Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Ugandan Adventure: Part II: Haiku and Potholes

It appears that several people enjoyed yesterday’s blog. This is both a good and a bad thing: a good thing in the sense that people are more likely to continue to read the blog; a bad thing in the sense that my most hard-core fans (particularly the Polish die-hards who I imagine have already begun quoting verbatim my posts, and have possibly begun to see how the new blog posts are a continuation - fulfilment even - of the short-lived blog of 2009) will inevitably be disappointed by the following. In a way, I feel like the Obama of blogging. Oblogma, maybe?

I arrived in Entebbe, Uganda last Monday after a long overnight flight stopping in Dubai. For much of the journey I was ferociously kicked in the face as I slept by the South African sleeping next to me. That this brute was only two years old and in no way conscious of what he was doing should in no way take away from the indignity suffered upon me. (The wonders of

Lake Victoria, or at least a very photogenic small part of it.
After being picked up from the airport by my driver, Richard, I enjoyed the awesome Lake Victoria, before subsequently enjoying the hotel I was staying at (nicknamed ‘a view of a million dollars’). It was an excellent view, though I paid considerably less than a million dollars (more like thirty). For those eager beavers who have been following my every step, you may remember a picture of the mists enveloping the hills of Kampala. I was moved to write a haiku about it:

The hills are misty

On the hills of Kampala.

Misty are the hills

Admittedly it’s not the best poetry ever written, but as a matter of self-justification I might add that I had had only two hours sleep over the previous forty-eight hours due to the toddler monstrosity. That night I had little sleep due to the arrival of a tropical storm whose thunder and lightning shook awake even a weary traveller like myself. By the time the morning came, I was exhausted. And subsequently came my long, long, long journey to Soroti.

It was once said by a great poet, 'The hills are misty/On the
hills of Kampala'. Very true.

Before I came here, I imagined Uganda as a clay-reddish colour, similar to the hills of Zululand (or at least Zululand as presented in the film ‘Zulu’); I imagined lots of dust, where the occasional tree that emerged on the landscape was leafless and dead. With retrospect, I realise that I was imagining Botswana. Uganda, on the other hand, is astonishingly green, so much so that I (like the British imperialists of the 19th Century) cannot help but be reminded of England (even if it is a little hotter than Blighty…). Flowers bloom, trees are resplendent in their garments of leaves, the grass grows thick (the prose is somewhat purple…). The hills around Kampala (the misty ones, in case you forgot) were once considered as being so similar to what the Victorians imagined as ancient Israel that Uganda was genuinely suggested as a future home for European Jews instead of modern Israel.

It was this greenness that first astonished me on my long, long, long journey to Soroti. I even travelled through a rainforest (which the government is trying to cut down so as to build more sugarcane farms). The second astonishment was the roads. Richard, my driver, had warned me that Uganda roads were bad. Nevertheless, for the first three hours, I thought, ‘Nonsense!’ Even when the occasional pothole came up, I thought this was no worse than English country roads.

‘Richard, my dear friend’, said I, ‘I have seen much worse in the nation of India! This is a fine and veritable example of modern engineering I see before my eyes!’

Dear reader, how wrong I was. Soon, I was thrown up-and-down like the Greek economy, shook from left to right like the Labour Party, even at one point hitting my head on the window, like…well, someone hitting their head on something like a window. Potholes in almost every conceivable shape filled the road. Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head. Some were deep enough to lie down in. Most of the time, it was easier to drive on the dirt track on the side of the road than it was to dodge the frequent manifestations of tarmactic guerrilla warfare. Finally, at one point, we were driving simply on dirt track. Or at least, so I thought. For I realised that I was actually driving through one big pothole, with semblances of road still existing. I looked from pothole to road, and from road to pothole, and from pothole to road again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

Technically, this is not a dirt track, but an elongated pothole.

Though the distance between Kampala and Mbale is six times as long as from Mbale to Soroti, the journeying time for both was equal. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why road taxes are actually a good idea. My arrival in Soroti was, to put it mildly, a relief.

Thus ends today’s instalment. Tune in next time for further fun and excitement from the imaginatively named, ‘Ugandan Adventure’. Still yet to come: weddings, funerals, your narrator being overwhelmed by vicious mobs of five-year-old, your narrator being paid homage to as if he were a tribal chief, Germans, starch, goats and much, much more!



  1. Well, of all the places to end up - Soroti was where I went ... I remember those roads well ... I even captured a video -, though your words are far more poetic!

  2. Haha! I think I might have a video myself of that very same stretch of road! Were you attached to Bishop George in Soroti?