This was the day we planned to drive 6-ish hours to Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda to go on our safari. We were up early, ate breakfast and hit the road. Shortly after you leave Kigali, which is developed and modern, you get into what people think of when they traditionally think of Africa: villages, rice paddies, red dirt roads. Really beautiful.
After a few hours on the road, we got to the border. The crossing is fairly simple, but time-consuming: you have to fill out exit forms for Rwanda, cross the border on "no man's land" on foot, get your passports checked halfway, and then fill out entry forms on the other side for Uganda. Emily and Shami also had to purchase car insurance for Uganda and SIM cards for their phones. This all went relatively smoothly. Funny story: when we were crossing the border on foot and stopped to show our passports, the customs guy pointed at Olivia and said, "She's our daughter." I didn't understand what he meant and he clarified, "SHE IS OUR DAUGHTER!" It clicked and I smiled and nodded... yes, she is Ethiopian and I guess continental birthright is a good enough to claim! We didn't hit the border crossing when a bus was there which was a blessing; trying to get through customs with a couple hundred other bus passengers can add a couple hours to your trip.
The difference between the excellent roads in Rwanda and the realllllly bad roads in Uganda was astonishing. For much of the way, it was a one lane road, the sides of the former two-lane highway having been eaten up with potholes from the sides till there was only one car-width left in the middle. As I mentioned before, with Emily and Shami's killer driving skills, this made for some interesting times. As I was driving with Shami, I tried to focus on getting to know him better and learning more about Rwanda and his background... and less on the trucks barreling down the hill in front of me... in my lane.
We stopped in a town called Mbarara for lunch, though I sat in the car with a couple sleeping kids. Everyone came back beaming: they had bought delicious samosas filled with spiced ground beef and veggies... and muffins! No better road trip food! Kathy and Alezah were particularly in love with the samosas, and made vows to stop at that exact Nakumatt on the way home to get more. I'm pretty sure they claimed it was the best food they'd ever had, ever. (This kinda sounds like the lead-in for a "You know you might be traveling in a developing country when..." joke, right? But true.)
It rained for a good part of our trip, and you can imagine how traveling on bad roads turns into a nightmare when the rain turns everything to mud. I say this because our 6 hour trip ended up turning into a 10 hour trip... and at the end, when we finally descended down into the flat plain of the national park, the kids had been occupying themselves by playing "hide and seek" between the back seat and the back of the small SUV. (I think that says a lot about all our state of minds at the time.)
In truth, I didn't really mind the drive. I love seeing countries from the ground, and it was a beautiful drive. (This was taken from the car as we drove through Uganda.)
We arrived at our hostel after dark (because we were so close to the equator here, there are exactly 12 hours of dark and daylight, every day, all year round.) We ordered some food to share and the kids started playing out the yard... until we were informed that they shouldn't really play in the yard after dark: there are lions around here. Oops. Right. Forgot about that.
Early to bed... we head out on the safari at 5:30 tomorrow morning!