Our day today was another venture into downtown Kampala. We started our morning attempting to set up our white water river rafting for tomorrow by sending emails on the hostel computers that only occasionally let us into hotmail. We’ve essentially sent emails saying we want to go tomorrow for sure please get back to us at Red Chili and leave us a message. Hopefully that works itself out while we’re gone for the day as we really want to go rafting tomorrow! We met up with Amber and made our way out of the R.C. compound. This time we turned left and went out a way Amber knew to the road, it was a much calmer road and a nice walk down to the main road. We were all in search of some Rolex. Not the watch, but a local street food that is made of eggs and chapati all rolled together like a fajita/burrito or the like. It started out being called “rolled eggs” but that morphed over time into “rolex” (rolled eggs said fast and poorly). We found the rolex guy at the edge of the sheet metal pounding site, which is quite musical to listen to as everything makes a different ringing sound. Excited to finally be having some rolex we walked over to buy some from his stand. No eggs. Business can’t be going well if he’s out of eggs all the time; Amber had tried him the other day as well but out of eggs.
After our lack of breakfast we had to backtrack a little ways to catch a matatu into town. Amber hadn’t taken this particular matatu route yet so it was nice for once to be in the know and be able to show someone else around. Once on the road and into town we asked the condo if he could let us off near the national theatre, as that was near the craft market we wanted to go to. In true Ugandan fashion there was another man getting off and going near the theatre so the conductor told us this man would go with us so that we could find the place. Lindsay and I knew our way around by now and did not need the guide but it was a very nice touch and just reitirated how much we love Uganda and its people. A few streets over in our walk we made it to a bread shop Lindsay and I had seen previously near the Indian restaurant and figured we would stop in for breakfast so we parted ways with our temporary guide. Wouldn’t you know it but they sold Samosas, so we bought some of those and some croissant like things for Lindsay.
Heading across the street to the theatre we stopped inside to see what was playing that night. It turns out it was not much, a poetry reading/impromptu music type of thing. Since we were there to shop we began searching around the theatre grounds for this mysterious craft market. First we went around to the left and the guards at the end told us it was on the other side, so we walked back around to the other side and voila a nice big craft market. Shopping ensued. Most of the vendors are of course replicas of each other but every once in a while we would find something a little different. One vendor lady had a whole bunch of recycled paper products which were entirely different than everything else around. We ended up buying an extremely humorous nativity set from her made entirely of corn husks and other corn materials. Every piece has a funny shocked look on their face, we had to get it. Also picked up a Christmas tree angel from her and was even able to haggle her down to a good price, no thanks to the Americans walking around shopping. There was this Texan couple shopping, the wife would go into every shop and buy something at asking price and the husband stood outside with 4 or 5 full bags of things they had already purchased. They were not doing the rest of us any favours with their loose wallets and for most of our time in the market it was extremely hard to get a good price on anything.
After an hour or so we ended up walking way with some napkin rings made of cow bone, the funky nativity set, Christmas tree angel, some really little stuffed animals for friends back home, and probably something else I’ve forgotten. Amber and I were on the hunt for some football jerseys and figured we would buy them together to try and get a better deal. No one was giving us a good deal and Amber couldn’t find one that fit. So we ended up not getting any Jerseys but I have hopes for once we’re in the downtown shopping districts which are cheaper. I did find one guy selling music cds which was an interesting experience. He didn’t have a stall of his own, just a stool with an itty bitty table he had his wares on. He had traditional music cds and more modern cds and was trying his best to sell them to me for $10 each, but they were obviously homemade burnt cds worth 1/10 of that. The best part was when I got to listen to them. He whipped out some grungy old headphones and hooked them up to his disc-man! For those kids out there under 20 that’s a portable device that spins cds around so you can listen to them on the go 🙂 It’s the Grandpa-Pod or the Ipod of the 90s. The music was nice and it was a fun experience but there was no way I was carrying them around for another week to get broken in my bags. As I walked away he dropped his price in half and I had to laugh but kept on going.
