Day 12- Masai Mara to Kampala- Part 1

Today was a driving day, to make the long haul from Kenya to the capital of Uganda, Kampala. 

In Africa you can only go by km, not time, because time is relative here…and when the truck can only go 40-50mph (my guess), it takes a while to get anywhere!

Brekky was 6am for a 7am departure, but in the end we were so efficient we left 20 minutes early which is not common. We made our trip into a race between us and the other truck- a very full ATC tour (we are just using their trucks, but that is technically ATC’s tour). We have really never spoken to/ don’t know any of them, but it is an important race to win nonetheless 🙂

It was toast and peanut butter for me again- this seems to be working for me so I am not going to change it. I am starting to feel better now, still not normal- but I can tell the cipro is working and I didn’t feel crappy…though I was a bit worried I would not get my strength up for the vigorous gorilla hike. Good thing I had a few days until then.

There was a lot of road to cover, though thankfully most of it would be paved today! You have no idea how much basic pavement makes your life 1,000 times easier!? It really is a marvel- and so much of Africa is unpaved and will likely remain that way for many years to come. Kristoffer said people must need their shocks serviced monthly here- I agree.

The landscape was the typical, light gray dirt and scrubby brush most of the way out of Kenya and many of the towns were pretty similar. We stopped at one for the public toilets, but the bathroom literally had no water- not for the toilets and not for the sinks…it seems the very definition of establishing a public toilet would require that at LEAST the toilets have water, but no…not here 😉 Africa is always surprising!

Many km and towns later, we had a bathroom break again. This time we were in kind of a busy area and it was a bit odd of a place to “check the tires”, but nonetheless many of us had to go. 

We crossed the road and basically went into this park or orchard kind of setting and found a place to go. At this stage, Paige was still having trouble with the environment and lack of privacy, so I lent her my poa shawl which I had Bryan cover me up with the day before when there were NO bushes and I couldn’t go where the other girls did…I had told Bryan not to look or listen as he made a shield  with the wind and his body and the poa. I was really glad I choose my new, more opaque poa to bring that day, than the typical sheer one I was considering…also, thankfully, like a good friend, Marina so kindly documented this lovely event for me. At least you couldn’t see my bum!

Anyway, this helped Paige a lot and I told her any time, I will save her butt 😉

During this stop as everyone was out doing their thing, some kids wandered up to the truck. They waved and then stood there in anticipation. I had my toys with me- two Transformers which were appropriate for that age boy…

We tired to coax them closer to the truck and since they didn’t want to I tossed the toys to them, meaning nothing other than to give them space. It didn’t occur to me to go get up and go down to them and give them the toys, because in my mind we were getting back on the truck and preparing to leave. Moses (kindly) scolded me and asked me not to throw them, which made me feel terrible- but he clearly saw I meant no harm. I felt really bad, but thankfully I don’t think the kids thought about it as much as it wasn’t a considerate gesture that I would not repeat.

Two slightly older boys came over and the only thing I had for them were sunglasses, so I asked Bryan to grab them for me, as I was trying to them how the Transformers changed. I had meant to practice and show them as I handed them out, but had not, so I was pretty clueless about how to do it. I realized there were “instructions” in the form of a diagram in the packaging- and that they had just thrown the packaging on the ground, so I went around collecting the package and found the little form to show them.

By then, Moses came out to help interpret the instructions. The kids still looked confused but whatever, a robot toy is still fun…I hope that was good for them.

As we pulled away of course the bigger, older kids had commandeered the items and were holding them over the heads of the others. I can only hope that they would make sure to share eventually, especially as they grew tired of the items. It was a nice try.

By now the landscape was changing, getting greener and more hilly. Banana plants were everywhere, eventually turning into tea plantations. 

We stopped at one (where apparently on previous tours, the ATC tours camped) called the Exotic House. It was next to a tea plantation and had pretty, manicured grounds. It seems this is a place for weddings and banquets- maybe it’s a hotel too? Though beautiful, I will say for such a fancy place, the bathrooms did not compare. By far, not the worst, but didn’t have soap- and that’s definitely the difference between “just anywhere” and “fancy”.

Back on the road, the terrain was getting more hilly. One of the plantations was absolutely enormous and Mat said he thought it was the Lipton one, which is in this area. I had no idea so much tea was grown in Africa. I guess I don’t know where I thought it was grown, but this was a bit of a surprise.

In the fields they leave a few trees here and there- acacia, which are nitrogen fixers and replenish the ground when the plants suck all the nutrients out. This helps keep the ground more fertile for continued planting- and i imagine the pickers don’t mind when they have to pick under a tree when it’s hot out.

There were people out in the fields with large baskets on their backs where they collected the tea leaves- some had rubber aprons on of sorts. It is hard to imagine that 99% of the tea is picked by hand, by so many people…it’s a mind boggling thing- but here a machine would be too expensive and not do as good a job.

The immature fields have definition around each bush, but the more mature fields have grown together and appear as one large carpet of bushes. It doesn’t seem possible to move down the rows, but sure enough, they can fit…the next challenge we’d see is how steep the hills are where they plant the tea and whether those fields could really be navigated without just tumbling down the hill!

