Murchison Falls National Park redux, Day 359

Pied Kingfishers, Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda, Africa

Christi and I are in the last week of our Year of Wonder, although even now our pace does not slacken. Our recent trip to Murchison Falls National Park was fantastic; our return to the Backpacker’s hostel in Kampala less so. The hostel is a rowdy, impersonal kind of place. It is cheap, though, which is why we keep coming back, but we don’t stay long. Indeed after just a single night we’re off again. This time we’re heading west, to the easternmost extension of the Congo Basin. Now the Congo Basin really does sound exotic and dangerous (for reasons other than civil war). Perhaps more dangerous than the Congo Basin, though, is Arua Bus Park in Kampala. Given the choice I’d take the Congo over Arua Park every day of the week. Arua Park truly is a god-forsaken place always jam-packed with vehicles belching out noxious fumes. Quite why a market sneaks along the road and sidewalk here further adding to the congestion is beyond me. Christi and I are both in agreement that Arua Park is hell on earth, while Kampala is a pimple on the asshole of humanity. One should not confuse Kampala with Uganda generally, though, because from what we have seen the country is recovering well from its recent traumas (Note we visited Uganda before laws were introduced to outlaw homosexuality. If found guilty, the penalty is life in prison). Unfortunately any bus that we need to take appears to leave from Arua Park. Today we are taking the Link bus service to Fort Portal, some 200 miles to the west of Kampala.

The first half of the 5-hour journey is blighted by road construction and speed bumps. Our bus driver completely ignores the speed bumps, however, and those of us at the back of the bus are continually thrown out of our seats. (Fast fact. Road construction here as it is in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan is performed by Chinese contractors. Typically, though, the results are not that impressive. What is surprising is that the state of California awarded a multi-billion dollar contract to replace the Yerba Buena Island to Oakland span of the new Bay Bridge to Chinese contractors. The Chinese literally constructed concrete sections of the bridge in China and then shipped them across the Pacific Ocean – and it was still cheaper than anything contractors in the USA could do. Now the quality of the work on the Bay Bridge – well, time will tell…). Anyway, I digress. Actually I do mean to digress, only I thought you might enjoy some quiet reflection on our recent visit to Murchison Falls National Park. I’ve included a few more photos to create a suitably relaxed mood. And while you do that, Christi and I are collecting a fair few bumps and bruises en route to Fort Portal, gateway to the Heart of Darkness.

 

Fort Portal is actually a rather amiable, easy-going place, like a retirement community. I doubt if anything terribly exciting ever happens here in the normal course of events. We taxi from Fort Portal bus station to the Rwenzori Travellers Inn and while we’re checking in there is a tremendous screech of brakes as a truck plows into several vehicles parked on the street outside the hotel, about 10 yards from where we are standing. Perhaps Fort Portal will be more exciting than I had expected! By the way there were no serious injuries in the multi-vehicle pile up. The driver blamed the incident on brake failure. Come to think of it, I’m amazed Christi and I have not been involved in a serious accident in Africa because the roads and the driving here are both dire. Of course now that I’ve said that…

Blog post by Roderick Phillips, author of Weary Heart – a gut wrenching tale of love and test tubes.   

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