Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Kisoro, Uganda

All in all, moved a pathetic 100 km today to cross the border into Uganda. Woke up late. Must have been really wacked by the gorilla trek yesterday. Then had to change money. This is one of those few times where I didn't have enough local currency to get to the border. Then I had to find transport in a chaotic bus yard. The conductor of the first border minibus was asking for an exorbitant tourist fare. Must have been double the regular fare. Tough to tell. It still costs nothing (a couple of bucks USD) in terms of "real" world prices but I decided to take the next bus (just to spite the first guy).

[ed. note: i can go on and on about "tourist prices" but, suffice to say, it happens everywhere i go. it's quite irritating but what can you do? there is no shame in ripping off tourists. most africans would rather see you walk than bargain with you. it's illogical. their philosophy is that if you don't try you won't get; hence, i nicknamed africa "the land of trying".]

The minibus ride to the border is quick and straight forward. The border proceedings went semi-well. The Rwandan official wanted to know where my Burundian exit stamp was in my passport. Right where it's supposed to be. But really, who gives a rat's ass, eh? After dodging a mob of money changers, on the Ugandan side I was almost set up for a blind date with the visa guy's youngest.

There was no public transport to the next town, Kisoro, other than the now familiar motorcycle taxis. Logistically challenging to say the least because of my huge backpack. I mentioned this to my hired gun and without hesitation he slung the bulky bag across the front of his bike: the bottom of the pack resting on the gas tank with the rest cantilevered over the handle bars. i climbed aboard in the back and off we went, speeding along a muddy red soiled road. We must have looked ridiculously funny.

Once in Kisoro, I immediately hit the Standbic Bank. According to the Lonely Planet, it wasn't possible to get money out of the ATMs in Uganda [ed. note: not so as it turned out.]. So, I got into teller line up, a decision that would cost me the entire afternoon to exchange a bloody 100 USD.

There must have been 20 people ahead of me, waiting for 2 tellers. Not bad. The problem was people kept cutting into line or those in front were accepting transactions from others. I've never been more frustrated in a bank. 2 hours later, you got that right, I managed to change my money. The bank manager gave me some lame excuse as to why it took so long and, at the end of the day, the most important thing was I got served. If I only had a rocket launcher, you idiot...

By the time I escaped the bank, the sun was already going down. So, I was stuck in Kisoro for the night. It proved to be a 2 street town. Kind of dumpy, but had 2 internet cafes. I'm in heaven. Not. The Virungu Hotel was described as a nerve centre for travelers who used it as a jump off point for gorilla viewing in near by Congo. It was dead (and overpriced - my bad). I had to unwind from such a crazy day. So, I headed over to an old stomping ground of Dian Fossey's, the Traveler's Rest Hotel. No sign of Dian. But I sensed her presence. It's a pretty high classed joint now. The beer was overpriced but, damn, it went down real good...

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