Rains in Africa: Northland Challenge Day 4

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10/29/2014

Our collective alarm clock this morning felt like a sonic boom. It was just thunder, but it had to be directly overhead because it shook all of the challengers awake at about 5:45 a.m. Next came the downpour. As we all scrambled to pack our bags and take down our tents, a silly 80s song is running through my mind.

Then I realized I was actually hearing “Africa.”  Seems Joseph had hooked up a makeshift sound system in his Rav4.

The only challenger who missed part of “the rains of Africa” that morning was Paul, whom Kirsten found sleeping in their car.  Paul claims that it was not fear of the hippos nor rain that drove him out of his tent and into the car. No way. He was afraid of the snoring that was coming from nearby tents, he said.

Caffeine deprived and coated in dirt, I’m ready for day four. Guy and I leave with a convoy that included Pierre, Sebastian, Hartmut, Edward, Jim, Shad and Terry.  

Our destination today: Ruhengheri, Rwanda.

Driving the back roads of Uganda, you get a close-up view of how Ugandans spend their days.

Jim said he was struck by “the incredibly hard work that goes on as people try to lead their lives here. …They’re pushing bicycles with huge bunches of bananas [or other goods] up hills,” he said.

Jim said he was not expecting to see all of the small tea farms on the hillsides. “I don’t know how they walk on those hills, never mind work on them,” he said.

Indeed, we saw men, women and children toting all manner of produce, livestock, clothing and water vessels on their heads. I saw a few people carrying bricks made from the red Ugandan soil.
 

We saw people driving motorbikes strapped down with a dead pig, kids carrying 25-foot timbers, and we saw a group of people carrying someone in a homemade stretcher down a hill in the dark. The nearest big town was more than an hour away by car.
 
Guy observed that in many cases, especially in the more urban areas, what the Ugandans carry, appears to be their livelihood, their portable business.   
 
We drove through the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, which is one of the only habitats for gorillas in the world. It was a hilly drive with long vistas, and we stopped a lot to take photos.

Lunch break at the entrance ot Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

The border crossing from Uganda to Rwanda is not an orderly affair. You have to sort out where to begin, determine who needs to look at your passport and the various papers that you need to fill out. If you’re not driving the car, you must walk around the border gate to a building where you emigrate from Uganda at one window and immigrate to Rwanda at the next.
The process involved some standard questions about destination and purpose, which we all got through in a couple minutes. Edward, the last of our group to immigrate to Rwanda, received an extra lengthy interrogation.

The border guards had apparently had it up to here with the Northland Challenge vehicles by the time Vivian and Tim crossed as Vivian had an even longer interrogation than Edward.

Things looked up once we actually crossed into Rwanda. The main roads are quite nice, straight and lined with eucalyptus trees.  

The hotel is not far from the border and from my room I can see some of the Virunga Mountain volcanoes. The large one on the right extends into three countries, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The volcano on the far left is called “Sabyinyo” which means “old man's teeth”

Tomorrow, we’re off to bring light to the Janja school.

For more information about the Northland Challenge, check out these links:

The Northland Challenge: Security, service and globalization

Northland Challenge Day 1&2

Northland Challenge Day 3

Pierre Trapanese's blog