Under Construction

Today’s hilly, overcast, 93-kilometre ride was for Nassanga Juliet and Kagenda Christopher. We started at 7:30 and every hill I saw before me, I looked at their little pictures to gather my strength. We climbed 4700 feet today, most of the grades ranging from 7-15% according to John’s bike computer, and my legs are a little rubbery, but we made it to Kigadi by 2:30 and there was NO MUD!! And the weather was so nice and cool this morning after the rains yesterday. I even had goosebumps at one point. When the sun isn’t out, the Ugandans get out their puffy coats and jackets and the boda drivers put them on backwards to block the ‘cold’ breeze.

We thought the entire road today would be on dirt. Thanks to China, we only had to ride about 20 kilometres in the dirt and then found the rest of the way under construction as a Chinese company is paving the road. When we stopped for a drink we visited with the main man in charge. John typed some conversation into his phone to convert to Chinese. It was nice to see that only the foreman and one other manager was Chinese as they had hired Ugandans to do the construction, unlike in Kenya when the Chinese put in a railway but only used Chinese labor. The Ugandan men were doing a beautiful job along the sides, filling the side ditches with concrete and rocks in a mosaic-like pattern. Rather than blocking off the road sections that cars can’t drive on with pylons, they lay four or five rocks across the road every ten feet or so.

As we get closer to western Uganda, the attitude of the kids has changed. I must have been asked for money over a hundred times today and it is tiring. Because of all the climbing today, we would be going slower than normal and this gave the kids a chance to gather and chase us with their hands out, saying, “Give me money! Give me sweets! Give me your bag!” One time that was especially difficult was when we were riding through a town but the grade was about 7% for a mile. So at 4 mph, the questions, comments and demands became difficult to ignore. Another time on a slow hill, three boys ran out with rocks in their hands, shouting and making demands. Our only option was to answer with a big smile and a request for a race. They dropped the rocks and the pace increased. Of course, they were running faster than us but we had endurance on our side because we were on bikes. And as our grade lessened, we were able to leave them behind with a kind wave.

Being two introverts on bikes makes this part of the trip probably the greatest challenge. Attracting screams and attention from hundreds of meters away by every person, young and old, can become overwhelming at times.

We found a super cheap hotel for $10 and the shower was hot and had pressure!! What a treat. We are paying more for our dinner meal than we did for the room. And the power just went out. But Beth and Grace are eager to please and our room has space for the bikes and it’s quiet (except for the distressed goat just outside). He should rest assured that we ordered chicken.

After a long day we decided that we deserved dinner at the hotel so we asked them if they could make us pizza. They laughed and asked “What’s pizza?” We knew it was impossible but it is always fun to ask, especially at a $10 hotel. Once again, we are the only people staying here and the hotel owners or managers always come to greet us, hear our story and make sure everything is ok. We agreed with them to have chicken at 5:00. At 5:15 the waitress came to visit. I asked when she thought the dinner would be ready. She shrugged and said oh the boss’ son went to get the chicken and will you forgive me if it’s late? At 5:30 the son walks past us with a live chicken in hand. I asked with a chuckle, “Is that ours?”

“Yes,” he says with a big grin and the waitress follows him with a big knife. About twenty feet away, John goes back and sees her poised over the chicken with the knife, ready to start dinner. Shortly after we hear a squawk and about 10 minutes later, the splash of the deep fryer. Ah, deep fried chicken. So fresh. Who needs a fridge when the poultry lives just down the street?