One of the seats broke on our rented van and there is not enough room for all the team members, so Jessica, Alisa (Jessica’s sister), and I decided to take the public bus back to Kampala. We got on the bus at 5:30 am so we could get good seats near the front. The bus is scheduled to leave at 6:30 am but it waits until 7 am to get on the road. By the time we leave, it has standing room only. The aisles are full of people holding onto a bar embedded in the roof. One woman is holding a chicken. A man has a big bunch of bananas and another woman is trying to keep her three small children from crying.
We stop at every mud hut village to see if anyone wants to go with us to Kampala. When the bus is not stopped, it is recklessly driving around corners on narrow mountain dirt roads. On one side is a hill that goes straight up one hundred feet. On the other side is a cliff that goes straight down for one thousand feet. Our driver feels like driving within inches of the ledge. I look out my window and see straight down to a river far down in the valley below. We bump and jolt for an hour and finally cross the river on a shaky little bridge. Then our bus huffs and puffs its way up the other side of the canyon.
In an effort to make up for lost time, our driver steps on the gas. We are still on dirt roads so it is not long before we hit a bump and hear a loud creaking sound under the bus. The driver pulls over and looks under the front wheels. It appears we have broken a spring. No worries though. The driver jacks up the bus and uses a rope to tie up the spring. This shoestring repair takes an hour but it is enough to get us to the next town.
We all jump off the bus while six mechanics take off the old spring and put on a new one. The passengers stand around waiting and finally wander off to find some lunch. Two hours later we are back on the road.
I feel like we made a bad decision in taking the bus instead trying to find a way to squeeze into our rented van. But then we receive a call that the van has broken down too. It becomes a race to see which vehicle can be fixed first. Our bus limps into Kampala a distant second. Our nine-hour bus ride ends up taking fourteen hours. Then we embark on a one-hour taxi ride to our hotel through downtown traffic. That’s Africa for you.