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My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - Journey in an Unknown Culture

UGANDA | Friday, 25 February 2011 | Views [373] | Scholarship Entry

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Feeling grubby and sleepy eyed I’m woken by the early morning heat and the sound of our resident bull. It is 25 degrees already and I haven’t had a thorough wash in three days. By 7am I’ve been up for an hour but right from the word go I know my day will bring a buzz of excitement. I am a volunteer teacher in the heart of rural Uganda, and I love it.

We share our house with a few friendly bats and cook off a very simple (and hot!) gas stove. Water is a 10 minute walk away and what we call the toilet is a hole in the floor. However, in Muguluka terms this is luxury and even with all its shortfalls, the four of us who called it home for three months will always hold it dear in our hearts.

For me, the opportunity to dig deep into foreign cultures is a privilege and a trip through the life and soul of Uganda has more to offer than you can imagine.

Troubled for years under the Idi Amin regime, Ugandans are inspirational with their relentless optimism and at times it can evoke a guilt complex from what you come to recognise as a luxury and convenient life back home.

You will need a good night’s sleep to keep up with Uganda and fortunately there are ample spots to get your head down in most locations. At around £4 a night for a hostel you could be tempted to go more upmarket. My advice to you, especially if you’re on a tight budget, is to keep your cash in your pocket and splash out on things that could potentially be life changing – that’s what I did.

Uganda cannot be criticised on its ‘things to do’ section. I braved the white water rafting on the river Nile, whose rapids at some points resemble nature’s version of an angry washing machine, and trekked the Rwenzori Mountains in the West. I followed this up with abseiling down waterfalls in the East and scavenging markets in the metropolitan capital Kampala.

In order to access all of Uganda’s finest assets you will however be forced to sample one of her more testing characteristics. Unfortunately most of the main roads in the country leave you vibrating long after you’ve got where you want to be. The northern pass to Murchison Falls National Park in particular is more like a block of Swiss cheese than a vehicle worthy surface. Craters are the norm and white knuckle rides are included without option or exception.

Do be warned however that although it’s been relatively out of the travel spotlight in recent years, whispers that ‘the pearl of Africa’ is living up to its name are beginning to spread quickly. What was a traveller’s ideal adventure land today could soon become a holidaymakers’ playground before too long.

Tags: #2011writing, travel writing scholarship 2011

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