The hills started to get steeper and the fields became terraced and reminded us of Madagascar. Between these fields and the banana plants, the area is just so lush, green and really a beautiful sight. It’s not often agriculture can look so beautiful, but here it indeed does.

There are also forested areas, which was perhaps even more surprising. Small patches here and there of very straight, tall trees- eucalyptus. They are very thirsty trees and can draw water from deep down, helping make a dry area able to be farmed. Mat said they helped make Israel farm-able by doing this…based on the serious greenery around, it seems to work.

The weather in general has been nice- moderate- here, not like the previous “surface of the sun” experience. It can get really hot midday, but still overall it’s been moderate and comfortable and I haven’t had to hide from the sun at all really.

It started to rain, HARD and I can only imagine how hard this was for Steve, our driver. As we started to gain elevation also it started to cool down quite a bit.

The road we were on is a busy, commercial highway- a major thoroughfare. Trucks go from Nairobi to Kampala delivering supplies. We came to a town where we needed to get some supplies so Shabani could make our meals. I think when most tourists get out of the truck they get looks, but that’s certainly the case with Bryan and I- and Kristoffer (especially) and Paige.

Kristoffer is small and slender with a mop of black hair on top, and his clothes are definitely not from the Gap. He also has some earrings that are kind of tribal and stretch his lobes just a little. People here seem to identify with this a bit- and at the Masai village one guy even showed him his drooping ear lobes were big enough to flip up and over the top of his ear!

We also wanted to get some supplies in the way of ciders, etc for the evening as the next place we were going to didn’t have a bar. This isn’t that important in general (for us) but sure it’s nice to have some wine or whatever.

After asking around we were directed to the second floor of a pretty rundown building. The stairs were the craziest I have ever seen! Not only was the pattern on the floor a crazy giraffe like one, but each star was a different height and width, the front edge of the steps were not at right angles to the wall. I was just about to warn everyone when Bryan tripped and fell forward, though didn’t hurt himself. They were hard to manage totally sober, I cannot fathom how anyone does them without rolling down if they have had a few/ too much to drink!

We walked in and it was dark and was clearly a bar, not a liquor store. The lights were dim and just some neon ones providing ambiance and music was pumping. It was empty except for one booth full of people- and the bar was a giant cage with no tender. There were multiple bottles of each thing, providing an indication that maybe they did sell by the bottle…but a few of us had to go to the bathroom before worrying about buying anything.

I must say this has to be one of the worst/ scariest bathrooms I have ever been in. There was really no determination of men or women and the whole things seemed like they tried to fit it in a closet. The floor was super slick, and I was skating to the stall- and I can only guess that perhaps none of that I was walking in was water? In their defense however, people here often mop a little obsessively, creating these rinks you must glide across to get to the toilet…although I am thinking, not the case here 😉

It was a stupid eastern toilet, with which i really still have mixed feelings about- and it was not clean. There was definitely no soap here 😉 I took a picture but the flash makes it look bright and shiny and does not at all convey the gruesome reality at all.

When we got back into the club, Paige and Kristoffer were seated in the booth with the occupants and pictures were being taken left and right. Marina was chatting someone up as well, it was pretty funny. The people in the booth wanted their pics taken with Kris and Paige, so they became the attraction as the tables were turned. 

The barkeep came back in and opened the cage so we could get what we needed…and just like that, it was over. But it was really funny to have just gone to the bathroom and suddenly everyone’s hanging out 😉 Thankfully we navigated the stairs without any incidents and got back out onto the street, in the bright sun and piled back on the truck.

We made it to our campsite in Eldoret (sp?) called Greenwood Camp. This looked a lot like the Exotic House but was nicer and definitely also a hotel. The grounds were beautiful and so were the little buildings, somewhat Italian Renaissance inspired. They had a few room upgrades which most people were inclined toward, but Bryan and I didn’t really care. Sometimes I really need an upgrade and sometimes I am ambivalent. It wasn’t expensive- only $15 for a room with a shared bathroom- and at one point we gave in to everyone as it seemed like NO ONE was tenting, but when we found out Dave and Janet were still camping we went back to the original plan…but had not considered the impending rain in that decision!

Pretty much as soon as we set up the tents it started raining- not hard- but I really don’t like wet grass, especially in flip flops (to get to the bathroom), so that was kind of lame. 

I hadn’t had a proper shower for a couple days, so I was hoping these would be good- and they were, although I picked the one with the eastern toilet in the floor. Basically some of the toilet stalls were also showers- this I was ot keen on…but there was one shower with a normal floor so I snagged it before anyone else could. 

The shower was even hot, which was a small miracle for sure 😉 But as we’d arrived in the early evening, I didn’t want to go to bed with wet hair though as it had been cold at night- so I didn’t wash my hair although would have liked to. It was still full of dust- although this acted like dry shampoo and it didn’t LOOK so bad haha.

It was time for dinner which was soup served first, then veggies with rice. I don’t know if have mention the deliciousness soup, which is a huge oversight, as we all swear they are the best we have ever had! It doesn’t matter what flavor, they are all delicious and we really look forward to it every night. I think Shabani should have a cookbook, but he said he has never written them down!? We may have to change that! And I have made him very aware that he will be returning to the US with us to continue cooking us soup 😉

At this point it was dark and pouring so we all headed to bed. It was an early call time again- and morning comes sooner than you anticipate!


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