The road to Moroto, where we spent the night, was challenging, dry and sandy. Much to our surprise, we then had a new and perfectly tarred road for the next 30 kilometers to Lorengedwat. Just as we were getting the hang of it, the road then gave way to mud which stuck with us, more or less, all the way to Mbale.
On the way we had a long discussion at a checkpoint near Namalu, where the officer was convinced that we had entered the country illegally. Eventually I managed to explain that we had been registered by the police at the border and that therefore were of the opinion that we had done all we could to be here legally and that we were told that all the formalities could be done in Mbale, our destination. He didn't seem convinced, "Next time you have to do things properly", but the van wasn't conviscated, and reluctantly he allowed us to pass. No bribe was paid nor asked for.
The customs office in Mbale turned out to be a shack on the outskirts of town next to a weighbridge. Nobody was there. There wasn't even a sign but the guy at the weighbridge assured us that we were correct and that we could wait there untill someone came.. He then telephoned and half an hour later a customs officer in civil turned up and interviwed us. He in turn telephoned with his boss who also spoke to us. Shortly afterwards he rang again and said that they couldn't help us and that we would have to drive to the the border crossing at Mabala, another 70 kilometers further on. Everyone was very friendly and helpful. We were told who to ask for at the border and as we arrived at the gate being expected helped to get rid of the touts and fixers very quickly.
Our contact man from customs soon arrived and with his help and despite entering the kenyan immigration office through the back door as it were (from Uganda), the exit stamps for our passports and for the carnet were obtained without any fuss, within minutes and free of charge. The Ugandan stamps were equally obtained with as little ado. The only Fee payable was 20 USD for a temporary road licence (which we apparently should have had in Kenya aswell). We couldn't pay the customs guy directly. That had to be done in a bank which was fortunatly in the compound and which very fortunatly was still open. We were then given the licence in exchange for the reciept. The road back to Mbale was tarred but by now it was getting dark and so we called it a day and spent the night in Tororo.
The next morning, upon our arrival in Salem (8 kilometers north of Mbale, in Nakaloke), we are warmly greeted by Andrew, the director's deputy. Denis, the director wasn't there but would be tomorrow. As soon as it is clear that we wish to sleep in our van and not in the guest house, the atmosphere becomes cooler and we are shown to the corner of a field behind the main admin building, next to the volunteers house. Andrew allocates us a toilette and shower much to the disapproval of Sarah, the guest house manager and we are left pretty much to ourselves.
Tukolere Wamu (which means "lets work together" in the Luganda language) is a german charity not far from where we live. A few years ago we had been to a lecture of theirs and now, being in Uganda decided to visit one of their projects. They support the Salem village, near Mbale, founded in 1980 by the Salem Brotherhood, another german charity, following the reign of the Butcher of Uganda, Idi Amin, and dedicated to helping especially women and children rebuild a future.
We learnt much of what little we know about Salem (and the Ugandans) from Therese, Thomas and Pia, young German volunteers we met there. For example that one of the first and vormost projects untertaken in Salem was the children's home. Or, for example, that we definitly must try a Rolex (rolled eggs) if we get the opportunity (thankyou Thomas), they really are delicious.
Since its foundation, the Salem community has grown and grown. It now comprises a children's home, a nursery school, a hospital, a nursing school, a nursery, a guest house, a textile workshop, an arts and crafts shop, a carpenter and joinery workshop, a mill and even a Garage of sorts.
Next to the garage an anvil had been left to its fate out in the open. As we left two days later I asked Thomas to have it taken inside somewhere. I wonder if he did. It really is a shame that such a valuable tool had been so underestimated. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.
The Welsh Government and a welsh charity, the Size of Wales, suport the Salem Nursery. Their Ten Million Tree Planting Projct not only helps the people in Mbale and the surrounding districts. Essentially the whole planet benefits from this project and similar ones irrespective of where they are.
Apart from ourselves, Therese, Thomas, Pia and Therese's mum who was there visiting her, there was yet another group of germans. A large group of benefactors, sponsors, patrons and potentials travelling with Tugende Begegnungsreisen, a german travel agency closely related to Tukolere Wamu that organizes trips to Salem and their other projects in Africa on a regular basis.
In spite of being fellow germans, neither the volunteers nor we, had any notable contact with them. They were mostly seniors, which shouldn't be mistaken as an excuse. A number would have been of our age and came from the same corner of the country. However a large proportion seemed to belong to that type of person best described as besserwisserische weltverbesserer which is best left untranslated.
They were mostly heard and then seen in the mornings embarking upon an excursion and evenings whilst celebrating their Lagerbesprechung (debriefing). We would tip toe past them to the buffet smiling and bowing, catch a plate of scoff, (In Uganda a lump of papp and a ladle of sauce was the staple diet), two biers and then slipp past Sarah's reproachful gaze through the door. We ate outside. I think the only conversation we had with them was as one morning someone remarked, en passant "oh, you must be the couple in the car!!".
The work that I have seen thus far done by NGOs in Africa has without doubt shown me more of the pros and cons involved than I was aware of and that the subject is more complicated than I thaught. Thankyou Salem.
We've now been over 4 months on the road and the first part of our trans Africa trip is now over. The third and final part will be Southern Africa, (Botswana, Namibia and South Africa), where we hope to be staying another 5 or 6 months. Part two begins now and is basically just about getting to part three. We don't know a great deal about Uganda or the countries we are about to drive through and we have only set aside 2 or at the most 3 months for them. Without doubt that's doing them an injustice, but we have a budget and limited time and hope to make the best of it. The journey will hopefully be our reward.
- Thankyou Therese
- Thankyou Thomas
- Thankyou Pia
- Thankyou Therese's mum
- Thankyou Nils
- Thankyou Andrew
- Thankyou Denis
- and special thanks to Sarah