the low down
What we did: We spent a total
of 5 days in Uganda – 1 very short day in Kampala after
flying into Entebbe, 1 day driving to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest,
with a walk in the afternoon to a nearby village, 2 days gorilla
tracking, and another day driving back to Entebbe. As part of
our package (through Afri-Tours), we had a driver to pick us up
at the airport and drive us to/from Bwindi. (Having a driver for
the long haul to Bwindi and back was a good idea; it would have
been almost impossible for us to figure things out on our own,
let alone manage to drive safely. In fact, we’re not even
sure that it’s possible to do it another way.)
Overall: We loved the people
in Uganda (especially outside of the cities). In general, the
people in the countryside are poverty stricken so we were surprised
by how friendly and warm they were towards us. As we drove through
the small towns, children would run to the side of the road and
wave enthusiastically. They seemed overjoyed when we waved back.
The gorilla tracking was amazing and we recommend that you do
it if you’re at all interested. Please see the other Uganda
entries for more info.
Food: Our food in Uganda,
in general, was mediocre. We ate out in Kampala at a local eatery
where the small menu consisted largely of spiced rice, potatoes
and curried meats. The food was cheap but not that great. During
the gorilla portion of our trip, we discovered to our dismay that
one lasting British influence on Uganda is the food that they
serve to tourists. Breakfast was English style, lunch was small
sandwiches and dinner was fish and chips or steak and chips or
something else and chips.
Afri-Tours: This is the company
that was sub-contracted by our Tanzanian tour operator (Roy Safaris)
to handle the Ugandan portion of our trip. We thought they were
great. We were met at the airport by our driver Ahmed, a no-nonsense
Ugandan man, and Tilly, a British ex-pat who helped us get settled
in our hotel (this wasn’t entirely necessary, but it was
appreciated considering it was the beginning of our trip into
the wild unknown). After that we were on our own with Ahmed. He
took great care of us and we quite enjoyed his company. We would
recommend them to anyone.
Kampala: It was great (and
educational) to spend an afternoon here and walk around, but we’re
glad that we didn’t spend much longer . There were a lot
of armed guards outside all the shops (hired by the shop owners).
Apparently there used to be a lot of looting, but it doesn’t
happen much anymore.
Things we’re really glad we
brought: Some type of energy bars to snack on (there
really aren’t places to buy snacks out in Bwindi), rain
gear, books or other entertainment, insect repellant, medications,
quick-drying clothes, toilet tissue, detergent to wash clothes,
Standard of living: Outside
the cities, the standard of living is very low. In the villages
near Bwindi, there is no running water (it must be carried, sometimes
for miles), no electricity, no proper roads, and very limited
medical facilities. People have almost no possessions. Families
live in a tiny hut (made of either cement or dirt and branches)
sleeping on the floor. It is one thing to see it on TV or in National
Geographic; it is quite another to see it up close. It makes you
realize how incredibly much we have in States. For us, the feeling
of guilt and unfairness was overwhelming; we had a strong urge
to give away everything we had. For the most part, we found that
the people are happy. Family ties are strong and the kids are
well cared for. In the cities, there is considerably more infrastructure,
more crime, and, from an outsider's perspective, less happiness.
It seems that the urbanites have a clearer understanding of how
much they don't have, compared to some other countries.
Exchange rate: US$1 = 1,758
Interesting facts: The official
language is English, primary school is funded by the government
and about 40% of kids continue their education after, the biggest
industry is agriculture, supposedly it’s possible to buy
an river-front acre of land on the Nile for about $500.
Lasting impressions: The things
that stick in our minds about Uganda are the warm and friendly
people, kids as young as 4 walking several miles to/from school,
a teenager wearing a large-logo Sean John t-shirt amid all the
other kids’ tattered t-shirts (P-Diddy makes it to Uganda!),
and, of course, the amazing gorillas!