Spent the day at work until Mum and Caroline collected me at 4:15pm - let the adventure begin!
The journey to the airport felt just like any other, not really excited or nervous just an airport trip like any other for work - but when we arrived and waved Mum off, it suddenly became real! We were going to
Africa, and I couldn't wait.
We had 3 hours at the airport until the plant took off, so decided to do a bar crawl of the lounges - Caroline had not been to BA's Terminal 5 at Heathrow before, so we started in the South lounges with food wine and nibbles before heading over to the lounge at B gates for Baileys, Bloody Mary's and Rum.
We boarded the plane on time, but unfortunately a couple of people had checked their bags in but failed ot turn up at the gate, inconsiderate gits, so we were delayed an hour on the tarmac whilst their bags were retrieved and removed from the plane. Once we were finally airborn, we quickly became chilled (pissed) and happy (ridulously excited). Dinner was served, wine was stashed and giggles were had. The eight and a half hour flightwas a mixture of micro sleeps, random questions, lots of giggling and a soggy tuna sandwich for breakfast!?!. We touched down just after 8am in
airport and joined the visa queue which was remarkably quick and easy. $100 US dollars lighter we were formally in the country and searched the crowds for our names on a board. Entebbe
No name board in sight, we headed outside, where Godfrey was waiting for us - such a relief, all was going to plan.
Godfrey took us in his jeepand we loaded up all 4 of our suitcases and left on the main road to
the capital, stopping first to change some money. Within the space of 15 minutes I had become a millionaire when $500 turned into 1,100,000 Ugandan Shillings! Kampala
The 30 minute drive to the central city bus depot was an eye-opener for sure - not too many traffic lights, no roundabouts and zero lane discipline. We eventually made it to a chaotic and busy bus station where a Kibale-bound bus (the only one leaving that day) was full to the brim and about to leave. It was 930am, Godfrey worked his magic and managed to get us and all our luggage on the bus with help from two of his friends who assured us the driver now knew where we were going. We were the only Mzungus (white people) on the bus - in fact the only Mzungus we had seen since leaving the airport - and we got the distinct impression that the two standing Ugandans had been turfed out of their seats to make way for us - seriously shameful feeling.
I found a seat next to a 23 year old girl who was going to Kibale for her cousin's wedding and Caroline was squashed on the end of a row with a young single mother and her 12 week old baby called "Peace" and another bloke on his way to Kibale. The bus was hot, smelly and jam packed full of people, luggage, groceries and bananas. Knowing we had at least 5 hours on the bus we were no longer particulary excited! However, we set off with windows open and very soon the smells were flushed out and it became quite chilly.
Many people slept while others chatted or listened to the incredibly loud radio blaring out above our heads. An odd guy calling himself "Dr Bride" clambered the aisle almost preaching about Ebola, faith and
and dishing out menthol medicated throut sweets before we left the city centre and entered lush countryside and things quietened down. Uganda
There were a few stops along the way during which people would thrust barbequed meat on skewers and chapatis in clear plastic bags up to the windows - we finally stopped for a "short call" (pee-stop) after about 2 and a half hours - not a moment too soon as far as I was concerned. We both clambered over the baggage wedged in the aisle much to the amusement of the locals who were clearly thinking... look the Mzungus are going to go too! Thankfully we had read about these stops and were suitably attired in long skirts... however in hindsight, we should have ditched the knickers to make life easier (and dryer in Caroline's case!). I have to say I've never experienced anything quite so imtimidating, funny or bizarre as that short call. We were walking towards the scrub and could feel a hundred pairs of eyes burning into the back of our heads, but desperation meant we had no choice. 30 people, men, women and children, all squatting randomly around us with not a care in the world - they were everywhere, in full view, males and females mixed - there was no hiding at all... "just get on with it" I told myself. So Caroline and I, side by side, manouvered ourselves into position facing the bus but partially hidden by long grass. Im not sure whether it was the amound of time we had been holding it for, or being surrounded by complete strangers, but to our horror, we both got stage fright - nightmare. Not now, please - we knew we had another 3 hours o nthe bus at least - we had to get it done. Eventually after a major balancing act, a soggy patch on Caroline's skirt and endless giggling, our mission was accomplished - and just in time too - we had barely made it back to our seats when the bus was off again, bumping over potholes and veering from side to side through endless banana plantations and grassy swampland.
The recent rains had washed so much of the road away in places, that sleep was impossible... we'd drop off and 5 minutes later we'd be woken up as we hit another mammoth pothole and were catapulted towards the roof! The bus journey was long, tiring and uncomfortable, but I don't think either of us would have missed it for the world - a top experience indeed.
When we drive through Mbarara, we telephoned Denis, the manager at the Lodge, to tell him we were on a blue bus and should be arriving within the hour - he said that although he wasn't going to be there to greet us, people were waiting for us.
Sure enough the plan was perfect and within hlaf an hour we were saying our goodbyes to our fellow bus travellers and humping our luggage out of boot number 2. Restee, a Lady working at the Lodge, met us along with Sam, another volunteer from
Cheltenham. We'd finally made it, it was 415pm - exactly 24 hours since our departure. Shattered, hot, and smelly - but very happy. The place is more beautiful than we imagined and as remote as we had hoped.