Friday, 9 January 2015

The Supreme Mango Machine - Part II - Don't Follow Me I'm Lost

Part Two: Don’t Follow Me I’m Lost

I threw my knife down on the table.

“Whats this?” the Ugandan soldier asked me.

“It’s for fruit.”

“What if I slap you in the face?”

“Then I slap you in the face.”

He handed me the knife. That was immigration. Cargo trucks were backed up as far as the eye could see. We found a bus that filled up quickly and headed off again. At a road stop hawkers buzzed around our bus jamming beef sticks in our face.
Time moves so slowly when you are on a bus not knowing where you are going and sometimes it stands still when language gets in the way.

“Language - sielewi. Pesa ni noma!” Farouk was laughing like mad. He had never left his country and the currency exchange was already messing with our minds.  We drove along the source of the Nile and saw the incredible landscapes from Jinja. Those sites made the whole trip worth it. Later on the bus ride I envied the guy beside me chewing a variety of fresh miraa as I bashed my head against the window every time I dozed off, sending my cap flying in different directions-prime entertainment for others on the long bus ride. 

We inched through the traffic into Kampala at night and eventually were out on the road as a fury of bodies swept us into the pulse blowing through the streets and buildings. Even at night colours wrestled through dimensions in all the different levels of the bustling city. We walked through the night hypnotized by the intoxicating kingdom of layers.

 Our phones were dead; our stomachs were empty. The concept of time had left us behind. A kind lady led us to a place to eat. She took us up and down streets with no signs but packed to the eyes with people on their own special mission. We sat down in a packed cafeteria bar and ate chicken while strategizing what next.

In the back of a truck carrying dozens of brand new mountain bikes sits Mansour holding onto a metal bar in the dark. The air was cold and the driver was blasting along the highway to Kampala because Mansour knew Farouk and I had already arrived. His phone also dead. The truck slowed down and stopped in the pitch black. Flashlights came and Mansour watched through a hole in the side as soldiers talked to the driver. Soldiers came and inspected the cargo. A soldier stuck his light on the bikes and Mansour as he sat motionless. Arguing and yelling ensued with the driver and it seemed now the truck was not moving anywhere. Papers were not in order.

The people of Kampala seem to never need sleep. The city streets are alive with motorcycles and buses carrying people to their destinations. We woke up in a hotel by the main bus station and the city seemed to have just kept going without stopping.

Once back on the street Mansour still wasn’t picking calls. We found a place to eat to hide from the pounding heat of the sun. Two kids ran around my chair and played with my arm hair. Thick and tasty slices of fried cassava and banana were consumed as awkward words of Swahili were exchanged between the mother and cook.

Hours later Mansour finally arrived back at his compound. He sent one of his workers to come and pick us from the giant Kampala bus stage. As we walked through the maze of buses, a tall man covered in tattoos holding two brand new mountain bikes stopped us. His name is Yogi.
“Please get on. I will take you to Mansour.”


When I first got out on the street, I thought I was going to meet my death. Then I realized drivers were cautious of us. We weaved through buses and handcarts on gorgeous brand new mountain bikes, as our guide told us where to go. After some urban maneuvers we were on a small path passing underneath amazing green trees and through vibrant communities. Some of the hills almost killed us but the sun was beginning to relax. We arrived at a gate slowly opened by a happy looking young man.

Yogi walked us to the big house and we went in through some obscure door on the side. He took us to our accommodation and invited us to come and eat upstairs after we settled in. A huge dark Rhodesian ridgeback came running into the room wanting to play with us. Yogi left with the dog and I fell back on the bed.

As we climbed the stairs to look for food, I could hear people talking. We went up to greet them when someone got up in front of me. Biggy stuck his hand out with a grin and said to me:

“I want you to meet Mansour.”

“Hope you enjoyed your ride up with the assistance of the Dutch embassy,” said Mansour who looked like he had been awake for years but maintained a very strong identity.

We sat on the roof and ate delicious food while the sky changed colour. Everyone looked stunning. I asked Biggy what the deal was.
“We were rafting the rapids in Jinja and decided to come save you of your job. I’m carrying the machine tomorrow morning in the truck.”

That’s how I instantly became free of duties in Uganda. Mansour and his guests invited us out to enjoy Kampala nightlife. We rocked out in dancehalls where crowds keep moving until sun rise. A huge man walked up to me and opened a newspaper. He sprayed everything in his mouth on my face as he asked: “Do you eat this?”

In the newspaper was a pile of green grasshoppers fried in their own buttery juices. I slid a few down to make the excited man happy. They were tasty and energizing.

“I’m going back to my village,” said Farouk when we got back to the house that morning.

I woke up in the afternoon and lay in bed while listening to the music playing from outside.

“Tu n’as pas le choix, C’est plus fort que toi”

I walked to the roof and found Farouk.

“You could find a great wife around here,” he said to me

We talked for sometime about how traveling leads to self-discovery. You learn so much about yourself when you’re out of your comfort zone.

As we walked to the gate I called a pikipiki. Farouk got on the back seat and looked at me with concern.

“I’m gonna hang out here a while,” I told him

We said our good byes, and as they took off I noticed a sign on the back of the pikipiki underneath Farouk’s seat.


     I’M LOST