Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Rafting the Nile and Other African Adventures

Finally, a planned adventure! I mean, it's lovely to get to spend time with local villagers and random pilots because fate tossed your plane into the bushes, but it was time for something that I had control over.

It almost didnt happen. Thursday afternoon I got word that my ticket request was approved (yea!) but then my travelling partner, broke it to me that his boss really really didnt want him to head that weekend and was begging him to stay. I left the choice to him, and he came through! So off to Uganda we went.

Sort of.

Our plane was late getting in. United Nations is no Delta. You miss the connection and it goes. So we stared at the clock taking turns being the pessimist and optimist. Finally, the plane arrived. We figured so long as we could get in the air the other plane would wait. So we boarded the Antonov (complete with Russian pilots) and felt a little better. That was, until the other plane on the tarmac was doing everything but taking off. These guys were measuring, talking, walking in and out, and then the propellers were on for at least ten minutes. Finally, we took off, knowing that if the other plane left without us we would be stranded in a mediocre Congolese city for three days rather than exploring Uganda. God bless it, the plane was there when we landed. They rushed our small group of Uganda-bound Kindu-escapees onto the plane.

Uganda is beautiful. It's actually a little tricky to get to from Congo if you want to take normal airlines, because Uganda invaded the Congo not so long ago. Well, that's a pretty good reason. We went to Kampala, which is a half hour from Entebbe. The latter town is on Lake Victoria and really cute.

I wasso excited to just have made it. We checked into a nice hotel and had our first (and not last) Ugandan beer. The next day I went white-water rafting at the source of the Nile. Got tossed out of the boat on one rapid and on a class 5 (the highest you can raft) we flipped. It was not unexpected, but quite scary/fun. Needless to say, my friend did not regret his decision to play tennis and squash at the Sheraton and get not one, not even two, but THREE massages.

The next day we were going to head to Entebbe, but when we got there there were millions and millions of small flies in the air. It was like a movie. So we asked the cab driver to turn back to Kampala. In recognizing that heading back to our old hotel might be a vacation failure, we decided that the Sheraton certainly wasnt. Normally I am not a nice hotel addict. In fact, when I travel, I head to small guest houses in third world countries. It's a travelling lifestyle that suits me, I can spend less than 10 bucks a day in Asia, and travel for ages. However, I currently live in a crappy version of one of those guesthouses, so the appeal of the Sheraton was overwelling.

Heading back to Kindu we were about to get stuck in Kisangani. Students had set up some roadblocks (quite common, but a little annoying) so we couldnt leave the airport, and we were supposed to spend the night there. My friend knew someone so we got our tickets changed to Kinshasa and headed there (only a few hundred miles in the opposite direction, but who cares!), where I spent the night and got up at 5am to head to Kindu, where I am now. Uganda seems like a lifetime ago as I am currently doing about a weeks worth of work in 2 days.

In the past month, I have taken the following flights:Kindu-Kinshasa, Kinshasa-Kindu, Kindu-Tunda, Tunda-Kindu (bushes), Kindu-Tunda (rescue helicopter), Kindu-Kinshasa, Kinshasa-Kindu, Kindu-Kisangani, Kisangani-Entebbe, Entebbe-Kisangani, Kisangani-Kinshasa, Kinshasa-Kindu. Will be travelling to Kinshasa Friday, then heading to Ethiopia on Wednesday.

If only the UN gave frequent flyer miles...


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