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Treasure Hunting

Treasure Hunting

UGANDA | Wednesday, 14 May 2014 | Views [71] | Scholarship Entry

I clench at the glabrous fabric of my seat as the long, rear end of our bus swings out over the rocky precipices of Kabale's jungle region, positioning me over a straight drop to the valley floor far below, and I wonder – as I often do on the road – how did I end up here? I have been in Uganda for two days, and already it is playing with me.
Despite my mortal concerns, the bus thrusts on up the meandering mountain road echoing the distraught cries of six struggling cylinders across ravines.
The long ride from Kabale town began before sunrise this morning and I have since entered a world unknown to guidebooks, civilization, and driving standards.
As we ascend to exospheric altitudes our driver seems as though he does this in his sleep. He has a spicy smelling cigarette stuck to his lower lip and three tarantula fingers, each wrapped around a tatty gear stick. We loop another outcrop onto a new ruby dirt road and our on board flow of churning bodies snaps back into agreement with gravity.
Through the windows the jungle evergreen and another death dancing bus passes inches away from my nose. We pass a small village where I see children cunningly using sticks to guide old bicycle tires zestfully through horned Ankole-Watusi slaloms and roadside grocers flaunting their farm grown goods in woven wicker baskets; canary bananas; swollen emerald jackfruit; and teasing tomatoes complete the spectrum. On the other side, shanty sheds shelter Waragi swigging gamblers from Africa's sun, and shabby nearby dogs drink from rancid disease puddles.
A small child stands alone in the road, in small pink dress. She has locks of wiry black hair sprouting from her head, branching to her cheeks. As we pass, her angelic face follows me with wide eyes, as though seeing a ghost for the first time. A foreign ghost in her very neighborhood. I see her wave and catch a smile as I vanish from her world, and for a moment, I'm not sure who is more surprised.
This moment is and always will be the first time that little girl saw a foreign white man. It is a moment we will both never forget and is a good reminder of what I am doing here. I am a treasure hunter. Hunting for treasures no other traveler has ever found, or could ever find again. Ephemeral and invaluable. Treasures that cannot be sold or traded. They are hidden, sometimes in the most dangerous and unlikely of places: in a smile or expression, but gradually with every moment I am here, I am getting closer to the Pearl of Africa.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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