on taking the long way

as a fan of the "scenic route" and "the road less traveled" i tend to not really mind taking the long way.

sometimes what one expects to be "the short way" can turn out to be much longer than "the long way."

this–i think–justifies my inclination to just go ahead and take the long way. let me explain.

yesterday i made the journey from kampala to kotido in two separate and not quiet equal parts. the first consisted of rising from bed at 5:30 in the morning to leave a friend’s flat by 6:00, walk a quarter of a mile (maybe more? no idea.) from almost-ggaba to bunga, to find a boda driver who a) had been awake longer than i had, and b) who was sober. this interaction consists of trading at least two greetings and then negotiating the price. as it was still quite early in the morning the traffic was light so the journey to the bus-park in the city-centre was shorter than usual. albeit it a bit chilly.

upon arrival to the bus-park i let myself be led to a bus going to lira, but refused to let anyone help me carry my things. (i’m stubborn, its fine.) there was one bus that was already full and leaving now-now. people were trying to cram themselves into the aisles and i was very willing to take the next one over that would probably have filled with these extra people but the staff of this particular bus saw a business venture and sold their two seats to myself and another woman traveling on her own. she and i elbowed our way to the seats and tried to settle in.

meanwhile, the conductor of the bus is trying to remove my daypack that is on my back. he was trying to be helpful, and was also saying that they wanted to put it in the boot, as the overheads were already full and it was too much for us to have the seat. i must tell you that while i know he was trying to help and to speed up the process he really just made my life harder/more frustrating for those 2 minutes. i had a regular rucksack on my front, these straps were over the straps of the daypack that was on my back and my purse was over a shoulder. not to mention that i had buckled the daypack around my waist for more comfortable carrying on the boda.

as you can deduce, it would have been much more enjoyable to "take the long way" in this situation. it would have been easier if i’d been able to board the bus and squeeze into the seat before undoing all of my luggage and handing it over to him. instead i had to elbow-squeeze-apologize-push and attempt to explain that the bag is attached to my body, please stop pulling on it, you’re hurting me/hindering me from getting out of the way! (i have a nice little bruise on my hipbone to prove it. poor me.)

we sorted ourselves out and my bag was put in the boot. happily, we were on our way out of the bus-park within a few minutes, which is almost unprecedented. (typically one must wait for the bus to fill. there may be a scheduled departure time, but it is amazingly rare for this to be kept.) i don’t let myself think that we are really on our way until we have cleared all of kampala’s suburbs. this particular bus stopped just north of bwaise (very much still in kampala) at the safari petrol station for a short-call (bathroom break). we had maybe been moving for 15 minutes, but many of the people on the bus could have been waiting from as early as 4:00 that morning.

thankfully, there is really only one way directly north from kampala to lira so there is no surprise-detour on the way. we did, however, stop just south of the masindi junction for a 20 minute breakfast break that drove me a little crazy. i did, however, procure some tasty gonja [roasted sweet bananas] and a stick of roasted meat for my breakfast. so i can’t really complain about that little delay.

there was a long line of semis/lorrys/transfer trucks at the nile crossing–all of which were struggling up the hill just north of the nile. i didn’t mind this delay as it meant that our bus sat on the bridge and crawled along at a really slow speed, giving me much more time to contemplate the karuma falls of the nile than i think i’ve had before. this was quite nice: the bus is high so i had a great view (pictures are not allowed, sadly) and we sat for a few minutes which is enough time to be fully hypnotized by the tumbling and rushing beast that is the nile.

when journeying to lira, i consider the top of the hill just north of the nile to be the "homeward stretch" and start letting my body realize that it can do something other than sit very soon. there was no delay at kamdini and within 45 minutes i was pushing my way off the bus and into the crowded taxi park. again, leading with my elbows, i procured my daypack from the boot from the already-quite-drunk "attendant" and muscled my way out of the park. hurrah. part one, check. not too bad as far as bus travels go.

but then.

well, before the but then, housemate and a driver had come from kotido that morning to pick me and some supplies/groceries from lira. i had a private vehicle to look forward to riding in (not driving!) the second half of the way home. we had a lovely lunch at anya (butter chicken and garlic naan, ftw) and made our purchases before loading up to head home. i was full of good food, and happy to have some juice, carrots and apples to be taking home.

but then. driver asked which way we should return to kotido.
i prefer to take "the long way" through patongo and pader. the road is consistently in better shape than the olilim road. yes, the patongo/pader route is longer as far as kilometers are concerned, but when the tarmac runs out the dirt road is closer to smooth, meaning one can travel faster. driver wanted to take the olilim route as he knows it better and seems to not want to take my direction (no, i will not be hiring him again. strike. three.) oh and he did say that it is fewer kilometers.

my prefefred "long" way usually takes just 4 hours, if not a tiny bit less sometimes. it is a beautiful drive and it includes the now-famous "diversion" from the chain roller incident. (see also: the flying tyre incident.) driver’s "shorter" way took about 5.5 hours. another hour and a half may not seem like that big of a deal, and wouldn’t really be on a lovely tarmac road or a highway. but on this potholes-the-size-of-rwanda-muddy-rainy-mess-of-a-road that extra hour and a half probably took three years off of my life-expectancy.

so yes, i do prefer to take the long way and i think i prefer to do the driving myself as well. sometimes i think "i’ll treat myself and get a driver" and then end up "driving" the whole way in my mind and regretting hiring someone who, lets be honest, doesn’t drive as carefully or well as i do. i’m a good driver (no, really). one who takes my passengers lives and car-sickness seriously, will stop for photo opportunities and who enjoys the journey as well as the destination. so, yea, lets take the long way next time, eh?

[photo credit goes to lizzie whose original was a much higher quality. this much lower quality version is brought to you by mtn-mobile-internet-slowness.]

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