Sunday, June 29, 2008

R and R in Uganda

Since my travel agency was unable to get me on a flight home until Sunday night and the travel planned from Kitgum to Kampala was on Friday, I faced the prospect of two days off with no plans.

I wanted to go to Jinja where they have the whitewater rafting into the source of the Nile and Lake Victoria for my two day break before returning to Amsterdam. I didn't bring any good travel clothes since I originally only came to Kampala for a conference. The idea of white water rafting or bungee jumping in a skirt didn't seem too smart and I couldn't see any shops nearby that sold cargo pants or shorts, since I was staying in the middle of a suburb. I asked the Ugandan staff at the MSF house (since no expats were around) the best way to get there. They insisted that I should take a matata. I decided to do it since it wasn't really obvious how I would hire a car and I didn't have a telephone to make any arrangements and the phone in the office was locked and inaccessible.

On line, and courtesy of a 10 year old Lonely Planet sitting in the office, I found a nice guesthouse that promised solitude and bird watching on the banks of the Lake Victoria. Since every morning since I had arrived in Uganda, I had been woken up by loud rooster crows, dog barking, goats bleating, and cows mooing - I was very much looking forward to a little R and R in a garden cottage with a “Balinese style bathroom" by the lake.

After a hair raising journey on the Matata crushed in with 13 other passengers, the one sitting next to me carrying three large boxes of glucose biscuits, I decided that I should hire a car for the ride home. Ugandan mini buses are scary! I was on the flip down seat next to the door and could clearly feel every pothole taken at 7o miles an hour. We swerved around large petroleum trucks, flew past cows in the road, and darted in and out of traffic for an hour and a half.

The Guesthouse seemed very close according to the map from the website. It was not. I ended up taking a moto taxi that assured me he knew where it was but got us lost indeed. We finally got here and the guesthouse was LOVELY. The main house has a large sweeping garden and there are little garden cottages tucked into the outskirts of the garden, all with a view of the lovely Lake Victoria.

I took a shower in the almost Balinese style bathroom (still had a roof which is NOT Balinese) and there was no hot water. No matter. The little cottage I rented was lovely with beautifully decorated interior and lush gardens all around. I sat on the front porch and read for a while. I went up to the main house to have some drinks and the staff was lovely and sweet. I had dinner and went back to my cottage to sit on the front porch, look at the stars and the moon reflected on the lake, listen to the birds, and drink a beer. Instead, the crappy Ugandan guesthouse right next door and over the fence behind my cottage, which I had not noticed before, turned on VERY LOUD rap music. They have no one staying there so it was the owner and his friends drinking beer, getting louder and louder and louder. From 9pm until 11pm, I tried to read and ignore them but all I could hear was the same crappy faux reggae song over and over. It was as if it was right in my bedroom. The stars were out, the lake was there, the crickets and frogs were singing but all I could hear was their crappy music. Between songs, I would try to shout “Turn down your music, please!" but to no avail.

I finally went to sleep at 11pm. I had set my alarm for 10am so I could go see the falls and get back to Kampala in time but I shouldn't have bothered. at 7am, the music started up again, rudely dragging me from my sleep. I looked over the fence, and there was no one there. This time it was the radio so every ten minutes, the songs (with extremely loud and thumping bass lines) were interrupted by Lingala being shouted over the song in a shrill manner. I went up to the main house to complain. A lovely older Ugandan man hung his head and said “there is nothing we can do, it is another establishment". Surely we can ask them to turn the music down! "They will refuse and will just shout at us. We have tried several times". I decided to go over and take matters into my own hands.

He accompanied me. We walked into the grounds- there was an abandoned dried swimming pool, some tables scattered around the yards, and a big pile of beer bottles sitting by the stereo. The stereo was screaming away and the control was inside the dining room. There was no one to be seen. We called out hello! Hello! We knocked on the doors. We walked around looking for someone. I wanted to go inside and just turn off the music. The older man stopped me. They can cause problems for you! He said - they may accuse you of taking money from inside their establishment and call the police. Can't we call the police on them for disturbing the police, I asked? It's 7:30am on a Sunday morning! No, they will not come. He then informed me that he was sure they were inside hiding from us. INFURIATING!

Thwarted, I went back to the main house to eat breakfast and stew in my anger for 2 hours. Its 9:30 now and I can't hear the thump thump thump of the music. I think they may have turned it off. The gardens are quiet again and I can hear the birdsong. If the owner of this establishment can't deal with her crappy neighbors trying to make a quick buck with a hotel, she's going to lose all her hard earned business investment. I was paying $75 a night to stay in a quiet tranquil cottage in a garden overlooking the lake. If I wanted a loud rowdy establishment, I could have paid $20 and stayed at the backpacker hostel. I feel bad for the lovely older Ugandan man who tried to help me and the sympathetic Ugandan staff who apologized to me several times. However, I don't know that I would recommend anyone staying here until they take care of their neighbors. What a pity.

1 comment:

  1. Yep, what a pity. Noise pollution (and privacy in general) can be a bit of an alien concept here. But it is still an incredibly friendly place considering the disparities in income. And beautiful. I just hope your next R&R here is quieter.