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Written by DanielaZavala. Posted in Blog

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Published on October 11, 2010 with No Comments

At the Kyambura gorge

At the Kyambura gorge

It was our last day on the tour. I had been in Uganda for less than a week, but it felt as if I had been traveling for a month in here. My new friends felt as if I knew them all my life…

We had a long way back to Kampala, but before returning to the city, we had a last activity: chimpanzee tracking.

I was excited about it because this was a nature walk into the Kyambura gorge. This was more appealing to me than watching animals from the jeep.

At the entrance of the Kyambura gorge, a female ranger armed with “the Russian girl” was ready to take us in. Her name was Stephanie.

Ronnie drove us to the starting point.

“I hope we are lucky. Haven’t seen chimpanzees for five days. They may be in the farms,” she said on the car.

Stephanie looking for chimps

Stephanie looking for chimps

I didn’t want to disappoint the other travelers, so I didn’t mention to them what Stephanie had just said to Ronnie and me. Plus, I was just happy that I was going for a hike. The existence of a gorge in the middle of vast grass land was surreal. It was a drop in the middle of the plans… a rupture covered with thick vegetation.

We started our hike down into the bottom of the gorge, where hardly the rays of the sun reached the ground. It was cool and humid.

Stephanie looked up in the trees, checked the ground for fresh chimpanzee excrement, foot prints, sounds… something that indicated that the chimpanzees were at home, but nothing. Instead we saw white tail monkeys swinging from tree to tree, and a cobra with half of its body erected, ready to attack.

Although armed precisely to scare the animals, Stephanie seemed uneasy about standing for much longer around the cobra as supposedly it could throw venom to its target meters away.

We moved away quickly and continued the walk. A beautiful and relaxing walk through the gorge, but no chimps around.

“I am sorry to hear that,” said Ronnie when he found out that we didn’t see chimps.

“Nothing to be sorry about it. I enjoyed the walk. I told you that I like to be around nature, much better than being in the car, so I really liked it,” I told him.

“There are two ways to return to Kampala. I am taking you through the longer driver because it is more scenic and you haven’t seen it. I think you will enjoy it,” said Ronnie.

“Thank you Ronnie,” I responded.

I was lucky to have Ronnie as my guide. Ronnie hadn’t seen Vien, his kid, for a few days and I knew he missed him. I was thankful that he was willing to show me more of Uganda even if it meant more hours of work for him.

It was a couple of hours drive, but it was stunning. Uganda looks like Switzerland. Its lush hills are endless. The greenery is endless… if I had been dropped there from a plane and guessed to say where I was, I would have not even thought of Africa.

We drove through a couple of towns. Throughout my trip, I was surprised to see some many Christian churches, as well as orphanages and hair saloons. I asked Ronnie about it.

Car singing on the way back to Kampala

Car singing on the way back to Kampala

“The majority of the population is Christian. Also, you need to understand that many people in here, especially in this town, suffered a lot during the war. They were almost exterminated. About 800,000 people were killed in about two years,” explained Ronnie.

“How about the orphanages? There are so many!”

“Well, many of those kids lost their parents during the war or due to aids. Now Aids has been controlled thanks to an education campaign carried out by the government, but these kids are victims of AIDs too,” Ronnie added.

“And the saloons? What’s up with that? There are in every corner, even in the smallest towns,” I asked.

“Ugandans care very much about their appearance. They make the effort to look good,” he said with pride.

“Daniela, we need to make a deal. Say yes please,” Ronnie said out of the blue.

“Well, I can’t say yes unless I know.”

“Please stay with my family. Let me be your host. We would be honored to have you as our guest. You don’t need to stay in a hotel,” Ronnie looked at me with such tenderness I couldn’t say no. I knew I would break his heart if I rejected the invitation to stay with his family.

“Ok, let’s do this. Tonight I stayed in the hotel and tomorrow I stayed at your home. How about that?” I had already arranged to be picked up at the hotel to go white water rafting and didn’t want to take the risk to change the pick up at the last minute, and missed my trip.

