By Marisa Notier
The Notier Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
The hardest part of crossing from Kenya into Uganda was complete - getting through the bureaucracy of the border. It hadn't been easy, but we were finally through and on the road again in Uganda. And it was a glorious feeling to say the least (partially because we were so hot and sweaty, the wind from being on the motorcycle felt oh-so-amazing).
Since we had already spent a good portion of the day at the border, we knew we wouldn't make it all the way to Kampala before nightfall. So we stopped in the next big town called Jinja, a humidly tropical city on the low-altitude shores of Lake Victoria. Because of it's paradise-like setting, and also being on the banks of the source of the Nile River, Jinja was a hotspot for tourism in better times. The place has a whole assortment of hotels and accommodations to choose from, but in general, they tend to be more upscale and would normally be out of our budget.
We stopped at one of these fine vacation resorts - a place with lovely thatched roofs and a pool. And even though the regular price was a bit too high for what we were willing to pay (but the hotel was obviously worth it), the owner was willing to offer us a discount. And so we happily floated in the pool as it washed away all our travel grime and stress. I lay floating on my back, watching the palm fronds rustle and sway above us, while the sunlight speckled through their criss-crossed leaves. It was magnificent.
To de-chlorinate myself after my swim, I went straight to the shower in our room, and figured that because Jinja was so hot, there wouldn't be any hot water. But to my surprise, when I turned on the hot water nozzle, steaming water actually came out of the shower! That was a very rare thing in Africa! Now this was luxury!
The owners of the place were of Indian descent, so for dinner, I knew I should order the curry, figuring it was going to be really good. And I was not disappointed. After having cooked almost every meal for ourselves for the past six months, I was getting quite bored with all five things that I knew how to cook with the ingredients that I could get in Nanyuki. And so this dinner was just another special surprise that made me feel like all the trouble at the border was worth it.
In fact, the trouble of traveling was always worth it, because of that rush of excitement I get when leaving one country and going on to the next (even if it was a country I'd already been to). The freshness of new air, the thrill of new views all around, and to actually be having a dinner served to us at a restaurant in a tropical hotel resort with a pool, all in a country where the Covid case numbers were so low that they hadn't had a death in weeks... this was something that most people during the pandemic could only dream about.
It was like the old times were back. And even if it was just a momentary evening of care-free nostalgia for all that we used to be able to do, and all the little things that I used to take for granted, it was perfect. And it was more than I could've asked for. (Except for the creepy spiders, I could have asked for less of them.)
The next day we headed out to Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, where we would be staying for the next month as we got ourselves ready to go back home. And as we entered the congestion of the city traffic, I began to recognize things - certain streets sloping up and down the hills, certain buildings with their signs for Mpesa money-sending services, or local telephone companies. Or certain schools painted in bright primary colors. And it felt like I was already on my way home. After all, we'd spent seven months living here as the pandemic first began. And Kampala had made an excellent home-away-from-home for us.
We were going to be staying in the same backpacker's hotel where we had once lived, and as we pulled in, I was immediately hit with a sense of sentimental remembrance. We saw Cathy, the owner, and Soroush, another fellow expat who stays at the hotel long-term. We saw other staff members and familiar faces, and in the evening, Thomas the monkey could be heard crashing along the metal rooftops.
Even Thomas seemed to remember us, as he came right up to the window and stuck his head in, wondering if we had bananas for him. I guess I hadn't realized what a family we had created here for ourselves, and it had to take leaving and coming back for me to fully appreciate how welcoming everyone here had been to us. And how much we needed that.
But now things were going to change. Because now we were going to leave, and this time, it might be for good.
We immediately got started making preparations to fly our bike back to Chicago (always a stress and a pain to do), and we booked our plane tickets right after. We'll be home in early May, and our time here in Africa is coming to a close. It still doesn't seem real that soon we'll be back. And Africa will be a world away.
But Africa had one last incredible surprise for us - a musical concert with dancing which took us on a cultural tour through Uganda. And I have to say it was one of the most incredible concerts of my life. At one point the speakers went out, but it didn't matter. The drumming and chanting still sent chills through my body. Nobody needed speakers long ago. This was music and entertainment in its purest form.
Hopefully I'll be able to show you a video of it soon, because.... exciting news! We are revamping our YouTube channel and are going to be posting up lots of new videos! We'll have interviews of us talking about our best and worst times, accompanied by lots of footage of the incredible roads we've taken, and the adventures we've had along the way. The videos will start tomorrow, and I'm hoping to get up a few a week! We're calling them Notier's Frontiers Diaries.
So check out the trailer we made for it below, and you can subscribe to get all of our latest video updates. See you next Sunday!
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