Kampala days

After 3 months of non-stop travel I arrived in Kampala in need of some time out. I came to the right place, especially after Nairobi – the dodgiest city I’ve ever been to. Somehow became a local at the Red Chilli Hideaway and within days made some great new buddies to laze away the days with.

Red Chilli Days

Mmmmm probably too much time spent hanging out here but then again I had a ball. More coming….

Trying to get a second UK working holiday visa – the never ending mission

Someone told me I could get a second UK working holiday visa. Yeah right! Actually another someone has since told me that you can and his brother did it so f*** knows. All I know is that I wasted a week stuffing around and getting my hopes up. My 28th birthday was quickly approaching and to get a working holiday visa you need to apply before turning 28. Wednesday, the day after I arrived in Kampala I headed down to the British Embassy for the application forms. Not a problem – got to the reception / security booth and picked up the forms. The Ugandan ( I thought this was the British Embassy?) lady told me that visa applications could be made between 8.30 and 10am each day except Friday. Fine. Filled out the forms (on which there was no sign that you couldn’t get a second visa), printed out my bank details for proof of funds, all the usual stuff and came back at 8.30 the next day. There was nobody there. I thought I must have just been early or something until a security guard came up and asked me what I was waiting for. He told me it was a public holiday. Thanks lady from yesterday – you’re a star for giving me that information. Walked away trying to stop the tears falling because I had just been so hopeful. So then it’s Friday and they don’t do visa applications – great. Then it was the weekend. Even better – more time wasting.

So Monday morning came along, jumped on a matatu, mega ripped my only pair of good pants getting into it (almost cried) and there I was again at 8.30 on the dot with my ripped pants trying to cover the rip by hanging my bag down low. There were quite a few people already there and I hopped in the queue behind them. ‘What are you doing?’ the security guard asked. I showed him my forms and told him I was queueing for my visa. ‘Oh no – we’ve already had our quota of 50 people for the day (It was only just on 8.30). Come back tomorrow – get here a bit earlier – 7, 7.30ish.’ Great. Walked away almost crying again. That night I was catching up with my beloved buddies from my truck tour in Jinja which is about an hour out of Kampala. They were having a punch party and I thought I’d just stay for a few then head back to Kampala for my bright and early expedition to the UK embassy. Yeah yeah – think I was kidding myself. They convinced me that the truck was leaving at 5.30am so I figured I’d hitch I lift with them to the main road and have two hours to get back, get changed and head to the embassy. Should have known that the truck wouldn’t leave on time (another story). Rushed around and got to the embassy at 8.30 so same story as the day before. Too hungover this time to think about crying. Right. I only had a week left now before I was turning 28 and I was heading off to see the gorillas the following Monday and the next day was Wednesday (a whole week since I’d got the forms). If something went wrong, I’d only have the Thursday to get the visa (unless it too turned into another public holiday without me knowing) .

Got up so early, dressed in my best travel gear (stitched up rips and put on same outfit as I’d worn every day) and managed to get to the embassy at 6.45. Well actually I just turned into the street and the tears almost began to fall. There was a queue of about 200 Ugandan people waiting for visas. I just could not believe it. I asked them, are you queueing for a visa – Yes. F*** this. I was furious. I went up to the security booth and was like you remember me don’t you? I’ve been coming here everyday. I’ve got to get a visa before I turn 28 – the queue is ridiculous blah blah blah what can I do? They recognised me as I am probably the only idiot mzungu (white person) who has been showing up daily and I think they realised I was losing it. They said I should talk to this bouncer type wanker head of security dude who turned out to be the first Brit I’d managed to get infront of. He just said I should wait nearby and should come back at 2.30 during enquriy hours and then proceeded to ignore me. They let some people through, there were some scuffles with people apparently trying to push in and the guards were pretty violent towards them, and then people started to scatter. That was it – the 50 quota was full. Lots of people, including me, went up to wanker dude who decided to make an example of me to the Ugandans. “See this girl – she’s Australian and she has to queue just like you.” F*** you, you f*** wanker. Typical power tripping wanker. I started to bawl my eyes out – I couldn’t stop and just walked away sobbing and hating everything and everyone. Went back at 12 and up to the booth again and said I am coming back here at 2.30pm when enquiries are open. You will let me in won’t you? Yes yes. Got back at 2.30 and finally got inside the consulate not just to the booth – yippeeeee! The enquiries desk remained closed until atleast some time after 3. I was 6th in the queue and didn’t get to see someone until about 4.15. They basically said, we don’t take visa applications. Gave them the whole story about how I had to apply before I was 28 and that was next week etc etc and wouldn’t budge until she did something. She got someone else onto it and told me to sit down. Half and hour later a man came back and said ‘Sorry I don’t know why there are so many people applying for a visa but we can’t be seen to let a white person queue jump. You will have to come back and queue tomorrow.” I gave up. I just couldn’t give a shit anymore. Fuck it. I was well over it. So that’s the reason I came to spend so much time in Kampala and became a Red Chilli local. It turned out for the best because I met some wicked people and ended up spending a total of 21 nights in Kampala in between little tours. I love the place now and because of the time spent there I feel I know the country a little better. Everything is for a reason I guess. I still say the UK embassy sucks. I walked past a few days later at 6pm and noticed people out the front. They had started to queue for the next day. I don’t think I would have ever gotten anywhere even if I’d kept trying. Took a photo of them and I’m going to send it to the queen or something – surely she’d be ashamed of what these people (and me) have to go through to get into her country. Yeah right – bet she doesn’t give a toss.