“As you wish Buganda Queen. We will be happy to welcome you to our home. But remember, we are dancing tonight,” he pointed out.

During dinner last night, Ronnie had invited us (David, Kevin and I) to experience the night life of Kampala on our return to the city. I was really tired, but couldn’t say “no” to my boys. Although I needed to be up and ready at 7am for adventuring in the rapids of the Nile, it was our last night together as a group….

“Ronnie, are you sure you want to go out tonight? You haven’t seen Vien for a few days. I am sure David and Kevin will understand,” I asked him.

“I am sure. No worries. I will pick you up at 11pm,” Ronnie dropped me off at the hotel and went home to get ready.

At my tiny room in a hotel located in what looked like the Indian neighborhood of Kampala, I struggled to find something appropriate to wear on a night out. I was supposed to be in the wild not fashionably dressed. I did my best with my black sporting clothing and put some perfume to compensate my lack of style.

“Hey guys, I am sorry about it, but I wasn’t expecting to go out on this trip,” I jumped in the jeep, looking at Ronnie, Dave and Kevin all dressed up for the night.

“So what do you guys prefer? A place where the locals go? Or where the mzungos go?”asked Ronnie.

I hoped the boys would want to experience the local night life, for “mzungos” we got enough where we came from.

Fortunately Dave and Kevin wanted also to see how Ugandans party on a Saturday night.

“OK great,” said Ronnie.

We arrived at the Imperial Hotel of Kampala. From the outside, it looked like a big luxury hotel, but inside it was obvious this hotel had better days in the past. It was as if it stayed back in the 70s, nowadays begging for some renovations.

“This way,” Ronnie showed us the way into a large bar/dining room with open windows. A band was playing music that was a combination of reggae and Caribbean sounds.

The Ugandan version of the Village People

The Ugandan version of the Village People

A young guy with dreadlocks sang his heart away, while a slender Ugandan with a sharp moustache–wearing dark sun glasses, a beret and gold jewelry- showed some serious hair chest and accompanied the leading performer, singing and moving his hip down and up, side to side. It was like seeing the Ugandan version of the Village People!

We sat in a table, ordered food and some drinks.

According to Ronnie, this was the place where locals came for a drink before heading to the clubs.

The cheerfulness of the performers was contagious, and so was the music. Soon a couple of Ugandan men took over the dance floor, shaking the hips and jumping.

My Latin side was getting excited too, and I could feel the music tempting my feet.

“You should join them,” Kevin said.

I really wanted to dance but I didn’t want to embarrassed Ronnie or get him into trouble as they were only men on the dance floor and I didn’t know if it was appropriate.

“If a woman dances, I dance,” I said.

“Thank you very much to all. This is our last song,” said the singer.

Another great tune was on.

Few minutes before the song ended, a tall Ugandan woman wearing a constricted pink mini dress with a huge diamond between her boobs and platform high heels stood up and went to the dance floor. Although her big belly was shown over the skintight outfit, she seemed confident and sexy.

My boys looked at me, probably doubting that I would keep my word.

“I said I would dance if a woman did, so here I go,” I gave the video camera to Kevin and walked to the dance floor to show Ugandans that a mzungo could move too

The slender performer of funny look came to dance with me. I let myself go, following his moves and dancing like a Ugandan. Locals applauded and smiled at me, approving my dancing. I was having the time of my life among the Ugandans!

When the song finished I came back to the table to meet up the boys.

“Very proud of you,” said Ronnie.

“You are very good,” the big woman of the tight pink dress came to our table and congratulated me.

While we had dinner, Patrick and his wife Josse, both Ronnie’s friends, joined us. Josse was 7 months pregnant, yet she sipped beers like all of us.

According to Ronnie, we were going to the coolest and newest club in town.

Before heading there, he wanted to take us to a bar he and his friends go for cheap beers before going to the club.

We drove to what it looked like a ghetto actually. Loud music came from the TV of an outdoor bar. We sat outside for beers. Next to the bar, there was another bar with a sign that the read “Dream Un sex Saloon”. The bar used to be a unisex hair saloon, but the sign was never fixed. I found it hilarious and took a photo.

