The nice and bad roads of Uganda| Sipi Falls

“Rumble…bump…rumble,”  rawred the Acacia bus as it bounced towards Busia border.  We had just put on our seatbelts so that we wouldn’t be thrown off our seats and through the windshield.   Cars meandered off the roads away from giant potholes; some spanning more than half of the road and half a foot deep.  The driver barely slowed down as it crossed over to the wrong side of the road barely avoiding oncoming traffic, off the pavement and onto dirt sidewalks whipping up clouds of soot.  People tried to cover up as the dirt swarmed their faces.

We crossed the Uganda-Kenya border in Busia.  The taxi stands were labelled with destinations and prices.  YES, no haggling for once.  It’s been more than a month; doubting each quoted price was getting tiresome. Perhaps Uganda is more well-organized than Kenya.

We’ve been warned that the roads to Mbale were bad, but perhaps bad was an understatement to say the least.  They were washboard roads extending for hours.  Each bump was twice as high and dense as other “bad roads”.  My lungs jostled and bumped against my ribs.  Horns flared whenever we approached another car or person sounding almost every thirty seconds.   Soon the horn harmonized with the rumble of the taxi and I could no longer hear it.

With a chapatti and a pit stop in Mbale, we were off to Sipi Falls.


Hold on a second. Let’s rewind a bit… We arrived here:

Then took a motorbike each to get to the main street to catch another taxi.  Remember how I said that Taxis seemed to be labelled with their prices? Well, we were wrong. After half an hour of people swarming us, stepping on banana peels, almost tripping, being told that people were lying to us, getting into a van with knees touching a random ranger who’d try not to stare, stopping and starting multiple times, and not knowing if we were going to be kidnapped, we were at Crows Nest near Sipi Falls.  Sipi Falls consists of three waterfalls.

We were getting too comfortable with motorbikes; we took another one with our guide to the top of the falls and hiked down skipping the main fall where we’d abseil the next day. Sharing stories about his family and his community, we walked through people’s properties passing children gathering firewood.  It was odd to be in another community knowing that I was a complete stranger and a complete tourist.

“Lean back! Lean back!” the rock climber repeated shouted at me.  I couldn’t help but let the song run through my head.  I tried, but the rope was heavy.  Sometimes we do things because we’re afraid.  Well I can safely say that I am afraid of heights; it makes abseiling even more fun.

The waterfall thundered beside me.  The 100m descent seemed so short as I hung in mid air.  Oh how I wish I wore my Go Pro. I pulled my hands off the rope letting gravity take hold of my arms and my legs. I looked around taking mental snapshots of the lush green hills folding against each other in the distance. I listened to the rumble of the waters as it crashed beneath me, and felt the force of the waterfall as it swayed me from side to side.  I felt so tiny, yet so calm.

Must keep goingThis isn’t forever.

The lower you get the lighter the rope feels.  Drenched by the the spray, I looked up and then beside me at the bottom of waterfall .  It was all over.  This was one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen.  The hike up was just as exhilarating walking along the ledge of the hill covered with banana trees and coffee bushes.  A young boy carried a stack of wood most likely for fire on his head along the same path up.  We were slipping and sliding and we were in his way.

I am a tourist. 

My bright red jacket stood out amongst the green landscape.

With one backpack strapped to the back, down the smooth road we go.

Next stop: Kayaking down the White Nile.


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