Kampala, Entebbe, and back to Europe
31.07.2012 - 05.08.2012
View Grant and Helena's world tour on Grantandhelena's travel map.
After the excitement of whitewater rafting in Jinja, it was time to wind down the adrenaline and do some souvenir shopping. We arrived back in Kampala and stayed a couple of nights in the capital. It is not the most charming of places, though it is certainly smarter than Addis Ababa if only for the fact that Kampala has shopping malls. However, Addis certainly has the more pleasant atmosphere: the air in Kampala is dusty, polluted and hot, and there are no beautiful buildings of note.
We went to the Ugandan National Museum and were amazed to see that most of the exhibits seemed to pre-date Ugandan independence in 1962. They did have an exhibit about the Olympics, which seemed topical, until we saw that it was detailing the build-up to Beijing 2008! There was nothing at all about Idi Amin: a black chapter that the curator obviously preferred to skip in favour of displays of pre-historic jugs and a very tired-looking Model T Ford.
To add to the lukewarm feelings we had about the capital, Ebola had just reached Kampala, having spread up from Congo in the last week or so. It all meant there was not much reason to hang around!
We managed, though, to pick up plenty of African souvenirs, the best of which was surely Helena's Congolese mask: a fruit bowl-sized, moon shaped wooden face in a fixed scowl complete with trailing dyed straw "beard". A welcoming feature for any living room!
We also managed to catch up with Ville, a friend of a friend from Brussels now living in Kampala. It was surprising we had never met while both living in Brussels, but it was very enjoyable meeting up and enjoying an evening of "craic" in local Irish pub, "Bubbles O'Leary's".
Night out with Ville, formerly of Brussels, now of Kampala, at the local Irish pub
After exhausting the limited attractions of Kampala, we spent our last couple of days in Entebbe, the former capital, right on Lake Victoria and the location of the international airport. We had the bizarre experience of staying in the local zoo, Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, which rents out "Banda" thatched cottages. The accommodation was basic and the location not the most convenient but where else could you wake up to the sounds of the chimpanzees squealing and see ostriches and giraffes grazing ten metres from your front door?!
Shots from around the local zoo, where we slept for our last two nights
In fact, it was a pretty cool place to stay given that guests could wander the zoo before and after the general public arrived each day. That was great fun when it was light but a bit scary when coming back in the darkness of night past the snake house and the lion's den, hundreds of pairs of eyes reflecting off our torch beams!
Other highlights of Entebbe included a trip to the Botanical Gardens right beside Lake Victoria for a very nice view.
View from Botanical Gardens over Lake Victoria
On our last day, Hillary Clinton's cavalcade swept right past us, bringing Entebbe's traffic to a grinding halt. Given we had just missed her in Calcutta a couple of months back, we wonder if she is not following us (perhaps using our blog travel map to plan her state visits)? The Clintons are a big hit in Uganda, and Bill had been on the front page of the Sunday newspaper a fortnight ago on a visit here with a local Ugandan kid - Bill Clinton - named by his parents after the great man. Bill senior has taken on a kind of godfather role to the kid and promised Bill junior to fund his education to as high a level as the latter wants. What a great story!
For our last night in town, we dined in style at Faze 3 restaurant by Lake Victoria - the best restaurant in town, we were reliably informed. The food was good, the Nile Specials cold, and the views spectacular!
Dinner at Faze 3 on our last night
On the way home with Qatar Airways, we got an overnight stop in Doha. Being the world's best airline, they gave us a hotel room without any fuss and we were whisked out into the Doha night shortly after arriving. A huge Ramadan buffet awaited us at the hotel, which thankfully we could dig right into as it was after sunset. The Middle Eastern sweets were particularly awesome.
Having eaten too many sweets at dinner we decided to have a stroll in Doha. No sooner ha we stepped outside the hotel than we were grateful we had brought a change of clothes with us: the humidity was absolutely stifling. It was almost 40 degrees and so humid that sweat just instantly materialised all over you, even standing still. For half an hour our camera lens was so fogged up that we couldn't take photos! We didn't stay out too long but got a few snaps of Doha's impressive skyline before retreating to the air con.
Shots from our brief, sweaty, wander in Doha
We boarded another flight the next morning to Stockholm, putting our feet on European soil for the first time in six months. Straight onto another flight up to Midlanda airport, we were met by a huge landing party of Helena's parents, sister and brother in law, niece and nephew. What a great welcome home!
And so our epic wander has come to an end. It is hard to believe that six months has gone by so quickly and yet also hard to believe how much we have managed to cram in to that time. We have seen so many incredible places and met so many interesting people along the way, it will take a long time to digest the experience. It has been a rare chance to step outside "normal" life and do something totally different. We are so happy that we made the decision to do it, it has been a dream coming true - every day for six months.
The overwhelming lesson has been that the vast majority of people in the world are friendly and helpful, even though most are vastly less well off than us Europeans. It's hard to fathom how lucky we are simply to be born in the part of the world we come from. We have enjoyed immense hospitality and kindness not only from friends and friends of friends, but from strangers, along the way. We hope that we will be able to repay that hospitality to friends and strangers who cross our path in the future.
Lastly, a big thank you to our readers and especially to those who so keenly commented, it has really meant a lot to us!