On Getting to Uganda


Randy at 10,000 feet over Uganda

Randy about to be at 10,000 feet over Uganda

I didn’t think it would ever arrive, but it was finally time to start my journey to Africa.  It began inauspiciously with a drive to LAX during the evening rush hour.  I think because I was so excited and anxious this made the stop and go traffic even more irritating.  But all good things come at a price I suppose.  But as “meh” as the departure was, the arrival was like OMG.  More on that in a bit.

The flight was long and very confusing in regards to time.  I had two full nights in 24 hours and a first day where I was in a complete daze.  The flight from LAX to Istanbul was really quite nice and much more bearable than I anticipated.  I left Los Angeles around 8pm, had a lovely, multi-course dinner served by a chef in full regalia, slept well, woke up, took a pill and slept well again.  We were served breakfast just prior to landing in Istanbul where my friend Joan awaited.

Here’s where the confusion set in, I think.  I only had a few minutes in Istanbul when we boarded our flight to Uganda via Rwanda.  Upon reaching cruising altitude Turkish Airlines saw fit to serve me dinner and tuck me back in bed for the long flight down (remember I’d just had breakfast a few minutes before that).  This is all well and good except for the toddler-aged children strategically seated all around Joan and I who found the aisle a perfect place to practice gymnastics and who had also determined that when screaming you must do so with gusto in order to overcome the sound of the engines.  These antics are best if they are constant and kept up all night…my second night in 24 hours.

Tina!  What a great pilot.

Tina! What a great pilot.

It was in Kigali, Rwanda that I realized I was in for an interesting time.  In Istanbul, a person was escorted on board in hand cuffs obviously being extradited by authorities, however they didn’t appear to be Turkish ones.  He was a black man heavily guarded by three white men and was graciously invited to sit in the last row of the economy section. Upon arrival in Kigali his exit of the aircraft was a similar fashion.  We thought we’d seen the last of him and passengers destined for Entebbe boarded.

Then we sat, and we sat, and we sat for nearly an hour and a half for during our 30 minute stop in Rwanda.  Eventually the pilot announced that there was a “security” problem with one of the passengers who had just deplaned and that as soon as that was worked out we’d be on our way.  Finally, guess who was brought back to join us.  Our friend wearing the matching linked bracelets!  It appears that Rwanda didn’t want him and he was about to enjoy a trip back to Turkey and probably beyond.  These events proved to be great fodder conversation for Joan and I as we often asked the question “why would a country extradite someone to a country where he wouldn’t be received?  Didn’t they discuss this beforehand?”

We finally made it to Uganda around 4 o’clock in the morning (which day at this point, I couldn’t tell you).  Joan arranged for us to get a hotel room near the airport for a few hours so that we could await our final, domestic flight in comfort.  That all went without a hitch and was a good idea in retrospect.

Here’s where the fun begins.  We knew we were going to take a small craft up north to land at a remote airstrip.  What we didn’t know was that there were only going to be four people on board:  Joan, the pilot, the co-pilot, and I. It seems that we all sat in the cockpit although Tina, our pilot, had a lot more gadgets to play with.  We flew at about 10,000 feet and Tina carried out her job with aplomb.  Just as we crossed the Nile River Tina and her assistant landed us expertly on a small airstrip in Murchison Falls National Park.  During the landing I was shocked at the number of giraffes, gazelles, hippos, etc. that were dotting the landscape.

Arriving at Pakuba Airstrip, Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda.

Arriving at Pakuba Airstrip, Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda.

By the time we reached our safari lodge on the banks of this renowned river I was giddy and totally exhausted at the same time.  I’d already seen and done so much and now we were only just arriving.  Today we are taking a boat trip on the Nile to the base of Murchison Falls.  Meh.

Barf bag remained unused!

Barf bag remained unused!

 

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