I woke up in time to catch the sun rise. All was silent except for the quiet chatter of unseen birds and the steady murmur of the river rapids. A handful of fishermen glided back and forth on the calmer stretches of water. Eventually I sat in the restaurant with a coffee and a book, until the sun woke everyone else up and they joined me. Not a bad start to the day.
I returned from the relative cold of Amsterdam to find Kampala gripped by an unpleasant heat wave. I guess it didn’t rain while I was gone, and without me to water them my poor plants have suffered. To think I was only gone four days!
The warm weather, especially after that little taste of cold, has switched my mind into a summer’s-almost-here mode, as if I were twelve years old and it was the last week of May and I couldn’t wait to get out of school. I was driving around town yesterday with my iPod on shuffle, and it seems my iPod agreed, because the playlist was all summer music, offering up reggae, some salsa, classic R&B, and a bunch of uptempo pop hits (a little Leonard Cohen snuck in, too, but it worked.) If Lake Victoria wasn’t infested with hippos and parasites, I would have made a beeline for the beach.
At a cafe I am reminded that there are many Amsterdams. Beside me are a couple of young men with bright red eyes. I am having breakfast but they are having a meal at the end of a long night, and even though neither of them are saying much they cannot stop giggling. Theirs is not the Amsterdam I am here for, but I remember my younger days when it might have been.
At a park I am momentarily mesmerized by a young girl spinning around on playground equipment. She is sitting on a chin-up bar and after taking a deep breath she drops, quickly and dramatically, and spins completely around three or four times before stopping at the top for another breath. Beside her a group of boys take turns jumping off of swings, and in a weird little playground cage a postcard-perfect group of multicultural mixed gender preteens play something that looks like dodgeball soccer. It is not clear if they are being watched by any adults; in any event, the children definitely don’t see any of the grown-ups walking past them. The spinning girl doesn’t even seem to notice that every time she whips around her ponytail drags through the dirt. Theirs is an altogether different Amsterdam, too.
A girl with pink hair and a ring in her nose; a jowly man in a very expensive coat; a baker who apologizes to his Dutch customer that he only speaks English. I love cities. I can appreciate the charms of the rural life for a weekend at most. I don’t look down on it, and respect that others can’t stand all the sounds and smells of urban spaces. But I love it. I love letting myself through these overlapping worlds. Funny then how in all my pictures there are no people present. I guess I feel the need to respect their worlds, and I only take pictures of mine.
Not that I’m actually grieving. It’s a lyric in a Steve Earle song that I’ve had in my head for the past few days.
I wanted to go somewhere cold for Christmas but I didn’t want to take too many days off or miss Christmas at home, and there are very few direct flights from Uganda to cold places, so here I am in Amsterdam, with Steve Earle in my head.
I’ve had my camera hanging around my neck this whole time, and I wish I was taking a bunch of beautiful pictures, but I guess that’s not the mode I’m in right now.
This city is beautiful, and obviously rich with culture, but except for a foray to the Rijksmuseum and a canal cruise to see the Festival of Lights, I haven’t done anything particularly touristy. I’ve walked around and looked at things; done some very boring (but satisfying) shopping at department stores; and done some more walking. Despite the multiple travel guides and apps I downloaded, I don’t feel any obligation to go see any museum, or venture out to funky neighborhood, or make reservations to one of Amsterdam’s finest restaurants.
I’m happy to just walk and watch the people. And if sometimes forget to take my camera, well, I guess I’ll have to trust my memory.
I had hoped to get to Rwakobo Rock at Lake Mburo with enough time to decompress and be excited about taking a night safari (which is apparently a thing), but the road from Bwindi took a lot longer than expected, so by the time I reached my destination all I wanted to do was sit on the rock and relax until I fell asleep.
The last time I came, though, was during a dry spell and the air was filled with dust and haze. This time, after several weeks of heavy rains, the air was clear and the sunset was gorgeous, so I was able to take the photos I couldn’t take before. Continue reading “Rwakobo sunset”
This seems ridiculous, but I’ve come all the way out to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and I am not going gorilla trekking. Why not? Because it is more than I wanted to pay right now, and (more importantly) I am not in any kind of shape to go into an impenetrable forest.
Also, I am a horrible judge of distance and didn’t realize it would take all day to get out here.
There are other things to do here besides look at gorillas, so today I will do some of that. Honestly, though I’d be content enough to just sit and look at these mountains with a glass of wine.
I took these pictures on the road, so they’re a bit fuzzy, but by the time I got to my hotel it was dark and I was too tired to explore. I will say, though, I’ve been all over the world, and this corner of Uganda might be the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. Certainly, it’s on the short list. Continue reading “The road to Bwindi”