No Flats On the Flats

Today’s embarrassingly-short ride of 63 kilometres was for Nannyonga Catherine and Namagembe Jane.

It seems the rest day yesterday did the trick and the relatively flat terrain certainly didn’t hurt. I only needed one fifteen-minute break! Everything is feeling much better with the exception of my right knee on the inside which feels pretty bad when we climb, and now when I walk. Good thing we are back on flatter terrain. We were going to go through Mboro National Park, but last night we changed our minds, figuring we had already seen the animals highlighted in this particular park on previous trips. I just wasn’t willing to pay $200 USD just to have a picture of me biking by a giraffe or a zebra. Plus, there are definitely many other interesting things to look at just by staying on the road, such as three guys trying to lift a motorcycle to carry on top of a mini-van, or the massive herds of Ankole cows being herded alongside a very busy highway. The bummer today was the glass which littered the shoulder way more than in any other stretch we have covered. They reuse glass bottles here and so if we can only source pop in bottles, we have to drink it right then and there and leave the bottle with them. I’m not sure why so many broken bottles were along this stretch, but I also saw a lot or broken mirrors and an entire windshield broken into bits in the ditch today. We were super grateful to arrive to our destination without suffering a single flat.

Up to now, we have really only seen nine white people in three small groups across all of Uganda. Today, however, vanload after SUVload after busload were bombing down the highway in the opposite direction. What are they doing? Sight seeing in the nearby game park? Helping in schools or hospitals or NGOs? Probably any or all of those things. I’m always curious about what brings people here. Their faces are usually pressed up against the windows and they seem to fall into one of two categories when they see us biking on the side of the road. Either they are completely shocked like everyone else over here (I was walking about a mile into town today to get some water and a white guy passed me in an SUV and I read his lips yell out, “What the heck?”). If they are not surprised, they seem disappointed and act very nonchalant, completely but very obviously ignoring us – like their experience in another culture has somehow been lessened when other white people are set into the picture frame. I think if and when I come back to Africa, I will try to avoid the “group design” for a trip. In the past when we have been part of a group, like one we went with to Haiti to work with orphans, the locals simply flipped us off when we drove by. Maybe they feel like we are treating them like mere attractions for pictures and Instagram posts. On this trip, the thing I have enjoyed the most is that the bikes, and the speed they dictate, have allowed us to blend into the culture and become part of it as much as possible. I hope that interacting at the tiny fruit stands or saying hi as we ride by the roadside vendors has been an encouragement to them. They always seem to react with a broad smile and some even have a good laugh once we’ve passed. They could be laughing at any number of things, but what their excitement and body language suggests as most likely to us, is that they assume we can afford a better way of transport and that we are choosing to sweat up these hills and, in John’s case, carry such a ridiculous load, strikes them as completely ludicrous. I mean, if white people’s jaws drop open when they see us, imagine how the Ugandans feel.

Tomorrow’s ride will be a bit longer and in heavier traffic as we get to Masaka. Keep the questions coming for our Q & A post coming up in a few days!!