After much flailing of arms and cursing, I finally got back on the road,
with the sun well below the horizon.
I started to get scared. My headlight was buggered - the bracket for
the bulb was damaged, and it no longer focused properly. It made a halo
of light with an impenetrable centre of dark.
The road became a hostile battleground. Darkness in the tropics falls
in less time than it takes to make a good Gin and Tonic. Lots of traffic
returning to Kampala after the weekend. Lots of people on bicycles in
the middle of the road, carrying enormous loads and decked out in their
best low-visibility camouflage. Lots of pedestrians, who would suddenly
materialise out of the gloom in front of you, with huge bundles of jagged
sticks on their heads. Swarms of motor-scooters, tuk-tukking along at
about thirty, fneeping greetings at each other with pitiful hooters.
Did mention that it was pitch dark? Well, it was darker than that.
I was now travelling at about 50km/h, eyes peeled like onions, peering
into the Cimmerian blackness, trying to spot the obstacles before they
impaled me or spilled me from my bike. Did I also mention the enormous
I was now thoroughly miserable, with another hour to go before I got
into Kampala. Trucks with no lights haunted my peripheral vision, slow
moving busses dogged my rear tyre, and matatus blasted their hooters at
the exact psychological instant to cause maximum sphincter stress.
Then it started to rain. A dirty blatter that was enough to get me wet,
but never getting quite hard enough to make me stop to pull on my rain
suit. It was enough to fog up my glasses, and spatter my goggles with
a muddy coruscation of water drops.
I could now no longer tell if the fifteen twinkly lights ahead of me
were the headlights of one truck, turned into a prismatic spray of clones
by the water droplets, or whether it was several trucks hell-bent on maiming
me. My speed dropped to about thirty.
By the time I got back to the Red Chilli Hideaway in Kampala, I was
cold, muddy, wet, emotionally drained, scared, tired and very much in
need of a drink. And I was happy. Completely so.
Because the Red Chilli Hideaway is a great spot: they have gin, tonic,
ice AND lemons, and they have a kitchen that can rustle you up some supper.
And because I was in Kampala, almost certainly the most friendly capital
city in Africa - or the world, for that matter. A city where even the
biker gangs will lend you a spare spark plug.
And Kampala is in Uganda, one of the most beautiful countries I've ever
visited. The country where they used to film "Tarzan" movies,
because no one else had jungles as jungly.
And I was on my old Yammie XT500, riding around Africa, as free as an
unemployed writer of no fixed abode and less fixed assets, and I was still
thoroughly enjoying my African Road Trip.
I had revisited my old haunts in Malawi and Zimbabwe, and found some
new ones. I had been given a speeding fine in Tanzania, and hung out with
Chriswone and his rasta mates in Maragoro. Zanzibar had been out of this
world (sometimes figuratively), and hitching a lift for my bike through
the Serengeti had been an adventure of butt-numbing proportions.
I had travelled by steamship across Lake Victoria, and visited the Chimpanzees
in the Kibale Forest.
Previous travels up to Zim and Malawi by foot and by car had been fun,
but both methods of transport are the inferior second cousins of travelling
on a bike.
Right now, however, on this dark, African night, with a bucketing thunderstorm
beating down on the roof, I planned to finish off this Chairman's Extra
Strong Brew (a particularly potent Ugandan beer), and then have another.
Tomorrow I'll pack up, and head down to Kenya. Or maybe the next day.
Me and my bike and a bit of luggage. No worries, mate. None at all.
More on Roger's website.