Polly and Carl’s big day out

What started out as an early morning trip to town to do some email, ended up with us off our tits in a seedy bar playing air guitar with pool cues.

For some reason we went into Kampala early (like before 10) Monday morning to do some email. Quickly bored with it, Carl (another Red Chilli local) and I made a 12 o’clock appointment with Harry Potter 2 at the local cinema but not before grabbing a boda boda to stock up on a couple of splifs. What a crack up. Go and see Harry Potter when you are stoned – I think they made it especially for us. No idea what the story line was but f*** it was funny. Movies over and munchies well and truely on the way we legged it to Chopsticks restaurant at one of Kampala’s nice hotels and were blown away by the fact there was a swanky roof top swimming pool. In between taking turns to sneak out for spliffs in a kind of baton passing relay style (‘but you can smoke inside’ they said), we munched to our hearts content on lush chinese food and considered jumping in the pool fully clothed. Sensibility came back to us for a nanosecond and we decided on more beers at the Sheraton instead.


Mmmmm yummy chinese at Chopsticks (note: Nice blue swimming pool out the window! Hadn’t seen one for months)

Strolling into the Sheraton like we were full paying guests (not tight-assed backpackers) we found the Rhino bar and swiflty ordered a couple of Nile Special at double the normal price – ouch! To our delight we spotted a life size chess set with a view overlooking Kampala – how lovely! I can’t play chess and in my state I wasn’t about to learn so I convinced Carl to learn checkers instead. Ha ha – good move on my part cos I kicked his butt till we got bored and moved to the swimming pool deck chairs. Kind of got away with it for a while until Carl thought he’d like to go swimming and stripped down to his boxers. An attendant quickly came over and asked us for our room number. Carl put up a good fight and we made up some rubbish but she’d have none of it so eventually we kind of had to leave. Yeah – that was kind of embarrassing!

Thought we’d try our luck in the Kampala casino with all the corrupt ones but our luck seemed to have run out before we even got in the place. No shorts allowed for men no matter how much we pleaded and lied or how stinking hot it was outside. Shamed again we opted for the bowling alley at Garden City, a brand new shopping centre that most (non corrupt) Ugandans will only dream about going to. Great move. They had glow in the dark bowls, techno on the jukebox and we had the place to ourselves. Barefooted and quite wasted by this stage we were suprised at how good we were until we realised that the loser rails were raised and the ball couldn’t fall into the gutter. This was perfect though so we made up our own rules where you had to bounce it off the sides before knocking down the pins. Great game until you play it when you are sober and then it’s quite boring.

After playing until our thumbs were sore we boda bodaed(?) it back to the Chilli to make ourselves more presentable and stocking up on spliffs before heading back to the Casino for free drinks while we gambled. That was a lot of fun – atleast they let us back in for a start. Then we just pretended we knew what we were doing and played blackjack for while. Came out kind of even if you include the free drinks so all in all it was a couple of hours well spent. By this stage my eyes were bloodshot and I was slurring my words so the memory from here on in gets a bit hazy. All I can really remember of the evening is being at the last bar but I’ve got a feeling we were at one in between. I just know that we ended up at Al’s bar – the sleeziest joint I’ve ever been into in my life (unless you count Pat Pong in Thailand but that was a novelty – you do actually go to Al’s bar for a night out). Anyway, we were pissed / stoned / whatever and I just remember having the best time being an absolute dick – dancing away to 80’s rock music, grabbing the pool cue like it was a guitar or microphone and singing at the top of my voice. Hey – it’s Uganda and it was Al’s bar and you can do whatever you want and that’s why it’s great.