Written by: Jamie Nollette
There’s nothing better than waking up to a clap of thunder followed by sheets of rain as you’re curled up in the comforts of the Paraa Safari Lodge. Our last day in Uganda has arrived, and it’s bittersweet.
Our group gathers for one last breakfast buffet overlooking the Nile River before embarking on our day’s journey back to Kampala or to what we now refer to as Kampothole. Although the newly paved safari park roads are a welcomed improvement, we are still amazed at the ginormous speed humps that cause our bus to come to a crawl every 100 feet. This gives us a chance to watch the countless baboons who seemingly have no care or fear of any oncoming traffic.
Halfway through our journey we made our way to Kabalega Diner for a quick stop to “check the tires” when we literally had a blow out. Luckily we had a spare, but it required a little muscle and creativity to get the bus on a jack due to the battery dying. The boys along with some help from a few locals got us back in action in no time, and we even had enough time to enjoy a samosa, rolex, and some drinks.
Due to the delay and crazy traffic, we had to skip shopping at the craft market. We were able to make our meeting with Vicky from the Global Center of Health Security at UNMC and Rodgers and Peter, leaders from the IDI (Infectious Disease Institute). This introductory meeting opened doors for future collaboration and we left excited and encouraged about greater impact we can have by working together.
George took some back roads to get us on the highway to Entebbe. We took in all the last sights and sounds of bustling Kampala before reaching Cafe Java’s. Everyone enjoyed our last meal including milkshakes and our hundredth serving of fries (chips).
Knowing the challenges that await at Entebbe Airport, we made sure we arrived 4 hours before departure. The predictable lines and long waits proved to be consistent, but we navigated through with patience and a sense of nostalgia. Anxious to return home to the comforts of our own beds, reliable power, warm showers, and a refrigerator full of food, we knew we were going to miss this.
We toasted to a memorable and successful trip at the Entebbe Airport Wine Bar. By the time we took our seats on the plane, it was past midnight. I’m certain we all drifted off to sleep before the plane left the tarmac.
By the time we land in Phoenix, it will have been close to 46 hours since we left the safari lodge. That includes 8 hours on a bus and approximately 22 hours on planes. The travel is tough! Sometimes when I’m in the middle of it, I wonder how many more times I can do it. Yet the answer is always clear…as long as I am able, I will go. This is also true for the rest of the travelers. They will all come back.
Often being uncomfortable, exhausted, and overwhelmed doesn’t compare to the love, gratitude, and accomplishment felt on each and every trip. I cherish the relationships and memories made and am grateful for the lessons learned and new opportunities that await. My heart is full. Thank you, Uganda…until next time.