Last weekend we went to Jinja, the second largest town in Uganda. We're going back in two weeks to go whitewater rafting on the Nile, but last weekend we just went for a change of scenery. It was certainly an adventure. We decided to take a matatu (van taxi that seats 14) for the two hour drive because it was the cheapest option. It turns out to have been a big mistake. We caught the taxi at the taxi park, and then sat in it for almost two hours as we waited for another eight passengers to fill it up. When we finally got going, after putting more air in the tires and gas in the tank, we still stopped every 500 feet or so to let people off and/or recruit new passengers. Nonetheless, I noticed some interesting things along the route:
- At the taxi park, a crazy man amused us with his karate skills, which were actually quite limited but still amusing.
- The taxi park also serves as a mobile mall. People walk around with their arms full of items such as newspapers, baby dresses, underwear, wallets, socks, etc. Really anything you would never want to buy in this manner (yes, I meant never).
- Every 100-200 feet for long stretches there were piles of cassava laid out to dry along the highway.
- We passed women in rice patties and bean fields completing there work with babies and young children strapped to their backs. No baby sitters here...
- At one point, a man started sprinting behind our van to catch it while the drive slammed on the brakes and veered off the road to wait for him. Then he didn't even get in because he didn't want to go to Jinja
When we finally reached Jinja five hours after getting in the taxi, we settled in for a low key weekend. We had a relative good lunch at the hotel, minus the bill issues at the end. Two people ordered ice cream for dessert. Technically, ice cream alone wasn't on the menu. It was ice cream and cake for 4,500=, but they were out of cake so the waitress said we could have ice cream for 3,000/=. Then when the bill came, she still charged us 4,500/= for the ice cream and, after much arguing and pretending like she didn't know what we were talking about, she told us that she didn't have the authority to set a price for the item. We decided to calm down from this experience by hanging out at the pool (and of course watching some of the World Cup). We then had another 5 hours long dinner. Just another example of the slow pace of life in Uganda. We sat down to dinner around 8 or a little after, and didn't leave until nearly 11:30. Aside from the long wait time for the food to arrive, nothing ever comes out at the same time. By the time one person's meal comes, someone else has finished eating. We've done away with the niceties of waiting for everyone's food to arrive because then only one person's food will be hot(ish). We were going to go out dancing after, but everyone was exhausted after our ordeal of meal. Better for me because I got to watch the end of the US-England match!
Sunday morning we checked out of the hotel around 10am and went to explore Jinja town. Of course, it was Sunday so most things weren't open. We finally found a place called Flavours (also known as Muzungu town) to eat a really good breakfast. By the time we finished, some craft shops had opened so we all did a lot of shopping (though I think I did the most...good thing nothing is very expensive). I got some awesome gifts and souvenirs, though I do still have a few more things to get when we go back for rafting. Jinja is the place to get souvenirs because they're are so many shops and it's cheaper than anywhere else. In Mbale, we only have one crafts store.
We hesitantly caught another taxi back to Mbale. We really wanted to catch a bus because we didn't want to repeat our experience on the way to Jinja, but we weren't sure when any were coming. We got some assistance from some locals to make sure we got in the right taxi. They told us to climb into a van that looked completely full to me. When will I ever learn that there's no such thing as a full vehicle in Uganda. By the time we were all in, there were 20 people plus driver in a 14 seater van. Thankfully, this driver was much better than our first one. We made it home in 2 hours, bought some delicious jackfruit from town, and had a nice evening at home/watching the World Cup. (This was also the day of the awkward situation with Tom which has since been resolved. And by resolved I mean never discussed but last time we were at Mbale Resort he paid for his drink before I even paid for mine, so I guess what I did worked).