The big plan of the day is to drive to Queen Elisabeth National Park (Uganda). Just when I’m taking a picture of the stunningly beautiful Lake Bunyoni, a few winding kilometres outside of Kisoro, I meet my first hitchhiker of the day, Ronald. All dressed up in a black tuxedo and a red shirt he walks along the road. He nods very eagerly when I ask him if he wants a ride. We’re only driving for 500 m, when he taps on my shoulder and indicates to stop. He points at the church along side the road and shows me his cross around his chest. He thanks me, wishes me a safe journey disappears into the church. It’s Sunday morning and the roads are deserted, everybody is in church. The only people you do see are all rushing towards church just like Ronald. During our short trip together if find out that Ronald is an Irish potato farmer and that we both like chips. Not a very deep conversation but I’m happy that I could give somebody my first real ride.
I take a turn and go north, direction Queen Elisabeth. For the first time I leave the tarmac roads, going towards Kanungu. The road is quite rough but my sturdy steed keeps its bolts together.
I’m circumnavigating around the Bwindi impenetrable forest, home to the Uganda gorilla population and a name that always fascinated me. As I’m riding through the outskirts of this forest, driving up and down through green, lush, forested valleys, a boy with a small notebook grabs my attention. His name is Bosco. I ask him how far the road to Kanungu is. “20km” he says, but his school is much closer. I get the hint and I give him a ride. Bosco is the oldest of a family of five. He’s walking to his school 10km further, a 2-hour walk. Luckily he doesn’t have to do this every day cause he is like most Ugandan students in secondary school, a board student. He tells me he has a big exam tomorrow. It’s a national exam in agriculture to pass his O-level and to go on to high school.
In return for my ride he teaches me a few phrases in the local language. While we were driving I yelled all these things (hello, how are you?, thank you!) to people along the road and they pretended to understand. But shamefully I must admit that a few hours later, when I write this down I already forgot all of them. When I drop off Bosco at his school in Rutenga he proudly shows me his notes. When I ask him what he wants to become he answers without any hesitation: doctor!
Just before I drive off I ask the all the people that have gathered around us how far Kanunga is. “30km !” says somebody. “No, it’s only 18!” It turns out to be 12km. I must say that’s not the first time that ever happened to me on this continent. But I’m happy and praise the gods that they overestimated, cause most of the time it’s the other way round.
After Kanungu the road dives down, it gets a bit hotter and I’m driving through a green savannah, I’m approaching Queen Elisabeth national park.
When I drive through the gates of the park on my motorbike, a little dream becomes reality: driving through a national park in Africa on a motorbike!! (In East-Africa only allowed in Uganda!)