I wake up bolt upright in my hotel bed, a cold sweat, headache, shivering slightly, feeling sick and with sore blistered hands. All my doubts and worries about my big trip next year flood over me and despair sets in. Next year I plan to quit my job, leave my girlfriend and home and for what? For this? I plan to cycle through Africa for one and a half years and here I am in Uganda broken after one and a half days.
I’m sunburned and suspect I have sunstroke, I knew I should have been more suspicious of the factor “50” sunblock I bought in Entebbe. I do my best to drink lots of water and take a cold painful shower. I look in the mirror and think, so much for the tough guy in Africa, I’m in a hotel already and not looking much better for it. The leaflet on the bedside table tells me the hotel has an all day buffet for 10,000 shillings (€3). Still feeling sick I decide to give it a go, after all I haven’t eaten since breakfast, and my appetite still hasn’t caught up with my legs needs.
The buffet is a collection of potatoes, veg and meat which 3 hours ago was probably overcooked, but after the whole day on a hot plate keeping it just above room temperature its even less appetizing. However I need the calories, I need to eat, please Shane don’t be sick in the restaurant, its just not cool.
I have an early night, feeling sorry for myself I fall asleep hoping that the misery of living “my dream”, will be over tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll wake up with Shane the optimist, the adventurer and friend I love, instead of this miserable git I loath.
For 15 minutes, 2 strangers, worlds apart have contact and a brief glimpse into each others lives, with respect for each others values and dreams.
The cockerels tell me its dawn. My head is clearer, I’m feeling less sick and my hands are only numb. I take a shower knowing it will be the last for a couple of days. Looking in the mirror I see an old friend. I smile and say “hey mate nice to see your back”. He looks back at me and says “this is awesome, its day 3 and we’ve already had the miserable day”. Always the optimist, he winks and says “lets go have some fun”. 60 minutes, a strange breakfast and a pot of tea later, we hit the road.
The next couple of days are cycling dusty dirt roads under the equatorial sun. The roads are constant short steep climbs and descents on potholed and rutted roads/tracks which could challenge your average Sunday afternoon “mountainbiker”. The midday sun brings the temperature quickly up to 35-40 degrees. I bounce, crunch and grind my way along the track through banana plantations, savanna and jungle. This is more like it, this is the suffering I enjoy.
Along the road locals constantly wave and shout "Mzungu (white man)¸ ‘ow are you, I am fine". I stop from time to time in a village for a snack or cola. Within minutes 20-30 people surround me, curious, staring, bold children even touch me then run away. Some mothers run to collect their young children and bring them to look at the Mzungu.
I stop for a break and a boy of about 15 years stops to chat with me. It takes me a couple of minutes to get used to his English. We share a couple of dry tasteless biscuits I bought in the last village and talk for 15 minutes. Joseph tells me he is a shepherd in the morning for his families’ herd of goats and cows and in the afternoon he goes to school. Unfortunately it takes him about 2 years to do every school year because he’s only there part time. For 15 minutes, 2 strangers, worlds apart have contact and a brief glimpse into each others lives, with respect for each others values and dreams. We say goodbye and both head back into our own world.
I stealth camp in the evening, which is tricky. I hope to find a spot unseen, even though I’m not expecting trouble from the locals. That said with Uganda’s history its still intimidating when you see five 20 year olds walking as a group with machetes in hand even if they are only on their way home from work.
I stand in the cool stream of water from a half full 5 litre jerrycan which is the shower in the dirty smelly bathroom This is the best shower of my life. I cry, I have never been so happy.
Shane Little cycled for a month in Uganda during the run up to the 2011 elections as a trial run for his big trip. Read more here.
In recent years while living and working in the Netherlands, Shane rediscovered his passion for cycling. Later this year, he will leave his home, work and girlfriend to fulfill his dream by cycling home from Cape Town over a year or two. Follow his progress on Facebook, Twitter or on his website: http://www.shanecycles.com/africa
I have a restless night, I’m still not totally comfortable with camping “wild”, I prefer to have the “safety” of a campsite and just put my earplugs in for the noise. I’m startled awake at 3am, its dark and I hear footsteps, “shit, what happens if I’m on someone’s grazing area and he heard me snoring and doesn’t like trespassers”. An hour later all the cows have munched their way past my tent.
The next evening, its almost dark, I’m really tired and sore after lugging my 40kg bike up hills, through farmers fields and banana plantations. If only I hadn’t been so stubborn and had turned back earlier after the wrong turn. I’ve cycled, walked, pushed and pulled my bike 90km today over some of the worst roads I’ve ever ridden, I need sleep! The roads are still full of people, the election caravan passed an hour ago so everyone is on the move. Luckily after dark everyone disappears like cockroaches from a torch light, Africa sleeps. I see a dark spot just 10m from the road, just big enough for my tent. Hmm, this is probably someone’s land. I’m past caring, if someone wants to murder me in the morning that’s fine, at least I’ll have had a good night’s sleep.
No cockerels this morning, instead the sound of machetes in wood and corn. I unzip my tent door and look outside at the 3 farmers. I give them a polite and slightly nervous smile and wave. They wave back and one says, “good morning Mzungu”. Guess I won’t be getting murdered this morning.
After three sweaty and dusty days I’m ready for a shower and cold beer so push onto Kyenjojo. I walk into the reception of a big pink hotel, order a cold beer and ask if they have a room. 15 minutes later the lady returns to tell me they’re full… As I leave the hotel I see a tourist sitting on the steps, we chat and I ask if he knows of other options in town. He tells me the other hotels are either very bad or $50 (way over my budget). He then offers some floor space in his small apartment in town warning that it isn’t much of a place. Once again while travelling I’m saved by the kindness of a complete stranger.
He was right, his place isn’t much, its small, the bathroom is filthy, smells of stale water and the toilet is outside. But after 3 hard sweaty days on dusty roads, I’ve had a nice meal and a couple of warm beers with a complete stranger. I stand in the cool stream of water from a half full 5 litre jerrycan which is the shower in the dirty smelly bathroom.
This is the best shower of my life. I cry, I have never been so happy.
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