From Kisoro it is only 13km to the Rwanda border and we get stuck behind a bus which hurls up masses of sand and dust, forcing us to keep the windows closed. Robert tries to overtake on a bend, but the bus driver would not have it! He then falls back so that the dust is not too bad.
The border official is sitting in a hut where we are only allowed to enter one at a time. He is a large, officious man; I certainly would not like to argue with him. We are stamped out of the country and have to move on to the next hut – the security office. The man there is much more personable, he meticulously writes down our name, passport number and occupation in an exercise book. I notice the previous entries consist mainly of “peasants” in the occupation column, an observation which somehow tickles me. Robert also has to call in the customs office to declare the car. Finally, after nearly an hour, we are through the barrier into no-mans-land, before another barrier takes us into Rwanda.
The story is quite different on entering Uganda again. We have been recommended to state “Transit” on the immigration form, as it will save us $15. Robert takes all four passports in to the official hut, and is gone for some time. He looks distinctly worried when he comes out and tells us that the officer would like to see us all. We enter the room with trepidation, and are greeted by a stern look and motions to sit down. The officer looks at the forms, at Robert and at us before asking us to confirm where we are going in Uganda. Having been briefed to just say “straight to Entebbe”, we are uncomfortable when he says: “that does not agree with what he (Robert) says”. It appears that Robert has been tricked into revealing some of our sightseeing arrangements along the way, contradicting our statements of a straight transit journey. After a few awkward moments, Robert admits to “getting it wrong”, the official considers the situation, and decides that he cannot be bothered to pursue it further, stamps the passports and we are dismissed! Phew!
There are 7-8 different species of banana here in Uganda, the most common being the plantain-like vegetable called matoke. Plantains are more starchy than sweet and must be cooked before being eaten. They are a staple crop in much of Africa, and are served boiled, steamed, baked, or fried. Robert explained that Uganda also have another plantain called njamonja, the very sweet ggonja, red bananas, finger bananas called ndzi, the large yellow mbite and the big boyoya. Bananas are grown by small-scale farmers who rely on their 'backyard' banana plots to sustain them through times of hardship, when coffee or cocoa prices fall or when annual crops such as beans or maize fail. Ecologically speaking, banana plants help to protect fragile soils from erosion, particularly in densely populated areas with high rainfall. In Uganda, bananas provide the staple for more than 2/3 of the population - the annual consumption reaches over 400 kg per person. As well as providing a staple food, the sales of these bananas in the urban areas provide an income for the largely rural population of the country. Uganda grows and eats 11 million tons of plantains each year, making them the world’s largest producer, although plantain production is now on a decline due to the increase of fast-spreading diseases and declining soil fertility. The plantains are transported on heavy lorries to distribution points, then continue on the back of a bicycle to the sales stalls. Often we see a small child pushing a large bike up a steep hill with a huge bunch of bananas hanging from each side as well as two bunches on the back.
Robert has had real problems getting the tyre fixed with the lack of electricity in town, but somehow it has been mended this morning. The road out of Kisoro is just as sandy today, and I would like to photograph the dust created by an oncoming car, but the traffic is so infrequent I miss it totally! We see many women carrying laundry baskets on their heads today, must be wash day. A little further on, it is bricks they carry on their heads, then later firewood.