Uganda Conservation Foundation

Monday, 16 June 2014

Day 1: Jinja to Kampala

18:00 - Wednesday 12th June 

After spending 2 hours pacing the garage and finally getting Percy back I headed home to feed my faithful hound 'Mr Shida', enjoy a cold 'Club' and watch the sunset over the Nile.  The 'to-do' list could wait until morning.

Anyone who knows me also knows that there are not many places I will go without my dog if I don't have to.  And anyone who has been rafting with Nile River Explorers will have undoubtedly seen the big hairy beast called 'Shida' or 'Mr Shida' to the staff, wandering around.  Shida is Swahili for 'problem' or 'trouble', which he is far from, except when I am going somewhere without him.  

06:00 Thursday 12th June

An early alarm got me out of bed and frantically packing clothes and necessary essentials for the trip.  As soon as the bags came down off the shelf, the Shida knew something was going on.  At first opportunity he jumped onto the back seat of Percy and refused to move.  I continued packing as there was no point trying to get him out just yet, I would be leaving him at Explorers Backpackers anyway. 


Packed and ready to leave the house and head for town.  If I had forgotten anything, too bad. 


After doing a few minor adjustments to the Percy it was time to take the photos and hit the road.  But first we had to get the Shida out of the car. Getting a 40kg dog out of the back of a beetle is not the easiest of tasks, particularly when he has NO intention of cooperating, but eventually we managed and with someone holding onto him tightly I waved goodbye. 

Jinja to Kampala - 50 miles / 2 hours drive / 1 police stop

The main road between Jinja and Kampala is also the main road linking Uganda to Kenya.  As a land locked country Uganda relies heavily on importing and exporting out of Mombasa Port & the bridge at Jinja is the only place to cross the Nile, hence the road is heavily populated with large trucks.  This is compounded by the fact that most of the way the road is only single lane each way and the closer you get to Kampala the more congested it gets. 

The first 50 kms or so were actually a very pleasant drive and Percy seemed more than enthusiastic about being put into 4th gear for the first time in a long time.  I did get stopped by the police at one point but it turned out the only reason was to have a better look at Percy. 

As we approached Mukono the inevitable pile up began, road works followed by town after town, car after car and truck after truck - bumper to bumper with a lot of time spent in 1st & 2nd gear.  


Quick stop at 'Game Stores' to pick up some last minute essentials, then off to the hairdressers to get rid of the GT stripe was that was starting to show on the top of my head. 


Back in Percy I headed for the Kampala Sheraton Hotel where we had arranged to have a soft launch / photo op with sponsors and supporters at 16:30 in the gardens.  The day before someone had mentioned the press, I certainly didn't know any so I left that in the capable hands of Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF) and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). 


Checked into the Sheraton Kampala, car unpacked, bags in room and time to move Percy and his VW supporters to the gardens.  No sooner did I get out of the car than there was a camera & microphone pointed at me and a reporter asking me questions.  My soft launch / photo op and have a drink with friends had turned into a full on press release and I was at the centre of the attention.  What probably didn't help was that Coke were having a big launch for the world cup less than 50 mtrs and many of the press were just hanging around waiting for it to start. A 1970 beetle and free drinks was obviously a very attractive alternative to doing nothing and as a result I did not even get a chance to take a photo.  If anyone did then please forward them to me or post them on the facebook page.  

I do however have to say thanks to those journalists who we did invite and were enthusiastic about the fund raising.  I also have to say thanks to Lindsay & Andrew from UCF, Kelley and Manuella from Pearl of Africa Tours, Rachel & Steve from Kombi Nation Tours, Amos from Great Lakes Safaris and my new friends and VW supporters from Elite VW Club UG.  


Time to get Percy and his mates off the grass and Percy safely back in the Sheraton car park.

I had mentioned that Coke was having a big launch for the world cup at the Sheraton, but what I failed to mention was that the President was also presenting the budget next door at the Kampala Serena. The only way out of the gardens at the Sheraton was through the bottom gate, with the only option being to turn left and straight past the Serena.  So although Percy was only about 50 mtrs from the car park we would have to do a large circuit around both hotels passed all the army road blocks. 

We finally got back to the entrance of the Sheraton only to find cars bumper to bumper also trying to find parking.  I saw a sign on facebook the other day: 

It's true, I was in Percy, I had my tunes playing and was happy to wait for the line to move on.  As the line was approaching the exit of the car park I decided to double back and go for the valet parking. No sooner than I had turned than a mzungu woman chasing after a parking guard and yelling about her car, decided to jump in front of Percy and use us both as hostages until her demands were met. The parking guard ignored her and carried on his way.  

I then requested that she step aside so that we could move on, she refused. I then politely told her that my only option other would be to drive over her, her response was one word that by true definition refers to a female dog !!! How we became the target of her frustration I have no idea, but she really needs to buy a beetle !!! 


Having finally got to valet parking and them assuring me they would look after Percy, I headed to my room - it was time to work out how to compress 7,000 photos into a 3 min video.  I fell asleep frustrated but looking forward to the next day!!        



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