At the very end of the craft market is the artist section. They have paintings tacked up on every availabe piece of “wall” space and even have a couple shops where the artists are working. We looked at all of the art work and even got a short tour of one of their “studios” which is not much more than a garage with a lot of paint. The art was interesting. It seems that lately they’re big on using textures so they’ll put bits of fabric in the painting, like a patch of denim on a tree to make it more bark like then paint over the denim. One painting caught our eye. It was a giant tree trunk with a whole lot of craft stalls and carts around and behind it with colourful umbrellas. It looked just like going to the taxi park or even this craft market, minus the tree. Talking with the artist, he wanted 500,000 UGX for it which is $200. It wasn’t that nice. I contemplated what I thought it was really worth and offered him 100,000, or $40, but he couldn’t let it go. I wished him the best and told him I hoped he sold it to someone who could pay him better than I could but I had no more money for his painting (turns out I didn’t even have the 100,000, but I tried). As we were leaving the art section I heard some music quite loudly so I followed it. After walking behind some random piles of wood and what not I ended up at a side door for part of the theatre. Inside was a dance troupe practicing some sort of dance routine to a very loud stereo so I saw a few seconds of that before catching up with the girls.
I was still on the hunt for a decent thumb piano so we decided to go to the store that Jack had told us about yesterday. It is Banana something or other and is in the mall up the street, so that is where we walked. We headed to the main drag running just east of downtown and stood on the edge of the extremely busy road. Luckily there is a grass median in the middle as it was risky enough getting to that part of the road. Eventually there was a break in traffic for a second or two and we ran across to the median and then walked up the road along it until another break and then ran all the way across. What I would give for a pedestrian crossing, this is much more exhilarating though. Farther up the road and past another traffic circle was the mall. You can see it from a long way off as it is one of the nicer looking buildings and has castle like turrets on the edges, weird design. Once inside, after the mandatory parking lot back pack guard inspection, we made it to the actual mall. It looks like a mall. Quite disappointing as I hate malls, to western, and this looks way too much like home. We walked in through another set up security guards and tried the Barclays ATM for some money, no surprise there, it didn’t work. Also tried a Standard bank, no luck. We are apparently one with the Stanbic bank system. We found the Banana Boat? store and as soon as we walked in we knew it was not going to be what we needed. It is a high end craft store with prices that make me cringe when shopping at home let alone in Africa. I did find a very nice tea box for $200 but not a single thumb piano (nor could I have afforded it). They didn’t even have sew on patches. We left, hit the Stanbic ATM for our needed white water cash and headed out of the mall.
We did our white person run across the street and headed back into downtown this time a street behind the National Theatre. While walking around the theatre I saw some large Ugandan flag banners that hadn’t been there 4 days ago. I took a picture and while I was doing this we all heard some music that was most definitely live. Following our ears we made it around to the west side of the theatre grounds and looking through the iron fence we saw an extremely large Ugandan cultural display/competition taking place. Stroke of luck. The live music and dance we were looking for had been found. We watched through the bars for a few minutes and then the girls decided we were going to see if we could go in and sit on the “grass” (mostly dirt) and watch. Currently it is the anniversary of Ugandan Independence so we put two and two together and figured out that this cultural event had something to do with that. We headed in, grabbed some drinks on our way, and grabbed a seat next to some school kids that were also watching, perhaps participating in this competition. We saw drumming, dancing, lip syncing, kids groups with awesome choreography (video coming later), crazy outfits, and a ton of different performances. We sat there and watched for probably 45 minutes before deciding to head back to the craft market to pick up a little textile print Lindsay had seen that she’ll put up in her office back home.
