Heading North

I didn’t sleep very well last night because of the lack of exercise, I think. I guess these stairs just aren’t doing the job, although my legs do feel a little sore in different places. I had a dream that the craters in our foam mattress were potholes that I was trying to avoid and that my leg muscles were atrophying after three days of not riding. I hope that some dreams do not come true as we have about ninety kilometres to ride in the mountains tomorrow and mostly on rough gravel roads. In my mind our departure tomorrow is a turning point in the trip as we are now heading back to where we started. We have about nine days of riding left to do in just over two weeks, so we are adding some segments to the trip that we didn’t originally plan for. So I’m pretty excited to take a ferry over to the Ssese Islands in Lake Victoria later next week and ride around there for a couple days. I think tomorrow will be the last day in the steep mountains. Everything else will seem like simple rolling hills after what we’ve ridden through for the last week or so.

Today we relaxed, read, ate, swam, got the bikes ready for tomorrow and went for a short hike. I feel like I’ve been in a bubble the last three days and I actually miss the chaos and more importantly, the bike. I never thought I would say this but my body is craving the movement and pedalling will feel pretty good, I think. It’s like all that ya happened this past month is now far, far away, but I know that tomorrow morning, as soon as we get to the other side of the lake by boat, the requests for money, shocked looks, rutty roads and potholes, will bring the reality that is Uganda right back. The shift will spur these two muzungus on to pedal faster past boda boda drivers’ comments and whistles and the craving for pop will magically reappear.

Tonight around the campfire, Neville was explaining why there is a cattle path right by their property. Cows are taken across the lake in wooden row boats, sometimes for grazing, but mostly to pay for bride prices. He explained and, of course, acted out the entire process of the men trying to get the cows into the boats. His exact words were, “It’s a tug-of-war” to get the cows in without them falling into the water. They push and pull the cows into the water and in protest, the cows rear up so that it kinda jumps up enough to try and push them into the boats. Once they are in the boat, the men have to paddle like crazy to keep them from jumping out. It was hilarious to see Neville’s crazy paddling motions as he laughed and laughed. We have enjoyed him immensely and have learned so much from him. When he was little he lived in a traditional mud hut with a grass roof. Although we have seen thousands of them along the road in the northern part of Uganda, it was interesting to talk to someone about their experience growing up in that environment. John asked him why we haven’t seen any of those in this area and Neville said it’s because they’ve run out of the grass used for the roofs because of all the farms planting crops for food. So it’s not because of an improved economic status like we guessed when we saw all the aluminum roofs in the south. It’s just a lack of resources. In the mud hut growing up, when it rained it would often drip on him throughout the night. Sometimes, in the rainy season, they would put a piece of plastic above them and then it would fill up and release all at once, dousing him with a bucket-worth of water, most often in the middle of the night. He slept on a grass mat and his blanket was also just a mat that was woven with grass and it was quite cold at times and not at all comfortable.

He’s only twenty-three now so we were surprised to hear that only fifteen years ago, he would run and hide if he and his friends saw a car or a plane because they didn’t really understand what they were. His favourite game was trying to ride on the back of a lamb, holding onto its ears, but if his parents caught him he would be in big trouble. He is happy to now be sharing one room with the other workers and using an outhouse. Like most Ugandans we have spent time with, he is easy to laugh, grand in his gestures and exudes gratitude.