If you want to discover an area, travel by road. Criss-crossing a country in an airplane and hopping airports is certainly faster, but there is something kind of great about the observations made through a windshield.
Doug and I had a plane to catch in Entebbe, Uganda for the second half of our 2018 adventure. We left our tiny town near Kamura, Uganda (south of Gulu) by taxi for a five hour drive to overnight before our flight.
Five hours, you read that correctly. We had the same driver, same taxi for the trip out, but I was pretzeled in the back seat with the items we were delivering for the hospital that we were going to volunteer.
I can’t really comment on the scenery except the side of some suitcases. I was promoted to front seat for the return and the journey began. Driver Eric did his best with some broken English to answer my questions, and I had a lot of them.
Most of my queries, I just had to wonder. He asked if I wanted the air conditioner on, and I guess “yes” was hard to understand because we did the drive with the windows down. This part of Africa drives on the left with the steering wheel on the right.
It had taken me all week to not go to the wrong side of the Restoration Gateway van to climb in. I had hopes of AC when Eric rolled up his window, but I discovered every smoking diesel bus or truck we passed, he got that window up and then it was down. Gasoline costs about $7 a liter, so I can’t really blame him.
The dirt there is like western Oklahoma, red clay and dusty. I watched folks in their daily lives. Whenever I saw a small crowd, I knew there would be people filling plastic cans with water. School children in tattered uniforms walked along the side of the highway headed home.
I wondered what American parents would say if their little student walked alone down a busy blacktop. We passed through some small towns, women selling bread, jack fruit and eggs. Motorcycles buzzed by with entire families on board. I saw four adult men on a small cycle and then I couldn’t be surprised when I saw four big kids on a bike.
Traffic was a tangle as we reached the bigger city of Entebbe. Horns honking everywhere, motorcycles passing vehicles on both sides, cattle in the road...it seemed to be a huge game of chicken.
I noticed many of the public mini-buses had sacred sayings on the back window such as “Jesus is Lord,” and “God Saves”. Trust me, that crazy taxi ride, I think I got saved three times. Six and a half hours later, we were there.
Fast forward to our next taxi ride which was after we landed in Casablanca. We are joining a group tour to check out Morocco. (You are asking yourself, “Does she really go on group tours when she’s not on a group tour?” Yep.)
So we negotiated a price with our French speaking, Moroccan driver. I guess I’m going to drive, because we are back to right lane driving and left side steering and I can’t find my spot in the cab. We left for Rabat where the tour starts. We aren’t on the road five minutes and he pulls over and reaches into the glove box. Doug and I shoot each other a look, as he flings open his door mumbling something that sounded like “one minute”. Fifteen long minutes later he returns with a paper. (We didn’t ask.)
I notice his amber ornament that looks like the Koran on his rear view mirror. About this time Doug starts reading me the daily devotion our brother-in-law Mike sends us. All the while the driver’s playlist is pumping out The Beatles singing “Mother Mary comes to me.....Let it Be” Somehow it made me grin.
Then the playlist cranked out Dolly Parton and Celine Dion. But my favorite moment was when Mr. Driver held up his fist, concert style, on “We are the World”.
As it turned out, he was very expressive with his hands. I thought the Italians had top marks with hand gestures, but he displayed his dissatisfaction with other drivers with such complex moves, I wasn’t sure if he was cussing them out or giving them coaching directions to steal third base.
After a couple of phone calls and more stops to ask for directions, he finally found our hotel. He stopped in the intersection for us to get out. I was ready.
Maybe next time we should look up Uber.
Patti Beth Anderson has more than 20 years of experience in the group travel industry taking people all over the world. Her motto is "I return with the same number of people I left with… not necessarily the same people, but the same number nevertheless. So no 'crankpots' allowed" She may be reached at 918-786-3318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.