Ok so now I get it. After 6 weeks of smelly and loud, very loud Kampala we finally climbed aboard the Beast and headed to Jinja. Jinja is the second biggest town in Uganda, it is about an hour and a half from Kampala and it sits on the mouth of the Nile. A backpacking industry has gathered on the banks of the Nile, offering world class river rafting, kayaking, horse back riding, Quad biking and for the people who do not envy those young overly imbibed 20 somethings, the gentle relaxation of a glass of wine beside an astonishing view. Within 20 minutes of leaving Kampala I was confronted with the colour green. Suddenly a land of green and plenty, gentle rolling hills of tea and sugar cane dotted with small villages and the bluest widest sky loomed ahead. This was a different Uganda.
I met my husband on the Red Sea but we fell in love on the Nile. Literally. We sailed a Feluka from Aswan to Luxor under a still giant moon. That was a gentle long Nile, not very wide, but teeming with life. We were constantly amazed at how small children swam and submerged themselves in the filthy water. The Nile was a water highway, filled with boats, large and small.
17 and a half years later we were back at the Nile, but this Nile was wide, mighty and wild. Its waters licked the red earth and strained to reach the green pastures. It groaned as it pressed against the Owen Dam, angry that is was refused entry to the wilder rapids beyond. Egrets and Cormorant birds flew from rock to rock while the Nile perch and Tilapia played deep below. It was marvelous to imagine that each drop of water would eventually spill into the Mediterranean 4132 miles away.
Our hotel was perched rather precariously on a cliff. We booked ourselves into a family Banda ( small house ) but once the infestation of cockroaches was revealed we stomped out with all the indignation that Trooper and Princess could muster. Cockroaches, I was brave about, but cockroaches inside the mosquito nets was a deal breaker. Once the flouncing and stomping ended we were directed by management to new quarters. We spent the night squeezed into a magical tent. All zipped up and tucked into bed; we could hear the roar of the Nile nearly a mile below. My outside shower faced an expanse of water that caressed two banks. It is a truly peaceful and happy place.
On the way back home, after a few hours spent swimming in the Nile, paddling on a raft and looking at some wild rapids known as Bujogali falls, it was a shock to the senses to hit the smog and congestion of Kampala streets. Just before the turn off to the spanking new high way that wraps around the Northern end of the city, a large truck sat on the Beast. The driver, realizing that he has just missed the turn, decided to reverse his truck to remedy the situation. Unfortunately for all concerned, he reversed straight into us until a chunk of truck was sitting on our bonnet. Poor Beast. As if it wasn’t ugly enough.
I have glimpsed the Pearl of Africa and I can’t wait to go back and explore. Find me the next long weekend and show me the way.