Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Traveling to and from Oyam North

“You’re early,” said the traffic policeman. Since when is anything in Uganda early? Pastor Fred and I arrived in the bus park before 7:00 am and the first bus was just leaving. In less than an hour our bus was full and off we went. Just outside Kampala the traffic police were somehow doing their job when they stopped us. Because the bus wasn’t scheduled to depart until 11:00, though it was full of waiting passengers, the traffic police would not allow us to pass.

Sitting in the Engen parking lot for the next three hours, we roasted and waited. Past 11:00? We thought a reminder for the driver might be in order…and it was. He’d lost himself in phone charging, snacking, and otherwise chatting with his conductor co-workers. Off we set once again with no real delays. We reached the Lira bus/taxi park without a problem. Pastor Patrick’s smiling face was waiting for us before we even stepped off the bus.

Then…the news that the one and only taxi leaving for Oyam North had left us behind because of the bus delay. Sigh. The only way to get to Pastor’s house was to hire a car, which cost about five times the cost of a taxi. What choice did we have? Our program began the next day and we could not stay overnight and hope for an early morning departure…the taxi had a schedule to keep.

That car for hire was a low riding Toyota and that driver was nothing short of a speedster. We flew over trenches and gullies knocking our heads on the ceiling no fewer than a dozen times. Once we arrived, the driver decided that he wanted more money than original agreed upon. The muzungu factor was a hot topic the whole week – they don’t get many muzungu way out there (and we’re not even called muzungu in Lango territory).

We skip over the three day conference and move to the 6:00 am departure from Pastor Patrick’s house. A boda man took both Pastor Fred and I to the side of the road where we were most likely to find the one and only taxi. A 30 minute wait and the man suggested we move a little closer to the trading center, where we learned that the taxi went to Gulu today rather than Oyam. Sigh, again. For the next three hours we three rode on one boda all the way to the main road in Lira.

The bus was just pulling out so we hopped on the next bus for the two and a half hour wait. Once we left, the roads were good. The roads in the west are paved and clear and many tractor-trailers take advantage of that by barreling down that road…okay, everyone takes advantage of speed on the good roads. No fewer than six serious accidents with big vehicles later – one of which required us to disembark and walk around the accident so the bus could drive on the soft sholder without tipping over – we came across this overturned bus. Only minor injuries but I learned that the driver took off running…he had to. Regardless of whose fault the accident was – most passengers pointed at the truck driver and not the bus driver – the bus driver was likely to be killed for the accident. Can you imagine?

Just 16 hours after departing that morning for what should have been a seven-hour journey and nine short hours after departing Lira town – given the driver’s desire to stop and say hello to every traffic police man, to stop at every roadside market for food vendors, to stop at every accident, to stop at every petrol station with a short call, and nighttime traffic in Kampala…we made it to town in the pitch black Christmas season of Kampala. Another two hours later I arrived safely at home.