Day 1: Uganda, Uganda, Uganda.
1am, Kirkby Lonsdale surgery. Collected by a small bus, 36 HUGE suitcases stored (only just) in the underside.
The drizzle persisted as we did the rounds and collected everyone from their spots along the way.
Dozing, fidgeting and snoring we found our way to Manchester Airport get the 5:55 to Schiphol in Amsterdam.
Manchester Airport security, lovely new pink shirts and ties, still an unpleasant stressful faff to get through to the departure lounge.
AAAhhhhhh Costa breakfast peppermint tea and toast.
Gate 46, onto the KLM plane, here’s the safety informatizzzzzz…”Cabin Crew, Doors to Landing”. It’s safe to say I’ve not slept for so much of a flight ever!
Schiphol Airport – one of the world’s busiest airports is also one of the most pleasant. Big open corridors, travelators – some of which I eschewed in order to increase my step count – and clean large seating areas. And chandeliers, lovely chandeliers; Sia whould’ve loved it according to Ruby!
We waited an hour for the Kigale / Kampala flight and dozed as the sun came up, watching a couple basking in ‘Yoga Corner’ a little sanctuary two people had created for themselves to stretch and relax in the morning sun before their next flight.
Onto the next flight we had 8 hours and 55 minutes to our destination which we would fill with some food, some sleep and some films. Not necessarily in that order.
I, Daniel Blake is a brilliant slice of uncomfortable reality in 2016 Tory Britain. Through no fault of his own and his time-served carpentry skills incompatible with today’s internet society, Daniel gradually loses out to the petty bureaucrats and red-tape that is our ‘Welfare State’. As my friend Nicola said, should be required viewing for every politician. IDS should hang his head in shame.
Bridget Jones Diary – media luvvies, multimillionaires, unsuitable suitors and an uncertain parentage brings us up to date in Bridget’s life. Funny, easy, predictable – like meeting up with your school mates 20 years after.
Me Before You takes the bestseller and turns it into a fairly formulaic romantic comedy drama with a final twist – that if by some miracle you’ve missed – turns the tables. It’s thought-provoking schmaltz but as a confirmed cry-baby I obviously (but subtly) blabbed at the end.
After an hour on the tarmac in Rwanda at Kigale airport we were up and as before I landed in Entebbe airport, Kampala with little knowledge of the flight.
KLM are a wonderful operator – staff are friendly, assertive and directive – a great blend!
After a slightly trying trip through baggage reclaim and the Visa issuing department we were out into the warm night air of Uganda –complete with sooty aroma, mosquitos and menacing yet uninterested armed police.
After an hour in a rattly minibus – which is by some margin – better than the one from previous visits, we were delivered safely to the Kolping Hotel with our 36 x 23Kg bags, hand luggage and dozens of neck cushions. We retired for the night.
Just kidding – we had to lug the flippin’ 36 cases up a mixture of 1, 2 or 3 flights of stairs to the various rooms we had been allocated – it’s fair to say that at 1:30am we were ready for a sleep.
Day 2: Millionaire Maker Saturday.
After a relatively restful sleep we rendered ourselves vertical for a ‘leisurely’ 10:00 breakfast and were greeted with coffee (very good) omelettes (made to order in plentiful supply and goat curry (for breakfast!?!!)
We all piled into the minibus (ours for the fortnight with the amazingly well-muscled Joel) and circled Kampala with stuttering progress – despite the bus being good, the roads are generally smooth but, well, let’s say the Highway Code is probably pretty thin!
Buda-buda motorbikes with a standard 2 or 3 but sometimes 4 passengers whizz everywhere, old-style roadster push bikes and thousands of Toyota, Mitsubishi and Honda vehicles battle pedestrians in a crazy version of automotive pinball through the streets of Kampala.
After a half hour of successful play we were spat out of a roundabout underneath a relatively plush hotel in the banking district where the basement car-park houses an excellent – and air conditioned- Foreign Exchange Centre where we were promised ‘John Bunjo rate’ as we are here working with an ex-Bishop of the Kampala District.
Three or four waves of us pale and confused looking Brits stomped off the bus, past the armed-guards (there’s a theme developing here isn’t there) and then soon exited the FX centre with bundles of Shillings. The rate is 4,400 Ugandan Shillings to the pound so every one of us was a multi millionaire when we left that building (Ruby and I had a wodge-thumping 5.94 Mil and there is a slo-mo video of me counting the cash in true Gangland style).
Visiting the supermarket in Uganda is an unusual affair – you are searched by armed guards on the way into the mall, into the supermarket by the security and are then watched to your vehicle by more people with guns. The rifles they carry tend to be old WW2 style Royal Enfields and they look pretty battered but I wouldn’t risk the chance of seeing if they still worked!
Food on the bus – and around 200 litres of water – we then went for a meal in a very Western-style burger bar – complete with security – and what a great meal it was. The team were starting to gel over mocktails and I had the nicest cappuccino I’ve had for a long time. We were treated t a Ugandan birthday party for a child of about two who was dancing on the table as his huge family clapped along in time.
Back to the hotel, getting ready for the following day’s trek to Bombo for Church and meeting John Bunjo and the CRMI Team in the village and to see the building that has ben done as a result of the Project…we were assaulted in =n amazing way by a full Ugandan wedding and 185 decibel music on until 11 o’clock sharp (the hotel assured us!)
The garden at the hotel was jumping with music, singing and the blessing at 9:30 pm, it looked like it was going on all night as we prepared to settle down.