After 2 weeks of experience bombardment we stopped in Kisoro, Uganda for a break. Apart from being 30 minutes from the border with Rwanda it was also a chance to catch up with an old friend. A few things had changed since our last meeting nearly 10 years ago, Kidd had recently got married and added a Phd before his name, I had less hair.
I knew we would be welcome at his house but was reluctant to call for help when our dirt track through the jungle became a dead end behind a truck jacknifed across the road. The offending driver was looking glumly at the edge of the cliff, the twisted truck and thinking the same thing as me “ this doesn’t look good”. The great white explorer’s contribution to the situation was to point out that he should have know better than to try this road with something that size. Our driver Tabu took a more helpful approach. Lucky for us, he has the rare kind of physical and mental presence to walk up to hundreds of unknown people and take charge. I met him 3 hours earlier when I flagged him down by the side of the road. Since then I learned he has 21 children, he was from the warrior Acholi tribe, he served in Idi Amins army as an intelligence officer, he loved Uganda and most importantly, he used to drive trucks in Mubutu’s Congo. In other words, he played in the super bowl for digging out trucks.
Within 30 minutes Kidd arrived at the other end of the jam. Bringing the only safety equipment that makes any sense in a situation like this, 5 liters of red wine. If we were going to be there for the night we might as well enjoy it. We had hardly shook hands when the trucked moved. Before anyone else even knew it was big enough, Tabu slipped through the gap between cliff and truck, firing up the hill with his checkered minibus, 5 kayaks on top, as if he had just entered the Central African rally championships. Kidd and I delayed conversation as we tried, unsuccessfully, to catch up in the slippery, potholed, darkness.
Eventually after the first shower in over a week I got to sit down with my old friend in front of the fire place. It seemed as good a time as have my first drink in 10 months. A hilarious evening of inappropriate tales, exaggerated adventures and good natured abuse of each others countries. Chris took story of the night with The Indian Scarf blowing my Cannibals in Congo and Ben’s paramilitary in Colombia out of the water.
The youngest and quietest member of the expedition is turning out to be a dark horse. On first impression, from all the people who climbed of the plane that night in Entebbe, I felt most comfortable with Chris. His eyes project a stillness, which makes it all the funnier when his ‘darkside’ does surface.
Our rest day turned out to be just as amazing as any day of adventure we have had so far. We all know that there are few things as precious as old friend so i would like to talk about something else. The forgotten art of Hospitality. For two days, me and the boys, were showered with an abundance of it.
In the North of Sudan people don’t say thank you, they say you are welcome, as if giving is the pleasure and not taking. The Kidd family believe in the same mindset. It was never a case of counting how much they had already done but instead of how much they could do.
I owe a dept to them and all the other Samaritans who have taken me in during my travels, givers that will might never blog, that you will likely never hear of even if they have stories surpassing my own. If it was not for the selflessness of people like them, not only would my life not have been possible but it would not have been nearly as pleasurable.
Expedition’ing is in the end a humbling affair, we come in with the cameras and the death defying stunts but what do any of these things really count for in the daily life that we are all forced to life at some stage or another. It is the people who can turn everyday into a chance to give, to laugh or to experience that are the ones we should strive to be like. They are the ones who have “made it”.
I would like to close my scribbling with my favorites two quotes of the week, they followed each other in close proximity.
The customs official as we left Uganda for Rwanda wanted paperwork for our kayaks, the first occasion any of us have ever been asked for this anywhere in the world. I pointed this out to Customs to which he replied
“ How many countries have you been too?”
The number 18 popped into my head
“ Me to” he says and then points at his computers screen.
“ You tell me where is this?” Leaning back and being all proud of himself.
Ben looks over his shoulder at the family picture taken in front of the London Eye
“ Oh wow, how nice, is that your mother”
As the official turns smilingly to Ben, Chris adds
“ Your logic makes no f…… sense”