About Rolex and the Hilton

Over Rolex en het HiltonWe wake up in the cramped bed and look around the room. There is stuff everywhere and clothes are hanging to dry. It is a mess and it smells pretty bad. A sour smell comes from our motorcycle boots, our motorcycle suits smell like wet dog and my helmet does not particularly smell like flowers either. After a day in the rain and mud, we look like real adventurers and so do we smell as well. A cold shower and a block of soap give a fresh feeling, which unfortunately immediately disappears as soon as we put on our suits again. Just a few more days and then we will have time to wash everything. Mélu despite everything looks like a well-groomed Parisian, complete with tight fitted motorcycle jeans, a white scarf à la Jackie Kennedy and motorcycle boots with high heels. So it is possible… With a full tank of fuel we head towards Fort Portal. From Gulu there is a direct route through Hoima and Masindi to Fort Portal. On the map a thick yellow line, but in reality a gravel road of about 300km. We can also drive to Fort Portal only using tarred roads, but only if we drive back to Kampala. That would be more than 600km. The choice is easy, especially as long as the sun shines we all prefer the gravel road. Over Rolex en het Hilton

We follow the main road south. A piece that we ride for the third time now after I had taken a wrong turn before. The road is very bad, the sides of the asphalt are washed away and the remaining asphalt looks like a Dutch cheese with holes. Moreover, it is quite busy on the road and there is a lot big trucks from Kampala on their way to northern Uganda and South Sudan. We swirl around the holes and occasionally get off the road when a truck comes hurtling toward us.

We stop in a small village along the way to buy some water. Along the side of the road is a lot of advertising for all sorts of products, from soap to cola and from airtime for your cell phone to butter. Unlike our advertising, they do not use billboards. The advertisements are painted on the houses and shops. And they do a good job, because the whole building is wrapped in the colours of the product. They are true works of art with the exact right font and exquisite replicas of the packing. Over Rolex en het HiltonThe shop where we buy water today has the colours of MTN, the largest telephone service provider in Uganda. A little further is a blue Pepsi Cola-house and on the other side of the road a red Coca Cola-house. Very colourful and definitely more fun than a large billboard. Incidentally, it is not said that they also sell what they advertise on the outside of their store. It often happens that we go by the colour yellow MTN to buy credit there and we end up at Green Soap-shop next door for our credit.

At the end of the morning we arrive at a bigger town. It is very busy because it is also a stop for the buses that ride from Kampala to the north. And where there are buses, there are street vendors. They sell everything: water, soft drinks, nuts, cake, but also fried chicken, donuts and roasted corn. And of course, flashlights, handkerchiefs and vomit bags, everything you could possibly need during your bus ride. As the bus slows down, they run towards the bus holding their goods high up in the air. It looks like utter chaos and a fierce competition. Over Rolex en het HiltonOnce we slow down, they also run towards us. We could easily have picked enough for a big lunch.

But today Mélu has a better idea for lunch: rolex! Uh, sorry? Are those not priceless watches? Yes, but also the most affordable and delicious lunch of Uganda. It consists of ‘chapati’, a kind of thick pancake, in which a fried egg is rolled. In English ‘role eggs’, which now has become ’rolex’ throughout the country. The rolex kiosk is standing in the street and consists of nothing more than a counter with ingredients and a red-hot iron plate. We order three rolex, containing an egg, green pepper, tomato and onion.

The cook, a boy of no more than 15 years, goes to work diligently and scrambles the egg. Meanwhile, he asks where we come from. He knows the Netherlands and immediately starts naming some famous soccer players. He is silent for a while when he then asks if there are black people living in the Netherlands. When I explain that that is indeed the case, he again pauses. While the egg is sizzling on the hot stove, he asks if we have rolex-kiosks in the Netherlands. When I tell him that that is not the case, he looks up surprised and then his expression changes. A plan is born: he goes to the Netherlands to sell rolex. I take the first bite and let out a delighted cry. The rolex tastes great! The cook lights up and looks asideOver Rolex en het Hilton to his friends. Not one, but three rolex kiosks he will open! An entrepreneur par excellence, that is what Africa needs! He’ll get there!

After lunch we drive to Masindi where the asphalt ends and the gravel begins. It is a beautiful route that leads through small villages, past dense forests, vast fields, and many, many churches. Even in the smallest village there is a prayer house. As in North Africa, it is often the most beautiful and well maintained building. A large sign at the entrance tells when you can attend the service and in what language. Although Uganda is now quite accustomed to tourists, it looks like this route is not often used by tourists. The people along the side of the road seem so surprised to see us that they sometimes only wave back once we are already out of the village. These certainly remain the best routes to meet the most extraordinary people.

