The rest of the group arrived into camp later in the afternoon after what sounded like a hot, sweaty and tiresome bike ride. We were excited that the group was young and surprised at the number of Kiwi’s onboard as we introduced ourselves to everyone; New Zealanders; Pete, Jay, Andy, Emma, Tim, Michele and Craig; Aussies; Olivia and Jessie; and Brit’s; Louise, Nathan and Issy. Everyone was on long-term trips either taking an extended holiday after living in the UK, on their way to live in London, taking a break before starting University, or just because they could!
Jinja is famous for three things; Nile Special Beer, one of Africa’s finest, Dictator Idi Amin’s brutal expulsion of the Asian community in 1972, and being the town nearest to the “source” of the Nile River. At over 6650km long, The Nile is the world’s longest river snaking its way from Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest water mass, at Jinja, then winding its way through Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea, taking the water three months to travel from this “source” to the sea. The White Nile is the section from Jinja, while the Blue Nile begins its course in Eritrea and Ethiopia with the two joining in Khartoum, Sudan, converging to become The Nile River. The “source” of the White Nile is a disputed subject, as the headwaters of Lake Victoria actually lie much further south in the countries of Rwanda and Burundi, where they say the Nile actually begins.
One of the highlights of time in Jinja is spending a few hours on a boat floating along the Nile, whether on a kayak or a motored canoe. Our tour offered an optional extra to go on a sunset booze cruise for the ridiculous price of USD$45 each on what we coined the “double-decker dingy” owned by the camp. As soon as you walk out of the camp compound you are hounded for “taxi, taxi”, “boda-boda” by the locals waiting ever so patiently with their vehicles. One eternally smashed, seedy gentleman, going by the name of Tom kept accosting us to go on his boat, not trusting this chap one bit we just ignored him. Finally Pete found someone more comprehensible and checked out the boat to make sure we would all fit, and of course that it floated. With an Esky/Cool Box/ Chilly Bin loaded with booze, we jumped on the long wooden “canopied canoe” saving ourselves a commendable USD$38 each! We were joined by a crew of four young local guys, gladly without Tom. The guides took us fishing at two spots on the Nile River, with Tim managing to catch an impressive Nile Perch which was unintentionally donated to the locals, while we enjoyed the tranquility of being on the water with the locals out swimming, bathing and fishing as the sun began to set over the hills by the river.
What is usually a peaceful community turned into an outrageous kid-fest as every child in the village came screaming for us “muzungu, muzungu”! East African’s have taken to calling white people or foreigners “muzungu” an affectionate term which in Swahili translates to “aimless wanderer”, apparently this is what we look like when we are traveling and lost. Our guides Maurice and Paulo on the riverboat told us the kids look at “white people” as important people and want to smell and touch us, so when we visit their village they go wild for us like we are celebrities. The kids stole the show, they were everywhere, popping out of the bushes, jumping on our backs, grabbing our hands and swinging off us like human jungle gyms.
As we headed back the way we came to Jinja from Kampala we stopped at local market on the side of the road to buy fruit and vegetables and sample a local delicacy of “Chick-on-a-stick”, basically a chicken leg on a skewer stick. You have to try everything at least once, well at least Treeny does Iain, but when you arrive at a disheveled, grimy market, and see twenty-odd people wandering along the side of the road waving “Chick-on-a-stick” and demanding you buy it, you start to question your motives, do I really want to try this? Is this what is going to make me sick with Africa Belly? After much hesitation Treeny, joined by Pete, went for it. The verdict? It was horrid. While some of you may have enjoyed it, the meat was cold and fatty, slimy and pink, “...this wasn’t a good idea”. You’ll be happy to know Treeny has a stomach of steel, and as she boarded the bus after disposing the wretched “Chick” she prayed to the African Gods not to let this crush her insides...the praying worked, she lived to tell the tale.
Eventually we arrived in Entebbe, just outside of the city by Lake Victoria, to another camp compound. We were beginning to realise the reality of living in Africa as we spotted more and more homes and businesses surrounded by enormous walls and masses of barbed wire. Frank the owner of the backpackers in Entebbe says thieves are rampant in these parts. It cost him 30 million shillings (USD$12,000) to building the high block wall around his compound and 2 million shillings for security cameras. But the thieves have become clever, renting out cabins as “visitors” and in the dark of the night they will break into the tents, grab whatever they can, throw it over the fence to their friends waiting on the other side, then run away without paying for the room. Frank loses money either way, because now he has had to stop renting out cabins when the overland trucks are in to keep the thieves at bay. He gave us a brief warning to be careful of our belongings and reiterated the importance of not leaving anything valuable in our tents, ever!
Arriving into Mbarara, a busy industrial town in western Uganda, teeming with noisy motorbikes, we realised we had already been in Africa for a week! Despite being in Uganda for seven days we were itching to get out and do more activities, we felt the week had gone by really fast and we hadn’t done very much except for visiting the village in Jinja and the sunset boat trip on the Nile. We couldn’t wait to get to our next destination to spot some African Animals.
Next stop we go on our first game drive and cruise in Queen Elizabeth National Park…
Click here to view our photo gallery of Jinja to Mbarara.