Thursday, July 26, 2007


Sunday morning we went for a drive. We must remember never to wear a white shirt because, with the windows open, it inevitably turns a dusty red. One of us, also inevitably, forgets. On Sunday it was me, but Entebbe is a dusty place, so I blended right in.

Between Kampala and Entebbe lies urban sprawl, but not like the urban sprawl you might be familiar with in the States. The road is lined with one-story concrete buildings with corrugated tin roofs, some painted bright red or bright yellow, both advertisements for competing cell phone companies. There are occasional gutted structures, held up by dozens of poles made out of cut trees. During the day, people sell produce or meat on a stick from wooden stalls. Women sweep along the side of the road. Small children dart across the busy street.

Since we left early enough and the construction in anticipation of CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) has mostly been completed, we made it to Entebbe in under an hour and in pleasant enough circumstances. Entebbe was once the capital of Uganda and you might associate it with the movie Raid on Entebbe. Aside from the airport, there is little reason now to go there, but J and I thought we would check out the botanical gardens.

With our trusty Bradt guide (thanks, Nana!) on my lap opened to the map of Entebbe, I was prepared to navigate our way to the gardens. However, as none of the roads are marked and what seems like a large, important road on the map is in reality a dusty little side number, we’d gone well past the gardens before J decided we should turn and I was still on the lookout for Hill Lane. My navigating skills have always been negligible anyway, so my uselessness in this regard was not much of a surprise.

When we found the gardens, we paid the man at the gate (about $3 total) and asked if there was a map or anything to help us find our way around. There was nothing. “You cannot get lost,” he said. So we followed the dirt track, which continued to split off in different directions and we chose at random our destination. Finally we pulled the car over to the side of the road and started to walk. We quickly realized that the guy at the gate was right – the gardens are fairly small. What looked like a path into a dense tropical forest opened almost immediately back upon the fields we had just driven by. We circled the strands of mango trees and coffee plants until we found the monkeys amongst the cocoa trees.

J and I walked down to the lake, where we lamented not bringing a picnic.

Instead we dined at the Windsor Lake Victoria Hotel, which the Bradt guide calls a “plush hotel” that “serves great food.” We found it to be a dilapidated joint that managed not to mess up too badly a grilled cheese sandwich. And then we headed home to spend the rest of the afternoon reading Harry Potter, having determined that Entebbe had little left to offer us. If the botanical gardens were a little closer, I’d visit more often. It’s a lovely place to spend an hour or two.

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