It started to rain as we were at the craft market again. We left in a hurry as the vendors were covering up all of there items and decided to duck into the theatre to wait out the heavier rain. We went upstairs where there is an internet cafe and used those computers for 30 minutes to update this little blog. The rain died down and we headed off into the rest of downtown. We walked Amber towards the taxi park to show her the awesome view we had discovered last week. Along the way we temporarily detoured when we all saw some sort of temple down a street. It turned out to be some sort of Hindu temple (I think) just sitting amongst all the other random things downtown. Walk down a random street, discover random things. Back on our original route we made it to the taxi park and walked up the stairs to our view point. Looking down upon the craziness of the taxi park I took the opportunity to snap more pictures of daily life in this section of town. After soaking it in for a while we headed down into it to walk across the park and on towards dinner. I got Lindsay some popcorn we had spotted from above, she says it was very very good popcorn. After dodging our way along the muddy taxi park we made it to the vehicle entrance and walked out that way. It was tight as there were a ton of matatus slowly making there way in, but it was extremely fun being beside the vans and having a ton of stalls selling things on both sides of the vans and just barely enough space to walk, in the mud. A great feel for daily life.
Coming out of the taxi park, traffic and people did not let up at all, in fact it increased. We made our way across the street, weaving through nearly stopped cars, attempting not to get hit when they slam on the gas and then the brakes so they can move forward 1 foot into the next spot. Once across the street we got out bearings and started heading towards Tuhende Safari Lodge for dinner. Along the way we saw many more football jerseys so we kept stopping and eventually Amber and I found two we liked and struck a deal. If you don’t need to shop in the craft markets, don’t, down here is much better. Craft market wanted 30,000 each for the jerseys, we bought ours on the street here for 17,000 each. Finally got a deal. We kept walking through the massive amounts of people. I have never in my entire life seen this many people in one place going about there business just walking around in public. It was so full, so chaotic; awesome.
Eventually we made our way through all the people and off onto a few side streets and back to Tuhende. We sat down and all ordered the house special, a steak, and got the full course meal package that is 19,000 ($7.50). It comes with soup to start, an awesome steak with vegetables, potatoes, grilled pineapple, a great portion of it all, and then desert as well. Throw in a couple of cheap beers and it was a perfect way of ending our time in Kampala. The meal was one of the best ever once again. As we finished dinner it was just starting to get to dusk and the light was beginning to fade. I wanted to take some bodas back across town but the girls were scared and wanted a taxi, so of course we special hired a taxi for 30,000 to take us back to Red Chili. I knew this would be a problem, but thanks to the girls we completed our Kampala experience in full; we got a taste of being stuck in traffic. Our taxi ride, which should have been about 25 minutes on a boda in traffic, took us 1.5 hours! We did not go very far and had we not been tired and it been night we could have walked faster. The drivers when stuck in traffic all turn off their cars and if the incline is right just roll forward without the car on. Our particular driver had extremely poor braking skills. Lindsay didn’t want a boda because she didn’t want whiplash from being bumped all over but the way our guy used the brakes she felt worse than on any other vehicle in our trip. Ir was a priceless journey (well actually 30,000 UGX), but a great memory of how traffic is NOT supposed to work. No rules are followed, every car is for them self, which of course slows everybody down in general. Will they learn? Who knows.
Thankfully we made it back to Red Chili, slightly shaken, but okay. Back in our room LIndsay and I found a note saying that Nile River Explorers would be there to pick us up at 6:45 the next morning. Yay, rafting got set up! We went in hunt of our laundry, which was not still on the line, no of course not, it had been taken down when it started raining, (too late of course) and stuck into plastic bags. Now we had a pile of wet laundry to figure out how to dry, Amber as well. We took it to our room, rigged another clothing line and hung up the clothes, all of the socks got hung on our window bars. I then turned the fan on the clothes. It broke. So then I took the fan apart and figured out why the blade kept spinning off of the fan, because it’s old and broken of course. Luckily I brought a mini screw driver, did some adjustments and made it spin again at a low speed. Started wind drying the clothes. Just before going to bed I bumped the fan with my leg. It broke again. So I took it apart again and fixed it once more, this time taking special care not to hit it. Here’s hoping the power doesn’t go off during the night or all the clothes will still be very wet. Before bed we went and said goodbye to Amber, promising that we’ll come visit in South Africa sometime in the near future. She was a lot of fun to travel with and we shall miss her. Time to save pennies for another trip to Africa it would seem.
Went to sleep, need to be up early for rafting!