Seeing the Nile

I realized I have forgotten to say who we are riding for each day. Day one was for Ssenyonga Jane, the one who has been in and out of the hospital in the past month or so. It was so good to see her healthy the other day and in her school uniform. The second day was for Nakakande Sarah, the girl in the red sweater in previous photos who kept repeating that she “lacks nothing.” Today’s ride was for Patrick. He is a boy who lives with the pastor and I had the pleasure of meeting his mom at the market in Kassanda before we left. He looks just like her. What a beautiful soul.

The theme for today was mud. Lots and lots of red, sticky, slippery mud – the kind that cakes your legs, butt, bike, brakes, water bottles, hair, etc. We were about an hour into our ride when it started to sprinkle. The sprinkle quickly changed to a downpour. We stopped under an eaves at someone’s house and only later did we hear them inside. We sat for about an hour talking about how nice it was that there was nothing to do and nowhere to be. John pulled out a Cuban cigar and enjoyed the treat. Unreal.

We set off again when the rain slowed down. The roads were so slippery that it took all of my bike handling skills to not fall. I did eventually fall, but only once, but also in front of a crowd of course. So, so far I fell once and my bike fell on me once – also in front of a big crowd, leaving a nasty bruise on my thigh. I have never done any kind of mountain biking to speak of. But this Uganda terrain is putting my skills to the test for sure.

About two hours of the ride today was like what you would see in a movie. It was raining and we were going through what felt like tropical rain forest on a road wide enough for trucks. It was amazing and felt unreal.

We were chased by lots of children today asking for money and dangerously grabbing onto our bikes. I was too slow to outpace them and had to try and get them to let go without sounding rude. Not sure I succeeded in that. I have to say it was a bit wearing but I feel guilty saying that. We stopped for a Coke and had about 25 kids staring at us while we drank. You could tell that they were daring each other to come and touch us and then run away screaming.

Ugandans are so friendly. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a nation with more smiles and waves and high-fives. People cheer for us as we ride by and seem to be very thankful that we’re here. The best thing I did to prepare was to learn some of the language. What a difference it makes to be able to greet people in a way they understand. Or to joke with a merchant, telling them to not overcharge me. Or to ask children how old they are and understand the answer. Their faces brighten up and they laugh every time I try. I hope they’re laughing out of surprise and not because I’m saying something weird without knowing it.

We made it to the Nile and stopped to see a waterfall there. The locals charged us a fee but it was so worth it. There were kids jumping off naked from the rocks into the rapids below and trying to race each other upstream. Then after riding through some dodgy single track with corn growing on one side and pineapples on the other, we interrupted two ladies doing laundry in a little stream and trudged our bikes across. Not even a mile later, we came upon an unexpected but beautiful place to stay. The shower felt so good after being caked with mud all day. The normal chef was sick so they said they would try to whip something up. They made some kind of bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and pasta with vegetables. I felt like I was in heaven after the dirtiness of the day. I’m going to have to keep perfect nights like this in mind when things get difficult going forward. We are looking forward to a good sleep tonight and an easier day on the bikes tomorrow. We plan to stay around Jinja for another night to meet some of the local bike NGOs and explore a bit. We also have to find me some kind of shoes for me because I lost one of my Chaco sandals somewhere bouncing along the route today. I went to dinner wearing only one shoe. It was a good day.