There are no heavy trucks on the road, but still enough other traffic. And as we have grown accustomed, motorbikes are not really high on the ‘food chain’ in Africa. Passing cars expect us to get off the road when they approach, just like most pedestrians and cyclists do. They ride at high speed while messaging with their lights and their emergency lights. Over Rolex en het HiltonIf we do not go to the side, they honk and pass us at high speed. One of them passes us riding more than 100km per hour only missing Mélu by inches. And, spirited lady as she is, Mélu starts to chase the car calling him names in her native tongue. The driver responds by hitting the gas and disappears in a cloud of dust into the distance.

The road is in good condition, so we are making good progress. It is too far though to drive to Fort Portal in one day, so we will have to find a hotel. We decide to keep riding as long as possible today now the sun is still shining and the road is still dry. If it starts raining, which is not unlikely in the middle of the rainy season, it will not be far tomorrow. As of four o’clock we start looking for a hotel, but as it is when there are few tourists, there is no hotel in sight. Most villages consist of only a handful of wooden houses and a few brightly colored shops.

During her travels, Mélu sometimes found a place to sleep in one of the many churches in Africa, so we also keep an eye on those. At one point we park at a church, but are told by the bystanders that the church is closed and the clerk left to the city. The only man Over Rolex en het Hiltonwho speaks English is pushed forward and tells us that there is a number of hotels in the next village, Kibanga. It would be about a half hour drive, so we could make it there before dark. We continue our journey and arrive in Kibanga not long after. It is a village with just a few houses, a school, some shops and none less than three hotels.

We choose the hotel with the most beautiful signboard and the best name: Hilton Hotel. But as ’rolex’ means something very different in Uganda than in Europe, this is also true for the Hilton in Kibanga. The receptionist, a Ugandan lady wearing flip flops, cutoff jeans and a sheer top shows us the available rooms. We walk through the bar where the music is so loud that I no longer hear our guide. There are at least six very drunk men shouting at each other. The rooms are basic with a bed, a plastic chair and sandals, a blue left sandal and a red right sandal. You can use the sandals to go to the communal bathroom and toilet. While the lady sums up the prices of the rooms, Mélu and I strongly get the impression that the rooms at this Hilton can also be rented by the hour. We friendly thank her for the tour and go to the adjacent Palace Hotel. Over Rolex en het Hilton

It looks clean, there is water coming out of the shower and they have cold coke. And apart from a television in the corner that shows the latest South American soap opera, there is no loud noise. We negotiate the price and agree on a single room with one large bed where Peter and I can sleep. Our motors are allowed in the courtyard. The smell of our motorbike gear is even worse than this morning now the sun has heated everything all day. We hang it in the window and then eat the only dish on the menu: chicken with fries. Perfect!

The next day it is only a short but beautiful track to Fort Portal, where we already arrive around lunchtime. We pitch our tent at YES Hostel and start cleaning. We take apart the helmets and lay the soft parts in some soapy water. That will soon smel fresh again. Once we have rinsed the worst mud of the tent, we order a rolex in the kitchen. It is not nearly as tasty as the snack we ate on the street yesterday, so the young cook not only had a good idea, but he also had a good recipe! Over Rolex en het Hilton

In the days that follow, we clean our gear, scrub our suits until they are a bit whiter, we wash all of our clothes, we eat delicious brown bread and Dutch biscuits and we listen to the great stories of Mélu about her solo trips to Japan and Iran and her expedition by canoe in southern Argentina. She is not only a very special person, but certainly the most adventurous woman we have ever met! After three days Mélu ties her stuff back onto her Triumph to move on to the south. We stay in Fort Portal for a couple of more days, enjoying the view and eating yet another rolex.

Click here to view the photos.

Distance travelled to Fort Portal: 16.581km (10,303 miles)

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| Leonie | AFRICA, Uganda

3 Reacties (Comments) - About Rolex and the Hilton

  1. Mieke

    Weer helemaal mooi om te lezen en te zien. Die foto van rode wegen door groene bossen vind ik echt prachtig! Dikke knuffel van ons!

  2. Marloes

    Wat leuk om jullie verslagen weer te lezen, heb ze stiekem wel een beetje gemist!
    Op deze manier zijn we toch weer een beetje (terug) in Afrika.

    Geniet en safe travels!

  3. Yvette

    Wat heerlijk om weer ‘bij te kunnen lezen’. Ennuh Leonie…fijn dat jullie nu even wat langer op 1 plek zijn….kunnen je benen ook bij kleuren 😉