A Journey in Itself – UK to Uganda

A Journey in Itself – UK to Uganda

Lisa’s Uganda Travel Diary – 14-03-18 & 15-03-18

Departure

I feel like I have been waiting for this day for so long. Now it’s here, I can’t quite contain my excitement. A few flights and stressful hours, then I would get to see the gorillas where they belong.

Waiting around all day, to get the late train down to Manchester Airport, felt like I was a child on Christmas Eve. Filling my time in with packing and last minute errands, made the wait not seem as long. Once my mam got in from work, I knew that was the time the holiday started, just two more friends to meet and we were off.

The train journey didn’t seem too long, as the conversation and laughter flowed endlessly. However, not the same can be said for Manchester Airport and definitely not for Brussels. We arrived at Manchester Airport just after 22:00 and our flight wasn’t until 06:00. Everything closed at 23:00, and didn’t open again until around 04:30.

We Love Adventure.
We Love Adventure.

There weren’t many seats to start with, never mind available, and the draught coming in was freezing. I struck up a conversation with a good-looking blonde guy from Edinburgh. He was well tanned, from a month he had just spent just outside of Agadir, Morocco. What made me want to talk to him, was what he was carrying. I was curious as to whether it was a surfboard or a SUP, and well, I had time to kill. I was surprised at how much we had in common. It turned out he loved to surf and that was the reason for his month away. He was back to see his mother who had just been cleared of cancer but was still a little under the weather.

We talked about our travels, where we had been, where our favorite and least favorite place we had visited so far. He was telling me how he survives while traveling for long periods of time, being a chef, he managed to pick jobs up as he went. Everyone needs to eat I suppose. It turns out we both wanted to buy a camper van and travel the world. After having a great conversation and it being time to move on, I wished him good luck and we parted ways. Not realizing that we never exchanged names. If you’re that guy, look me up.

Delays

Thinking on a positive note, our journey had begun and the flight to Brussels would only be approximately one hour or so, or that’s how it was supposed to go. I managed to get some sleep on the flight, only to wake up to everyone panicking, as we had to make an emergency landing to refuel. The time it took to touch down at another airport, refuel and get to Brussels, made us miss our connecting flight. The shortest flight I think I’ve been on and it turned out to be the most stressful. 10 minutes late and they couldn’t wait?.

Many people missed their connecting flight and getting off the plane to find out what was happening, was like herding cattle. People were running to try and get to the desk before anyone else. We waited between four and five hours to eventually get booked on a later flight with a different airline. Not what we wanted but it was better than the, “no flights today”, and the “possibly no flights tomorrow”, speech that we were getting. They did, however, give us vouchers for the worth of €30 each. Better than a previous, similar situation I was once in, where I was only given a £5 voucher, so really I can’t complain.

We had no trouble spending the voucher that we received.
We had no trouble spending the voucher that we received.

Feeling rather hungry by this point, we went straight out through arrivals to find somewhere to eat and somewhere comfortable to relax for the next seven hours, until we could check in again. We found a nice little health bar called EXKI natures kitchen. A great range of food available and plenty of vegan and vegetarian options too, which was ideal for one of us being vegan. One place to cater for all four of us and it was absolutely delicious. I chose a meal deal option, consisting of a bottle of water, a baguette (mine being chicken, mushroom and pesto salad), a choice of soup (broccoli, tomato or courgette) and a slice of orange cream sponge cake for €10.40. The option of the cake being an extra €4.

The food I purchased from EXK
The food I purchased from EXK

Once we had filled our stomachs, we went to try and find a good place to settle for the remainder of the day. The three of us sat down with our backpacks, while Helen found a spot to lay down and try to get some sleep. Boots off and left with us, she donned her neck pillow, eye mask on and she was out for the count.

Helen had no trouble sleeping
Helen had no trouble sleeping

Awareness

I started taking notice of things happening around me. A little blonde haired lady sat down a couple of seats away. She was well dressed, with the odd holes in her coat, giving me the impression of an upmarket bag lady. Her face was well aged, her mouth was sunken in as if she had no teeth in, and she looked tired, but beyond that, I could see what once would have been a beautiful soul. What sat before me was a shadow of her former self, sat talking away and yelling at someone who wasn’t there. Maybe she had a sixth sense and could possibly see what we couldn’t.

