Looking back on the day, it is hard to believe that we are now here, in Rukungiri, the town where we will be staying for the majority of the remaining duration of our trip. We all clambered out of bed much earlier this morning than yesterday, and we were met with a quick but delicious breakfast before our 8:30 bus. It was hard to say goodbye to our first hotel in Kampala which I think all of us really enjoyed. It was charming and so were the people running it. Nevertheless, we hopped on the bus, eager and excited about our trip down to the southwestern corner of Uganda.
About two hours into our ride, we stopped at the equator. What a trip! It was so surreal standing with one foot in the southern hemisphere and the other on the northern side. Crossing the equator is something you hear about, but to witness and experience it firsthand was like a dream; it was truly incredible. After close to ten photos (a small pile of cameras accumulated as Lesley, our tour guide and fearless leader from Venture Uganda, snapped picture after picture) we were let loose to look around in craft shops and return to the bus an hour later, loose and ready to continue the journey. The rest of the day proceeded in this manner; we would stop every few hours and then, after a generous break, climb back in the bus for more sleeping, reading, talking, and my favorite: looking out the window at the gorgeous Ugandan countryside spread before us. Talking about our observations tonight before dinner, many of us remarked on the change in relief. We started out in the hilly Kampala region and, over time, found ourselves in a much more mountainous part of the country. We also noticed all the trading centers we passed, where locals stand by their kiosks, waiting for incoming traffic to buy their products. Picture a line of one-story apartments all connected and painted by companies seeking to advertise to travelers. Consequently, all of the buildings we passed in these strip mall-type areas were brightly colored to portray local phone companies for example. We also noted that there were a lot of animals grazing in the fields we passed, particularly goats and cows with large horns which Lesley informed us are indigenous. One of the highlights was definitely coming fairly close to one of the only two wildlife reserves in all of Uganda which houses a sizable zebra population. Go Groton! It was so exciting to see them and our driver, Godfrey, was very nice to stop a few times and let all of us admire the 10 or so zebras who had strayed from the reserve.
Close to 10 hours later, after a lunch stop and countless naps and conversations, we pulled onto the fairly bumpy, dirt road which led us through the town center and up to “Jim’s House”, the mp’s beautiful home where we will be staying for some of our time in Rukungiri. I think we were all a little startled as we rubbed the sleep out of our eyes and took in the large gate and surrounding fence. Once inside, we noticed that the house we will be living in for the next couple of nights is enormous! It is a stunning colonial-style home and after a tour of the grounds, we were all in awe of the beautiful greenery. A quick question from Mr. Prockop allowed us to determine that the grounds require 20 employees for upkeep!
Right now, I am sitting in the downstairs living space of Jim’s house which is both lavish and decorated. We had a delicious dinner of pork and chicken stews, rice, plantains, bananas, vegetable stew, avocados, and a flatbread-style starch. Everyone is unwinding now, writing in journals and talking, and I know that we will all sleep well tonight as we look forward to what tomorrow will hold. It will be very exciting to visit town and meet some of the villagers. Until then!