Night out in Kampala

Night out in Kampala

Soon after a drunk man from the bar next door came to me and asked if I had taken his photo.

“No I didn’t. I was taking photos of my friends,” I said.

I had no idea that innocent photo of a sign could get someone outraged. He wasn’t even in the photo. But mostly I didn’t want to get Patrick and Ronnie in trouble.

Patrick told me not to worry, and let Ronnie handled it.

As soon as Ronnie saw the man questioning me, he stood up and went straight to the man. Fortunately Ronnie was much taller than the guy, so I thought the guy wouldn’t dare to mess with him. Ronnie spoke in Luganda but I could tell by the tone, he wasn’t happy to see me being talked to that way.

“Thanks Ronnie. I promise I keep my camera in” I told him.

dream un sex saloon“You can take photos. Don’t worry. He is drunk,” he replied.

Three mzungos in the ghetto on a Saturday night… I wasn’t sure it was the safest thing, but we were with locals, and I knew Ronnie would not allow anything bad to happen to us.

From there we drove to the club. It was packed with people. Ronnie told me to give him my pink backpack and asked the boys to put their wallets there. He placed it in front.

“You look cute in pink,” I smiled.

Kevin was also teasing Ronnie about the pink backpack.

It just looked too funny to see such a big man with that on.

The club was indeed nice, and people were very diverse. Women wore sexy outfits, and some men dressed fashionably with jeans, cool sneakers and long sleeves.

Few seconds have passed and already Kevin had taken over the place. I didn’t know our sweet Scottish mzungo could dance that way. Ugandans seemed thrilled, confused and amused by his moves. Josse couldn’t stop laughing. He was like the energizing bunny! My dear friend couldn’t care less and danced the night away. A hip Uganda was fascinated by Kevin and didn’t stop dancing with him. I was wondering if he was gay, but Ronnie said he was just happy to dance with Kevin.

The music was a combination of local tunes (similar to the Caribbean music and reggae) and Hip hop songs from American artists. The crowd got wild with certain songs!

We were all dancing together and sipping more beers. I couldn’t believe Josse was drinking and dancing that way, considering she was 7 months pregnant. What an energetic pregnant woman!!!

A young Ugandan woman approached me, took my hands and started shaking her hips all the way down to the ground. I followed her.

Then she faced me back and started rubbing her butt in my hips, while holding my hands up in the air. I found it quite sexual and wondered if she was lesbian or what….

I looked at Ronnie, and asked him if that was ok, making sure the girl didn’t notice.

“It is Ok,” Ronnie smiled.

I kept on dancing with the girl, and then we went back with the group.

Josse cornered Dave with her sexy hip moves and her big pregnant belly. It was hilarious. Patrick seemed ok with it and laughed with us about it.

Partying with the Ugandans!

Partying with the Ugandans!

Then, Ronnie took my hands and put is around his neck. He placed his hands in my hips and made them follow his soft hip moves. He was so dangerously close to me, I wondered if he was just dancing or was about to make a move on me. But I trusted Ronnie and I knew he would never disrespect me. I had just had sort of a sexual dance with a female stranger, so how could I worry about dancing with Ronnie? As we danced together and then with the group, I realized that sexy dancing is just the Ugandan way.

Being a Latin I should be used to close physical contact, especially while dancing. However, Ugandans surpassed Latin in terms of sensual moves…

I was far away from home, and I decided to forget about what was right or wrong where I came from, I let my mzungo side free.

Kevin, Dave and I were completely embraced by locals, who didn’t look at us as if we were different even if we look stood out among the crowd. They were genuinely excited to dance with us and have us there.

Many Ugandans approached us and greeted us by bumping their fists with ours and placing their fists in their hearts. It was like the Rastafari greeting.

“It means I welcome you or respect you with my heart,” explained Ronnie.

We danced until almost 4am. We thanked Ronnie, Patrick and Josse for an unbelievable Ugandan night we will remember forever…

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