Monday 25th August – Journey to the source of the Nile

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After a comfortable night’s sleep, I had breakfast at the hotel before meeting up with Rosco and John at 9.30am. Today was set aside for introducing me to Uganda and showing me some sights of interest. Together we drove through Kampala (a city of 4 million residents) and made our way onto road that heads in an Easterly direction toward Nairobi in Kenya (an 8-hr drive away). Our destination was a town called Jinja (which literally translates as ‘stone’). Jinja sits on the shores of Lake victoria but is particularly famous for being the source of the river Nile.

It was great to take in the scenery during the 2hr drive. The hustle and bustle of the Ugandan roadsides was very reminiscent of travelling in Sierra Leone. Lots of people making their way on foot to various destinations, women with heavy loads balanced perfectly on their heads (many with babies also wrapped to their backs), people cultivating the land, and children playing. The rain and cloud from yesterday had served to keep the temperature down, so the drive was very comfortable.

The traffic on the road was reasonably light but there were still many lorries laden with heavy loads such as charcoal or sugar cane. Indeed, one unfortunate driver had had tipped his lorry on its side and spilt the load of charcoal on the road. Regularly interspersed along the route there were roadside vendors selling their wares (including bananas and cold drinks).

It was a real buzz to catch my first site of the Nile and to travel across the river on a bridge that sits nearby the hydro-electricity plant that generates much of Uganda’s (and indeed some of neighbouring Kenya’s) power. On arriving in Jinja, we asked a Boda-Boda driver (a motorcycle taxi driver) to direct us to a back-packers resort called Bourbon. Bourbon is owned by a student of Rosco’s called Cornelius. On arriving at Bourbon we were greeted by two very friendly dogs – one of which insisted on chewing on the sleeve of Rosco’s jumper.

Rosco had arranged with Cornelius for us all to take a 2hr boat journey on the Nile and Lake Victoria. It was a fantastic trip. The guide (Samuel) was incredibly knowledgeable about the wildlife that lives on the river shore that included a multitude of different species of birds, otters and monkeys. A highlight was seeing some brightly coloured kingfishers and an African Fish Eagle.

We stopped off at various points on the river including the place were some of Muhatma Gandhi’s ashes were scattered into the Nile (marked with a statue of the man himself), and of course the point where the source of the Nile springs up from its underground source on the edge of Lake Victoria. We managed to paddle our way to the sign that marks the spot as there are two small islands nearby (Rippon Island and Napoleon Gulf Island). Prior to the damming of the river (to drive the hydroelectricity plant), the spring shot 5 meters into the air. Although it is now a little less spectacular, it was still very cool to be at the starting point of Africa’s longest river.

Back on dry land, we made our way to the aptly named Paradise Hotel for some lunch. I was persuaded to go for the Grilled Whole King Fish. Needless to say it was delicious, if not the most beautiful looking of fish. I was pretty tired on the way back to Kampala (the travel catching up with me) but we stopped off at the University of Makerere on the way back and visited the Psychology and Clinical Psychology department. It was good to meet with some of Rosco’s colleagues. I then had a quiet evening making some final changes to the slides for tomorrow’s teaching.

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