up the 4x4 in two days, to drive to Murchison Park and the other Northern Uganda, areas, and so I thought I’d ask him if didn’t want to join me. He told me he had a wife and 2 year old kid, so I suggested he think about it, chat to his wife, and we meet that evening to discuss….. I said, I’d pay for most, but that he mustn’t see it as a total freebie, and I do expect him to pay at least for his food….
I arrived back at the Hideaway, wondering whether I’d been stupid or not, I don’t even know Jerry, and where we will manage in close quarters together for 5 days….? I did have this good feel though, and felt this WAS part of the Africa adventure spirit I had set out with…..
We meet in the early evening, Jerry had ‘permission’ from his wife, he had got his head around the potential risks and rewards, and I had been a journey during the day, which meant we were both almost exactly in the same place. As we spoke more, I felt more comfortable and after an hour, it felt good and the deal was done….. The day after tomorrow we would leave for Murchison for an adventure into the unknown, a different one no doubt, and hopefully richer one, that I’d have had being on my own…. Time would tell, and I sensed we were still both a bit apprehensive, but the commitment to be open and honest with each other turned this into excitement.
The following day was spent with preparations and the Toyota Landcruiser 4x4, was delivered by Jacque from Jinja. Hmmm, as he pulled up I could see this wasn’t a professional rented vehicle but the sort of private deal, own vehicle, very late vintage, that I was worried about. He proceeded to show me all the quirks, adaptions, things that don’t work, with the vehicle, and I started feeling like, ”Whoopsie, I think after 5 days in harsh places, I’ll have a few stories to tell about this vehicle and the struggles we had… He assured me that all will be fine, but here I was talking to the owner who knew all the nuances like the back of his hand, PLUS he had been a mechanic for 10+ years on trans Africa expeditions….
I had another visit to Kampala CBD, which now felt like my familiar, ‘home town’ as I had orientated myself and now also was like a local enjoying the minute by minute, motorcycle vs motor car, survival challenge!
That night while having dinner and a drink at the bar I met Joseph Karis, on his own at the bar, and the guide on an Intrepid expedition, that was overnighting at the Red Chill Hideaway. Joseph is Kenyan, born and brought up near lake Turkana, in remote Northern Kenya, and has been a guide come mechanic with Intrep and other Africa overland tour companies for more than 10 years. We just hit off straight away, and in Joseph I met one of the few African who is TRULY passionate about the bush, and is also a thinker trying to understand what is happening in Africa and the wilderness areas today….. With his openness, and insights he helped me confirm many of the perceptions I had about local African people, their real passion for the bush versus the bush work just being a means to an end…… I concluded that African wilderness areas are in fragile hands as the overarching motive is money, not a passion for the wilderness, and Joseph agreed that in his passionate pursuit of wildlife experiences, he is seen as a total freak by his own people who cannot understand his interest…… All very useful information from someone, who yes is just a single person, but one who has seen a lot, and deals with these issues everyday…. We discussed so much, and I learnt / confirmed so much, I could write a book just on what we discussed… Unfortunately, time and space don’t allow that here, the memory will only be with me, and the discussion will continue to be one of the many inputs that will shape my world….
I went to bed, with my motorcycle and gear I didn’t need stored away, and my stuff virtually packed for the early start…..
30 Sept and 1 Oct by diary…..