I Love You, Baby!

Today’s ninety-kilometre ride sprinkled with 4000 feet of elevation gain was for Kasumba Fabian, Kisuule Dan and Magadde Rodger.

It was a good day today from start to finish. After enjoying the organic coffee and awesome pancakes mentioned yesterday, we said goodbye to Dave the Cave and Sally and the delightful staff around 9. But not before David made one last request of us. Would we please plant a tree on his property to help the environment and to make sure he is planting at least five trees for every one he cuts down? Of course we would!! What a brilliant idea and good marketing for his lodge and it highlights just how much he cares for the earth and his home. When we were walking around the property the day before, I saw little signs with names on them. I assumed they were some kind of grave, but no. They were names of other “tree planters” before us. It was awesome. David makes a big production of the whole thing, getting every staff involved and having each of them film it and take photos from their various vantage points. They will label one with Stacia (which is how all Ugandans pronounce my name – so much so that I just introduce myself as that from the start) and one for “Mr. John.”

Then the hills. I thought my legs would be in sorry shape after yesterday’s little “walk” but I felt stronger today than any day so far. The kilometres and time flew by and hills that used to make me cry were seen as just part of the day’s ride. I think that’s called progress. We rode through a beautiful valley covered in bright green tea plantations and the people were amazingly friendly today. We have noticed a huge shift in the environment as we have moved west. Not only have we left the flats, but where we used to see hundreds of mud huts with thatched roofs every day, we haven’t seen one for over a week now. Instead, the homes are made of timber or concrete and have tin roofs – a sign, no doubt, of the affluence that comes with tourism dollars.

Although I really noticed the friendliness of the people today, there were a few exceptions. Most of them happened in a town that felt a bit threatening solely based on the whistles and aggressive yells coming from the shops. A man came out very angrily yelling something about white men not talking to black men and trying to get us to stop (yeah, right). One boda driver yelled, “I love you, baby!” from the side of the road. Although these whistles and comments make me really uncomfortable, I’m sure he would be mortified to find out that this “baby” is old enough to be his mother. At least. Whenever we stop to check our map or just rest for a few minutes, we have to be strategic to avoid the onslaught of unwanted attention that inevitably happens whenever we take a break. We have had pretty good luck ducking behind a wall or on the sides of buildings. Well, today we needed to get out of the sun and check the map. We pulled into a vehicle service bay and John struck up a conversation with a security guy with a gun to just talk about where we were going and have him check our map. We were quickly surrounded by about ten men, checking out our bikes and bags and wanting to know where we were going, etc. One man in particular wanted money for giving John directions (that John didn’t ask for). I think the price started at $10. John said he wasn’t going to pay him and the man quickly lowered the price. But he, of course, doesn’t really know John and his level of commitment to being thrifty. Eventually he gave up, shrugged, and said, “Well maybe next year when you come back, you can give me some.” Sure thing. One thing we have been encouraged by is that these requests (sometimes demands) for money are real (the men do come into our physical space and use strong gestures), but because honesty and kindness are real values here, they have never taken anything or even tried. They are not malicious and we feel no real threat from them physically.

After leaving this town, we were speeding down a hill (as much as you can with potholes, ruts, loose gravel and broken pavement) and a car came speeding up behind me honking like crazy and blaring some kind of siren that sounded like a police car. I looked over my shoulder while still trying to maintain some level of control of my bike and was sorry to see that it was deliberately done to scare me because as they sped off, they were laughing hysterically. Thankfully, I was able to move out of the way and it didn’t shake me up too badly. I was too happy to be finally going downhill!

One thing that happened today that I thought was hilarious was a young man was riding a bike from behind me. Like many men we have written about already, he seemed bent on beating us up the hill we were climbing. I gave him a look when he was alongside me that made it clear I wanted to race him. He laughed and we both sped up. After a bit I realized I should be conserving some energy so I told him he was the winner and slowed down. He laughed and pulled ahead, letting go of his handle bars and swerving around to show off a bit to the people along the roadside. Well, pride really does come before a fall and his overconfidence got the best of him. He lost his balance and crashed hard. The people along side of the road laughed and so did I to just joke with him a bit, but I made sure that he was also laughing. Later he caught up to me again and I made sure he was OK and told him he was still the winner.

I don’t have much else to say about today. It was a long hilly day in the saddle, full of poverty and beauty, gorgeous views, comments and laughter made about us as we ride by that we don’t understand, chips, pop and now sleeping under a mosquito net that always makes me feel like a princess.