Friday, 15 April 2011
Arriving with the mail on the post bus
We left Kampala by hitching a ride with the post bus to Fort Portal. It was its first outing in over a year and it was donned with red ribbons to celebrate the occasion. We got off to a rocky start as the driver crashed the bus into the one behind while people stood on the pavement sniggered away! This was in spite of someone madly banging on the back of the bus. The driver definitely seemed to have clutch/reversing issues. I couldn’t eat the cake I bought for breakfast for ages, his driving made my mouth go dry.
We were two of only three passengers who boarded the bus in Kampala. It was a real luxury to have the bus almost completely to ourselves, a very unusual situation in Uganda. It was an amazing journey. We saw round huts with thatched roves and cows grazing peacefully on the hillsides. The hills were impossibly green, like an African Switzerland. As we jolted along from one post office to the next, giving out red leaflets about the post bus, people stopped and stared in surprise at this shiny red thing blazing through their countryside complete with a couple of token muzungus. Children ran alongside us and every now and then the driver stopped to ask the way. At each stop people carrying brochettes ran up to the bus and pushed them through the windows.
The obligatory Ugandan pop music videos blared out from a big flatscreen TV at the front of the bus. Kathy learned some new vocal sounds for her African sounds vocabulary ‘eee’ and eakk’ and I learned that you definitely don’t have to be skinny to star in an African music video. We finally arrived with the last mailbag in Fort Portal, a town which lonely planet promised is ‘a postal to great scenery’. After getting hopelessly lost when we arrived we stayed at a small place tucked away down a side street. Definitely not a place accustomed to seeing white women people came out of their rooms to stare at us brushing our teeth or on the way to the toilet.
Talking of which, the toilet really was something else. Shared with the bar and a cross between a flush and squat toilet, it was on a raised platform and positioned at such an angle that it was very difficult to go without falling down it. Worse still the window was low enough that if you didn’t squat down far enough you risked being seen by interested passers by in the compound outside, who were mostly men curious to see if my white ass looked the same as the one on the music video.
Sleep was a real challenge. It seemed that there were loads of late night revellers in Fort Portal with nowhere to sleep and where we were staying was the last stop on a long night of drinking and good times. At 2am I heard very loud banging followed by a quieter banging back on the same gate of roughly the same duration. Could this be a late night Ugandan Morse code?! A couple of hours later at 4am people in the compound started work for the day. Radios were turned on and sweeping brushes were picked up. At 5am a girl sang Britney Spear’s ‘Lucky’ acapella and at 6am someone shouted ‘shhhh’ outside our door.