Sunday, July 05, 2009

On! On!

Jinja Relay 2009

The annual Kampala-Jinja Relay took place this weekend.  17 teams composed of 9 members each met at Kiira Town Council at 7:00am to begin their journey of approximately 90 kilometers through sugar cane plantations, forests and across the Nile River to reach the town of Jinja.  This was my third year to participate in this event  (Remember this?).  I really love it.  I would say that it is probably one of the events I look forward to doing most each year, and it comes along at the right time of the year--at the end of the school year when stress levels are through the roof, and I need a positive outlet.  Fighting a few kilometers of steep hill in the blazing sun is a great way to cool down after dealing with a few of Satan's disciples. 

This year's run was great.  Our team, No Hope, went through a few changes--as it has a tendency to do--but change, in this case, is welcome.  The run is a great opportunity to get to know people on a more personal level.  Instead of hanging out for a couple of hours on a Monday evening, you get to spend an entire day with your team.  Plus, the heat, stress and (perhaps) booze tear down barriers that sometimes prevent you from seeing who a person truly is.  It is sometimes surprising what a person can/will reveal over a 90 km trek.  This year's run made me face my personal demon of driving in Uganda.  In the more than six years I've leaved here, I'd only driven a motor vehicle 3 times.  I'm not exactly sure why I've refused to drive.  I really don't like driving.  Period.  I'm a good drive; however, because of my perfectionist tendencies, driving makes me exceptionally anxious.  How does one drive perfectly?  What does that mean?  Anyway:  I'd only driven 3 times and they were very short distances.  Well, I drove most of the route to Jinja (when I wasn't running, of course).  True, we were on back roads, so it did not matter if I kept right or left, but the important thing is that I was behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle for an extended amount of time.  I even got to put it into 4-wheel-drive for a while as we went through a pretty muddy area.

The route we take is well off the main roads and the scenery is lovely; it really makes the difficulty of the task worth it.  We definitely provide a quite a bit of entertainment for the people who live along to path to Jinja.  I think this is the only day of the year that so many people pass through their communities at one time.  And we're a very diverse group, so I bet this is the only time in many of their lives that they've seen Europeans, North Americans or East Asians together with such a rowdy group of Ugandans.  I could be wrong about that, but judging from people's reactions as we trotted through their villages or took a break on the roadside, I don't think I am.  The weather was beautiful:  blue skies, few clouds and not a drop of rain.  The only negative thing about this is that it ended up being hot as hell with no relief from the weather.  A light shower would've been welcome around 1:00pm.

My team spent the night at Zamo Hotel in Jinja, a no frills hotel, but adequate.  On the way home, we stopped by the Rain Forest Lodge in Mabira Forest for a quick drink and a walk around.  I'd never been there.  It.  Was.  Beautiful.  I'm already making plans to go back and spend an entire day their with friends.  I'll spend a night there... when I marry rich.

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