Taking in my surroundings.
Taking in my surroundings.

I shot a glance over at Helen, laying all wrapped up in her blue Rab coat against the wall, barefoot and unable to see beyond her blacked out eye mask. Approaching her apprehensively, looking her up and down, were two burly guards looking imposing in their SWAT-like attire. I’m not sure whether they thought she was deceased or being shoeless, a homeless person out for shelter. Helen, thinking she is God’s gift to men insisted it would have been that they wanted to have their way with her. My Mam, however, said that they may have mistaken her for a blow-up doll with her blue Rab puffer jacket and her black fly eye mask.

Helen was unaware that she was attracting the attention of the security guards.
Helen was unaware that she was attracting the attention of the security guards.

As all of this went on, I noticed a disheveled looking man with a limp and a rough, wiry ginger beard walk by. He was dressed in khaki hiking trousers tucked into brown calf high boots, with a yellow T-shirt and a thick khaki jacket. On his back was an army style rucksack. I recognized the man. Subconsciously I’d noticed him before. While we had been sitting here this whole time, he had been up and down the lift numerous times. Every time the lift door opened he was there, not doing anything, just standing. He disappeared for a while and returned, walking around the lift shaft without his jacket on. This time he started to go through the bins. I didn’t notice what he took but he found something that clearly took his fancy and away he went. When he returned again with the same routine, I began to wonder whether he was waiting for a flight like many of us or if he was dressed to blend in and was actually a hobo looking for what he can find?

Eventually getting through departures for the 21:40 flight to Kigali, Rwanda and on to the last flight to Entebbe airport, we managed to fit in some well-deserved Hoegaarden rose and gin and tonics.

Landing in Kigali, our spirits were uplifted, realizing we were finally on the last stretch. The warmth on our faces, only to get hotter in Entebbe.

We were happy to see the sign welcoming us to Rwanda Airport.
We were happy to see the sign welcoming us to Rwanda Airport.

Kigali was only a small airport so the queues were not too bad. What was supposed to be a straightforward crossover, soon turned into another nightmare when we were told there were only seats for three of us, not four. We argued and were offered different alternatives which were no good to us. Our luggage would be on our intended flight and we had already been in two more airports than we should have. It was only meant to be a one-stop flight, and it seemed like a trip around the world.

After the queue behind us getting smaller and smaller until we were the last people there. We pleaded with the woman on the desk to get us on our flight. She was trying to get us to stop over with accommodation and book us on a later flight or take a flight to Nairobi. At this point, we should be waking up in a nice bed in Entebbe and waiting to be picked up for the first leg of our journey. Instead, we were being told there were no seats available for us unless we flew to Nairobi and transferred again from there. Eventually, as the plane was ready to board, somehow she magically appeared some seats from thin air.

After all of that stress, we could finally breathe. Although, after everything we had been through, I was expecting to get to Entebbe and find out our bags weren’t there. (Note to self – don’t write as you go). The airplane looked as though it was a model, rather than a full-size boarding plane. It was white and blue and had dinky little propellers on the side. Two seats either side and nowhere near enough room for everyone’s luggage.

Arrival

Arriving in Entebbe, Uganda was exactly as we expected. We had joked about the complications at each airport and mocked that our luggage would not be there. As we waited at the carousel for our rucksacks, fewer and fewer bags came around, until there was none at all. Yes, it was exactly as we had imagined. We filled out some forms, so hopefully, they could find our bags and send them on.

Whether the luggage got found or not, I was happy to know I had my passport, money, and camera on me. To enter Uganda, you need a Visa and your yellow fever card. You can’t get into the country without having your yellow fever injection and a stamped certificate of proof. The cheapest price I could find was £56 for the injection and that was with Boots the Chemist. There are private companies you can go with but only qualified persons are allowed to do it. I ended up going private and paying £85 as there was a shortage at the time and I needed to make sure I could get it. That was all I needed. Brush off the negative and think of the positive.

Now the true adventure begins…

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1 Comment on "A Journey in Itself – UK to Uganda"

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Craig Reay
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It sounds like the beginning of an amazing adventure. Stories are a lot more exciting to tell when things don’t go to plan.