As I write this, I am surrounded by a horde of Ugandan children of all ages. We were warned about this, so as the circle creeps inward, I also warn the children by splashing water at them.
Today, we have walked from our drop-off point, Bugonyoka, to our camp site at Naigobia. Part of the walking was through heavy rain. We are camped at the Naigobia Technical Institute, and have spent half an hour talking to the pupils about their lives and HIV. We also managed to complete minor project six by climbing a mango tree, so we are starting well. Tomorrow will be a hectic day, as we must continue teaching at the school, visit the principleís house and then walk 14 miles to Nawaka.
Got up and ready for an early departure: 14 miles to walk today. After teaching "Campfireís Burning" to the Technical Institute pupils, we were asked to speak to another group of primary schoolchildren.
Next, our visit to the principle turned out to be an early lunch at the LC1ís house. The LC1 seemed to think we were ambassadors from the Netherlands Government (why, I donít know), killed a chicken for us and told us of all the schoolís problems. It seemed to be a plea for money.
After managing to leave the village, an uneventful and tiring day. We took a route, supplied by a local, which turned out to be a rather long short cut! Once we reached Nawaka, heavy rain meant we could do little but wait. Fourtunately, the local training centre allowed us to sleep in their front room, keeping everything dry.
It looks like today is the standard Explorer Belt Day. Get up, walk, camp, speak at a school, speak with LC1, bed. We could get used to being treated like royalty! With the difficulty of getting water, boreholes being away from the main road, we also seem to be drinking sodas in every village we travel through. Oh well, at 20p each thatís not really a problem.
Today we walked quite far, as our destination village Lukotaime turned out to be tiny even by Ugandan standards. The village was off the main road and not signposted, so we overshot it by several kilometres. This gave us the opportunity to take some buda-buddas back to our destination. These are pedal cycles with a rack at the back. You sit on the rack, place your feet on the wheel nuts and hold on!
Another report and plea for money from the local school, again expected. Dinner was fun, we ordered a chicken, had it killed for us, then cooked it and some rice. We fed seven a meal for minor project three. One strange piece of entertainment was a learnt by heart speech from one twelve-year-old girl about defilement (sex with a minor). Very strange.
The contingentís arrival in Uganda seems to be well publicised: we have seen our pictures in the local paper and now we find out that we have been announced by Ugandan radio. Everything is going well so far, even our feet arenít to bad!
Seemed like another typical day today, until I got food poisoning! We very slowly travelled to our destination village, Bugaya. We camped at the sub-county headquarters and met the sub-county chief. It also turns out Dan has never been backpacking before and has developed some very bad blisters, so both of us are feeling under the weather.
Todayís talk with the locals was also strange. One local commented that "AIDS is a disease created by the western world to wipe out Africans"!
Many of the others laughed, but a few didnít.
As both of us are feeling so bad today, we took transport into the Buyende sub-county headquarters. We spent the day eating oranges from a nearby tree, while building and trying to fly a kite (minor project ten). Dan is trying to deal with his blisters. In the evening we organised to attend a church service tomorrow morning.
Today was very hot. We walked to the church, and waited for the service to start. It eventually did, two-and-a-half hours late. The service was conducted in Bugandan, with bible readings in English. We led some hyms.
Afterwards, we walked to our next village, Nkondo. On the way, we stopped for lunch in a village. The village elders invited us to share their lunch: a large pot of millet beer drunk through reed straws.
Our campsite tonight is the garden of a local family. The LC1ís office turns out to be a mud hut, so facilities are minimal. Just about to go to bed, we are accosted by a local police officer. He was drunk, demanded to know who we are, to see our papers and to know on whoís authority we are here. He refused to believe our explanation, but filling in a notification card pacified him immediately.
We spent the morning talking to a group of local farmers for minor project one. As we were packing up, the local security chief came to say good morning to us. When Ronald spoke to him about the other officer last night, the chief was aghast, apologised and rapidly went off to find the offender.
Just as we left for Kidera, the rain started. As it became heavier, we sheltered for a while in a derelict church. We completed the short day in a few hours, and met two of the other groups. We met a big local Scout troop, and spoke to them. The school has over 100 Guides and Scouts, so there is great enthusiasm. After dinner we started a campfire, got some beers from town and returned to the site. We spent the evening singing songs and talking with the young Ugandans. I think this has been the best day so far.
This morning we travelled into Ndolwa and set up camp. The watchers here are almost aggressive in their demeanour, particularly when the LC5 comes. They have fallen over our tents, damaging the poles and get very close indeed. They are also very keen on watching the girls washing, so we erect a flysheet and two bivi bags around some poles.
We then visited a school. This one is large and comparatively well funded i.e. it has buildings and some furniture. We spoke to the pupils as usual, and then saw some traditional dances and another soliloquy, this time on AIDS.
When we returned, we managed to complete minor projects seven and nine today, repairing a puncture and lighting a fire without matches. Dinner was then supplied by the LC5.
Our breakfast this morning was provided by the LC5ís wife. Afterwards, we travelled to our final campsite in Balawoli. The increasing westernisation as you travel nearer Kamuli is astounding. Though the village is as small as the others, it has public phones, electricity and even refrigerated soft drinks!
That afternoon, we spoke to the local agricultural officer. We visited the local farmer, but he had recently undergone cardiac surgery (he was very rich) so was not in a position to help us.
After returning, we visited a school. The children were in exams, but the teachers were very keen to speak to us. After had done so, we were presented with a turkey! After we returned to the campsite, it was taken from us to be prepared.
Our final Explorer Belt day. We were asked to travel to a local school, where we were served breakfast. This school was very well off, and twinned with an English school in Reading. However, this did not stop the principal presenting a case for more money.
Leaving, we travelled the final distance into Kamuli, met the other teams and then rested for the day. In the evening, we had a long series of speeches and a late night. A fine finish to the expedition.