It’s late afternoon when I finally find my way to a hostel. I’ve spent the entire afternoon waiting for someone at the US Embassy to get me the info I need. The hostel staff can’t believe the bus was hijacked, robbed and a man shot dead. Nick at the front desk shuffles a bunch of reservations around and finds me a single room that I can stay in with no definite check out date. I nearly accost the first girl I see, Jackie, an American girl doing humanitarian work in Uganda, borrow her phone and call Matt.
Hello? The guarded but curious hello when you don’t recognize the number that is calling.
Hey. It’s Charlie.
His voice relaxes. You made it.
Well…sort of. I quickly tell him about the robbery homicide on the overnight bus.
I’ve never heard of this happening before and I’ve been here for 6 years. This will be all over the news! What are you going to do? You can’t work can you?
No. I’m going to either head up to Paris to my partner’s house, pick up new gear there and come back or fly back to NYC to restock. Either way, I can’t work. I need to pick up gear somewhere. Damn it Matt. I was really looking forward to Uganda!
We talk a little more and I ask him to send me an email with my Rwanda cell number. The police want it since the robbers took my phone. It might help.
Matt sends me a note with my Rwanda number with a post-script, you don’t need gear to go rafting!
Three days later, I am peddling through class 5 rapids in the source of the Nile with a boat full of Peace Corp Volunteers.
The last rapid is the Nile Special, a massive and gorgeous class 5. The raft flips and everyone goes in. After I clear the rapid, I float on my back down the Nile.
FUCCCCCKKKKKK!!!! HOLY FUCKING SHIT.
I scream and laugh out these words so loudly the guy in the safety kayak near me stares. He thinks this moment of profanity is because of the Nile Special. He has no idea I am the mazunga that was on the hijacked bus the news have been reporting for the last three days.
An extremely slow two-hour bus ride later, I am back in Kampala at the hostel, with Nick at the desk trying to find me a room again. Baby Hugh Grant is alone in his usual seat, on the computer, with a pizza in front of him. He has been watching me the first two days at the hostel but didn’t chat me up until the morning I was leaving to go rafting. I tap on the corner of his table to let him know I’m back and follow Nick through the halls to my room.
I get clean up and return to the common room. Baby Hugh Grant and Owen are having a beer and I sit down with them. What are you doing tonight? It’s Saturday night. What is there to do? Bubbles and The Iguana of course he says. What happens at Bubbles and The Iguana? You will see!
Beer, pizza and drags off of Baby Hugh Grant’s cigarettes fills the next three hours as we bull shit with everyone that comes around. Alejandro the Peruvian joins us and he immediately turns me off. Middle aged, married and hoping a night out with us will afford him opportunities to fulfill his lust. I want to tell Alejandro that he can just pay. Prostitutes are not hard to find. He doesn’t need to go out with us and bore us with his ridiculous politics in order to get laid. I’m starting to fade and it doesn’t look like we are leaving anytime soon.
I tell Baby Hugh Grant to knock on my door when they are heading out.
An hour later he is at my door. Let’s go!
Five of us hail down three mottos taxi and we double up, Baby Hugh Grant is on the back of the motorcycle with me. The traffic in Kampala is terrible. The motto weave in and out of traffic, riding on the side of roads where the pavement comes undone. Many of the streets are pitch black for long stretches and we ride without helmets. Its not surprising there is a whole wing of the hospital that is dedicated to motto accidents.
Now imagine this ride when you are little drunk and it’s 4am. Baby Hugh whispers in my ear. I quietly think to myself, what a rush that must be. I can’t wait.
Mish Mash is the first club we land at. Owen says something vague and disappears. One of the other guys we came with found his friends, leaving Baby Hugh Grant and I to baby sit Alejandro and his incomprehensible politics and crude jokes. I desperately need someone else to talk to! The Jameson shortens my fuse and I do laps around the bar hoping to unearth Owen from his hiding spot.
We finally move on to Bubbles and I find Owen. How long have you been here? I was looking for you in Mish Mash. I can’t stand the Peruvian. Neither can I, that is why I left!
Baby Hugh and I head for the dance floor and Alejandro trails us. He finds a hefty sized black woman to flirt with; Baby Hugh reappears with tray of tequila shots in front of me. What have you done? I thought you would like it.
There are tequila shots in regular intervals, more cigarettes shared and lots of dancing.
Welcome to Kampala night life! This is the best in all of Africa. Baby Hugh declares.
Owen is restless. Lets go to The Iguana. If it’s not good, we can go home. I don’t need another club or more drinks. There are only two things I am interested in doing and they both involve a bed. Owen begs. Okay fine. The Iguana it is, but do we have to take the Peruvian with us? Was it only hours ago that I was peddling for dear life through class 5 rapids? This is starting to feel surreal.
I spot some of the same faces I’ve seen earlier in the night at The Iguana. Each one of the clubs seems to be on a well-established circuit and as these things go, every club is dodgier then the one before. Baby Hugh come back with more tequila and Owen borrows the last bit of cash I have on me. The more I drink, the more I see how the Dutchman resembles Hugh Grant.
4am. It’s time to go. Baby Hugh and I walk out of The Iguana, negotiate a price with the motto and we are off.
He wraps his long arms around me and kisses me at last. We make out on the back of the motto as it speeds up the hill through dark streets of Kampala. The tequila intermixed with his eager hands against the cold night makes me feel alive. Are you enjoying the ride? The motto driver shouts back at us. We are too busy to answer.
The last four days compresses together; I hit fast forward as if I am scrubbing through the dailies on a film set. Armed robbery with a man shot dead on an overnight bus. I lose every piece of my equipment but escaped unharmed. The criminal investigator is typing away at a police report while I am paddling through class 5 rapids at the source of the Nile. A night of tequila, Kampala Night Clubs, leading to a Hugh Grant look a like and I making out on the back of a motto taxi speeding through the dark night of Kampala. It is all too cinematic. I couldn’t script it this way even if I tried. Could this really be my life?