Woke up to my alarm at 5am. I had a surprisingly good night’s sleep. I got up and did what I do every morning and had a shower to wake myself up. Then it started to dawn on me just how much we take water for granted.
I met the other WaterAid supporters at the airport and we proceeded through to security. Quite a few of us got stopped when our bags were being scanned, something that has never happened to me before! They wanted to check my liquids, as I was carrying toothpaste, a few antibacterial hand gels, antiseptic cream, mosquito repellent and other bits – in hindsight it was probably a large volume of liquids to be carrying on as hand luggage but I wanted to be prepared for every eventuality!
When we landed 18 of us somehow squeezed on to a minibus with our luggage. In our briefing day back in October we were told for security reasons we would be doing all our travelling in the daylight, because not all the vehicles use their headlights. As we pulled out of the airport and onto the road it indeed became apparent that we had no lights on our minibus! We pulled into a lay-by where there seemed to be a pub and two casually dressed security guards, who were carrying some sort of shot gun. I’m not a particularly well-travelled person so was immediately a little wary. But all was fine and we moved onto a local garage where we were picked up by several taxis and taken to our hotel in Kampala.
I have never been to a country where malaria is a risk and I saw my bed had a mosquito net, so I untied it. I wasn’t sure if this alone was enough protection so I put a band on each of my wrists and ankles, then for good measure I covered myself in some spray! It seemed to work as I didn’t get bitten. It made me think about what it must be like to live with this worry on a permanent basis.
I was woken about 4-5ish by a call for prayer, and at first I was confused by the strange surroundings. There was also an incredibly loud squawking from some birds outside my room – I have never heard anything like it! A bit later I got up for breakfast and our security briefing.
After the briefing we piled into our cars for the six hour journey to Kampala, and after a late night and early morning I intended to sleep for as much of the journey as possible. But when we started driving it was the first time I had seen Uganda in the day light and there was so much to see I just couldn’t stop looking.
It all seemed so green and lush, and every bit of land I could see was being used by someone. I was amazed at how big all the wildlife is. I took a picture of a Malibu stalk, the picture doesn’t do it justice in terms of just how big it was. I saw one standing on a rubbish pile, next to a person and I think it would easily come up to my shoulder! The insects are also huge! I’m not doing so well with those, I’m on constant alert and keep imagining they are crawling on me! If I get brave I’ll try and get a picture of the giant stag beetles that are also staying at the hotel with us!
Almost the whole way to Soroti we saw people at the side of the road, walking, selling food, washing or just resting outside their houses. I was amazed at how much cleaning was going on, with people washing clothes, shoes, vehicles. There was a small stream with about five vehicles parked in it being washed.
It didn’t take long before we saw the yellow jerry cans, either being swung around on their way to be filled or being carried back full of water. It was mainly children who were collecting the water, some even had smaller jerry cans, maybe five litre volume instead of the larger 20 litre. I was amazed to see a girl, maybe 10 or 12 years old, carrying two 20 litre jerry cans on her head (about 40kg) – she made it seem effortless! Most of the children seemed happy, even those collecting water. As we drove through the little villages many of the children were waving to us from the side of the road.
But I saw three children who weren’t so happy. Two of them – who I assume might have been brother and sister, maybe eight years old – were trying to get two full water buckets down a steep mud path to what I guess was their home. They were bent over the can trying to nudge it carefully down this path, and it looked such hard work for such small people. Whilst we were driving I was trying to get pictures for the blog to to give you a feel for Uganda but I kept missing shots as we were driving so fast. I noticed a small girl, around nine years old. She was on her own on the side of the road carrying three empty jerrycans. She was struggling to carry these large bulky items, lost her footing at one point point and dropped a can, then fumbled around trying to pick it up without dropping the others too. Tomorrow we will be spending the day in a local village with a family who do not have water. Seeing this is preparing me for how hard tomorrow is going to be.