Monday, November 5, 2007

Rukungiri or Bust

J had business to attend to in Western Uganda, so I decided to tag along. We hired P. to do the driving and he picked us up Sunday afternoon for the five-plus hour drive to Rukungiri.

Most cars in Uganda don’t really do air conditioning, despite the constant equatorial heat, and we rode with the windows down through the green countryside, interspersed with matooke fields and tiny villages of concrete structures painted in alternating colors of red (for Celtel), yellow (for MTN), and blue (for Uganda Telecom)—all advertising cell phone companies. Occasionally you’ll also the see the green for Tororo Cement. These villages have the feel of a movie set for a Hollywood Western, a ghost town, mere facades with nothing behind them. There are people in front—tiny children running about without any seeming supervision, women cooking, men eating and drinking, people darting into the middle of the road to sell goat meat on a stick to passers-by, women walking with absurd loads on their heads like a stack of chairs or a pile of lumber that I’m quite certain would bring me to my knees if not to a complete lying down position—but behind all this nothing but fields. As we passed through the bigger towns of Mbarara and Masaka, Coke signs dominated the roadside, the new flowery logo sprouted up over each directional posting—every school, hospital, hotel, and university building lived on the Coke side of life.

Rukungiri is a town that does not even qualify an entry in the Bradt guide. By the time we grew close it was dark and chilly, a chill I haven’t felt since leaving New York in March. When we woke up we were surprised to find ourselves in the mountains. Well, if not exactly the mountains, some big hills. It’s beautiful, rolling, green country and from our hotel we could see for miles.

We stayed in the best hotel in town, the Rukungiri Inn, with a floorplan like one of those mazes you stick mice in. They even have DSTV and when we arrived Sunday evening half the town was filing out of the place after watching the Liverpool-Arsenal game. In our room we checked to see what other channels were available, but it turns out there’s just one channel and that channel is whatever the people in charge of the hotel decide to watch. You could be getting into a really bad Ashley Judd movie on the movie channel and all of a sudden, just when Ashley Judd is getting drunk again and about to go home with a real sleezeball at the bar, the channel changes to Big Brother Africa and everyone in the house is sleeping. (Big Brother Africa is on 24 hours/day on one channel. Amazing.)

For the trip we had braced ourselves for 24/7 Ugandan food, which is not our favorite type of food ever and since there is little variety and a lot of starches, it can get quite old quite fast. But the Rukungiri Inn, we were pleasantly surprised to discover, had curries and cheese sandwiches on the menu, as well. I had my first Rolex, technically a Ugandan invention as fast I can tell, in which a fried egg and sometimes cheese is rolled up in a chapati. The best thing I’ve had here in a long time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What did it cost to stay at the Inn? We are going to Rukungiri later this year.