Road to Masindi – Day 3

Posted on March 11, 2012


The journey out of Kampala took much longer than anticipated. I realise the bus was never going to leave on time at 1400 like the ticket conductor told me; but even he knew I could see he was lying when he looked me in the eyes and smiled. Smack bang beneath my window were three oil moneys trying to change a tyre and failing miserably in the afternoon heat.

Grease monkeys changing the tyre in Kampala bus station


It was almost an hour and half before the tired old bus pushed off. Groaning as it steered around the tight and over-crowded corners of the city, chugging out plumes of black smoke. I bought two seats so I could stretch my legs and keep my camera kit beside me, but it didn’t stop one man from backing into the seat and attempting to sit on top of my laptop. En route to Masindi, the bus stopped at several small towns to pick up more passengers, even when it was already at capacity. Each time the hawkers would flock to the open windows, peddling whatever they had – fake sunglasses; watches; mobile phones; toys; drinks and grilled meat on skewers.


Traders making the most of our brief pit-stop

Traders making the most of our brief pit-stop

The journey was an eye opener. There’s been a lot of development along the way. Lots of brick houses have sprung up on plots I presume are for the lorry drivers working for the big multinational companies.  They stand next to large makeshift car-parks filled with idle trucks. As the wind came streaming through the windows of the bus it carried the smell of burning wood.  Tall, white rice sacks filled with charcoals were stacked up by the side of the road.

When I finally arrived in Masindi it was nearly 1830. Some of the staff from Budongo had travelled into town using a small pick-up truck to buy supplies. I was met by the resident vet Dr Carol; an intern vet Dr Ricki and Budongo’s driver Fred. As we chatted darkness fell and by the time we reached camp the light had vanished.

Project director Geoffrey Muhanguzi was there to welcome me back. Two years on and the site was still very familiar to me. I was shown to my room – modest and clean. I introduced myself to the other non-African volunteers and researchers. Among them was senior researcher Anne, who I’d met during my first visit here. The main house is divided into two. The Westerners have dinner in a kitchen on the left and the Ugandans sit in a different kitchen on the right. The reason, I’m told is diet. The Ugandans eat African food and the Westerners have pasta and pizza and other home comforts.

Not one to miss out on all things authentic I have decided to eat dinner every day with the Ugandans and my first meal was a simple dinner of boiled potatoes cooked with tomatoes, with a half of avocado.

The one thing that hits you when dusk arrives are the sounds from the forest at night. By about 1830 the atmosphere had changed. The forest starts to buzz; hiss; howl and bark. By nightfall the Tree Hyrax is the headline act, wailing at first before reaching a screaming crescendo that is guttural. And it’s for the whole bloody night. I’d forgotten how noisy it would be. I just hope I get used to it as the days wear on.