Monday, July 19, 2010

From Gulu

We arrived in Gulu last night around 8:30 after a 6hr drive – which was only two hours over schedule – from Kampala. Luckily during the drive we only had one little set back. Sometime around 5 or 6pm, as I was drifting in and out of consciousness, a frighteningly loud bang got my heart racing and my eyes wide open. Our rear left side tire disintegrated throwing a large chunk of rubber off. It only took about 20 or 30 minutes to swap out the spare and get back on the road. On a whole the trip was rather reasonable. The roads were in relatively good shape and there was only a little construction. However our drive from Queen Elizabeth National Park to Kampala on Saturday was an 11 hour calamity.

We started Saturday off on a bad note when our chimp tracking expedition in the Kyambura (Chyam-bora) gorge turned up no chimps – and the local definition of Kyambura is: to look and not find. After our failed tracking attempt we got on the road to Kampala around 11am. Within a few minutes we pulled over so Andi, who decided to play in the dirt during our time in the gorge, could step out of the car and washer her hands off. While we were sitting there a passerby pointed out that our rear right tire was low. I opened the door and stuck my head out and I could hear the tire leaking. Unfortunately the spare was already on the car because Tabu (Steve’s driver) got a flat on the way to Fort portal. So the spare was the leaking tire and the other one was worthless.

We were told there was a gas station about a kilometer away. After about a kilometer our driver Tabu asked a guy on the road how much further it was, he said about two more kilometers. After stopping and asking about a half dozen times we finally reached a little road side boda-boda repair shop, about six kilometers later. After about 45mins – during which time Andi was the object of affection for the local boda-boda drivers, one even wrote his phone number in the dust on her window - they patched the leaky spare and we got back on the road.

Within 20 kilometers we were at a larger tire place and the tire was leaking again. This happened two more times before were back on the road with a new(ish) tire and a usable spare. But once the tire issue was sorted the road wasn’t any more hospitable. Beside the damned speed bumps – which are either so big you could get air hitting them too fast, or so small and close together they could shake a car apart – the dust on the road was like driving in a blizzard; except you can’t taste a blizzard.

All this nonsense ended up turning a six hour drive into an eleven hour one. So the six hours to Gulu was a breeze comparatively. But everything here takes just a little bit longer – or a lot bit longer – than it should. This is, after all, Africa.

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