The journey from London to Uganda, via Dubai, was smooth and straightforward. I didn’t get much sleep so I arrived in Entebbe at about 1pm Ugandan time very tired but excited.
My first impression of the country – aside from the suffocating heat which hits you in the face as soon as you step off the plane – was that there is just so much to take in. Stepping out of the airport I was greeted by a taxi driver holding a scrawled sign that said “’Sam Ledge’.
He took me to Kampala – the capital of Uganda and the centre of the country’s trade and industry. The road to get there was extraordinary, l was bombarded with so many vivid and contrasting images in the space of a few miles.
Crazy traffic, kamikaze motorcyclists going bumper-to-bumper with huge people carriers; broken, potholed roads with speed bumps which appear from nowhere; and people carrying heavy loads of fruit, hay and meat along the ditches at the side of the highway. Everything has an advert on it. Buses, taxis, shop fronts and gigantic billboards – if it has space for an advert, it has an advert.
In Kampala we met up with Godfrey Kawongolo, who runs the Alpha Guest House near the airport. Like all the Ugandans I have met so far, Godfrey is kind, charming and enthusiastic, and was very interested in my work as a journalist. He helped to put me at ease and gave me a guided tour on the drive from Kampala to Jinja.
The rainforest runs alongside much of the road until you reach the source of the River Nile. The further we went, the more remote and rural the surroundings became, but it was not the image of Africa that many people have in their heads of poverty, sickness and despair. Everybody was just busily going about their day.
Uganda is a stunningly beautiful country, and there was so much to see in just the first few hours that it took my breath away. It’s quite an overwhelming experience. I spent my first night last night with Carla Powell and Tom Gill, who run East African Playgrounds, at their house just outside Jinja. They took me for a burger and a beer at a local bar and I tried to fight my sleepy state and get my head round the fact that I am 4,000 miles from home.
Tomorrow we will head up to Iganga to join the other volunteers at the BMK school. It’s a remote part of the country where power and internet access are in very short supply, so it might be some time before my next update.