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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

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September 23. KIGALI TO KAMPALA  Rob arranged for a taxi to pick us up early in the morning and take us to the bus station.  We used the same bus line and the bus was in good condition.  It was less chaotic since there wasn't a group of people trying to smuggle goods tax-free like there was on our ride to Kigali.  However, the driver bus more spastic than before.  The road leaving Kigali rose up into the hills and traversed its way along a valley, curving in and out until we reached the border.  It was the same road we had come in on but it was an entirely different experience.  This driver had us clutching our seats to avoid being thrown from side to side.  The turns were fairly tight and it was a full-sized bus.  On the right side was a steep drop and on the left a wall of mountain.  Fortunately we were sitting on the left and didn't have to look down.  It hardly seemed possible to me that a full-sized bus could bank as hard as we were and not go tumbling into oblivion.  It made my palms sweat but what could we do?  Get out and take a taxi all of the way to Kampala?  We had to put some faith in the fact that these drivers navigated the same roads every day and knew every bend and turn.  But I can't described how relieved I was when we reached the border and could get out of the bus.

There wasn't any rigorous custom's check going this direction but had to get our passport stamped to exit Rwanda before walking across the bridge that was no-man's land and into Uganda.  Ahead of us inline to exit Rwanda was a young woman and a boy.  She was looking around in confusion, glancing at the departure form, until she finally looked at us and asked for help.  She couldn't fill them out herself so I took her ID card and the form and filled it out for her. She didn't have any documents for the boy, which I thought was strange, but she claimed he was her brother.  She was about 16 and he looked about seven.  When she reached the window I heard the man asking her questions but we lost track of her after that.  Forex touts and guys selling everything from gum to tissues trailed alongside us as we crossed the bridge.  Rob changed our Rwandan francs for Ugandan currency and gave in and bought some tissues.  They always came in handy.  The Ugandan border check was pretty easy once the officer figured what we wanted to do.  For some reason he thought we were leaving instead of entering. We just had to pay $15 for a seven day transit visa. 

After we climbed back on the bus we had to wait for everyone to finish with immigration.  The bus kept inching forward while people hounded us a the window to buy more goods.  Rob reached down and bought some cookies.  Finally the young woman who we had helped came running onto the bus, short of breath.  She was talking frantically to the bus driver and ticket taker but they were shaking their heads and trying to get her off the bus.  The young boy was no where in sight.  It looked like something had gone wrong with her paperwork, which didn't surprise me since it seemed rather thin when I filled out her form. Still she looked so young and desperate we couldn't help but feel sorry for her.  Rob wondered if we should intervene but I resisted.  One bit of advice that stuck in my mind from the State Department was not to intervene in disputes between local people and the authorities.  There was really no way for us to know the facts behind what was going.  It was difficult because the corruption in some places was so apparent.

As the bus took off into Uganda we quickly picked up speed and were nearly flying along the highway.  It was easier to just not look and I had to admit that nerves were hardening.  Worrying just becomes too tiring to maintain over eight hours.  Just beyond the border, at the nearest town, we let off a small group of tourists and weren't back on the road very long when a taxi came reeling up behind us, honking.  The bus pulled over and a woman climbed aboard. Apparently she had missed picking up the bus at the border.  There ended up being an extended hassle with her taxi driver because he claimed that she hadn't paid him enough.  The bus driver wouldn't move until it was sorted out.  It took a few minutes but she finally handed over some additional money and we were on our way again.  Our toilet break was as the same flashy place with the hole in the middle of the cement slab.  I just went straight for the men's room which was still pretty unpleasant but at least it wasn't THAT public.

The relief of ending our blazing bus ride aside, I was just glad to see Kampala again.  We hadn't really done all that much while we were there the first time but the city had somehow become comfortable to us.  For one, it probably had the best assortment of restaurants we'd seen in any African city since Cape Town and it also had a comfortable and very cheap hotel.  Arriving in a city that was already familiar took so much edge off of the experience. We already knew where we would stay and that it was okay.  We already had a restaurant picked out for dinner and were looking forward to it. There were no surprises.  Even the taxi hassle at the bus station wasn't a surprise.  They saw us coming and said "There are a couple of clueless new muzungu tourists with more money than me and too much luggage... chaaaaching!"  And, that was mostly true, except for the clueless part.  We already knew the going rate for a taxi ride between the bus station and our hotel and once you know you don't let yourself get taken.  The first couple tried to charge us double so we scoffed and walked away. It was almost always the case that taxi drivers that lurked around tourist areas were lazy or too smart for their own good.  They were willing to sit and wait all day to gouge an unsuspecting tourist instead of working the odds and racking up normal fares during the day.  Too often it must pay off so it may be a good strategy but on the days that it doesn't pay off there might not be as much on the table for dinner.  We dragged our bags a half of a block away and I stood with them while Rob went to negotiate a cab.  It took him a few minutes before we got a reasonable fare but it worked out.   Back at the hotel we were able to get the same room we had before, dumped our bags, and walked up to Antonio's for some halal Mexican plates. 

ZANZIBAR Stone Town July 11 July 12-14 Nungwi July 15-18 Stone Town I: July 19-23 II: July 19-23 Paje July 23-27 Stone Town July 27-Aug 1

TANZANIA Dar Es Salaam Aug 1-3 Moshi I: Aug 3-31 II: Aug 3-31 III: Aug 3-31 Safari Circuit Aug 17 Aug 18 Aug 19 Aug 20 Aug 21 Mt. Kilimanjaro Aug 23 Aug 24 Aug 25 Aug 26 Aug 27 Aug 28

KENYA Nairobi Sept 1 Sept 2 Sept 3 Sept 4-5

UGANDA Kampala Sept 6 Sept 7-16 Kampala Short Stories

RWANDA Kigali Sept 16 Sept 17 Ruhengeri Sept 18 Sept 19 Gisenyi Sept 20 Kigali Sept 21 Sept 22

UGANDA Kampala Sept 23 Sept 24-26