Friday 21st August
I made a quick visit back to Entebbe Airport today with one of our people who is returning early. Well, “quick” in Ugandan terms – crawling through miles of Kampala traffic – it took the usual seven hours.
We had an interesting meeting with some policemen today on the way. We pulled up by the roadside to discuss where we would stop for lunch when the two cops came over and said it was illegal to park here. Our driver apologised (actually I thought he need not do so as there were no “no parking signs” and no yellow lines and we hadn’t even turned the engine off, but I guess he knows how best to handle the cops)
The cops said that “sorry” wasn’t good enough and they would take our driver off to jail and I would have to drive. (and I would no doubt be charged immediately with driving without insurance!). They were clearly angling for a bribe. I said we were looking for a place to have lunch and I asked if they could suggest somewhere. They said they would if they could come too and I would pay!
Anyway, it was all good humoured and I explained what we were doing in Uganda. I was wearing an MD shirt which seemed to add some authenticity to the discussion and they let us go. An hour later we saw them again and they gave us a cheery wave. I asked our driver if any of that was serious and he said “no, they are just looking for something for themselves!”
The journey (I am quite getting used to it) is full of contrasts. I have mentioned this before but I have not explained the papyrus marshland. The road crosses one end of the vast Lake Kyoga natural drainage basin – but it does not drain very well because we go through papyrus swamp so big that it stretches from horizon to horizon. The road is elevated about 10 feet above the swamp so we can see not only endless waving papyrus heads but also bright blue patches of wild water lilies in between them.
The papyrus heads are the same as those in the drawings in the tombs of the pharaohs 4,500 miles away in Egypt. Logical really, because Lake Kyoga drains into the Victoria Nile, which feeds into Lake Albert, which drains into the Albert Nile which drains into the White Nile and so on – all the way to Egypt. Papyrus seeds have obviously been carried for thousands of miles.
I thought the millions of papyrus heads looked vaguely menacing – then I remembered why – they resemble some early illustrations of John Wyndham’s triffids. If these Ugandan triffids had their day they would take over the whole of Africa in no time.
Travelling through Kampala does result in the greatest number of entries in the funny signs competitions. In the philosophical section today we have the following on the backs of vehicles: “Time keeper”, “What is moral fibre?” “Why is it me?”, “Why Not?” but the winner in this category must be “Leave Me Alone” painted on the back of a bus – presumably passengers are discouraged.
Entries in the funny business sign category are “Have your car serviced here no parking” (service on the move?), “CSI Junior School” (education of which side of the law was not explained) but the winner today has to be “From Glory to Glory Night Parking”