I will forever remember Uganda as being a thousand shades of green. We arrived in Jinja, Uganda at the end of a long rainy season, and at the beginning of a tropical downpour, that had been making me nervous as I tried to balance myself and heavy backpack on the back of my motorcycle taxi (called a boda boda).
“Where are you from?” My driver asked
“America,” I said dryly.
“Oh! Amereeca! Will you marry me?”
“Because I don’t want to marry anyone I have known for only two minutes. Now please watch the road.”
“Just watch the road.”
Obviously, I was more concerned with getting to our hostel, Adrift, before it began to dump buckets of water from the sky, than a boda boda driver’s romantic, or more likely, self-serving, intentions.
We got there, but just barely, and spent the rest of the evening drinking beer and trying to make out a brown, muddy Nile that stood against a backdrop of white haze. The next morning, however, the rain and mist had lifted, and we were greeted with a wide, lolling river, made lazy by a pair of nearby dams.
Why visit Jinja?
Jinja, Uganda is a popular stop over for adventurous tourists looking to bungee jump or white water raft down the Nile (mostly out of our hostel, Adrift, which sits a few kilometers outside of town but has a lively bar that overlooks the Nile) and the less adventurous ones who would prefer to bob up and down on a small canoe bird-watching or booze-cruising on a sunset boat ride that putters past papyrus reeds and fishermen — exactly the sort of scene you might expect to see on the Nile if you ignore the anomaly of your boat.
Off the river, Jinja is a large, bustling town. Downtown’s main street is dotted with several cute cafes (like, Source of the Nile) that serve up freshly brewed coffee — a great break from the instant coffee we kept getting throughout Kenya — and dozens of souvenir shops basically selling the same thing. Being Uganda’s second largest metropolis (after Kampala) I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by this bit of cosmopolitanism. I was rather surprised by how many foreigners and tourists were roaming the streets, many of whom seemed to be unusually pretty girls in their early 20s, sporting flowing long skirts. Volunteers in the name of God, maybe? I’ll never know.
In the end, I found the place overly touristy but beautiful. I was happy to move on, but encountered several foreigners who now call it home. Mostly, I feel like I’ve walked away from Jinja being able to say “no big deal, I’ve been to the Nile.” Not a bad place to spend a few days, right?