I’m pleased to report that we’ve all arrived safely in Entebbe after a very smooth journey from London. We actually left in two groups the night before, Mr Davies and Miss Duncan were flying Air Emirates from Heathrow and the CM Sports Crew from Gatwick, courtesy of Qatar airways. I was slightly nervous that my baggage was well over the luggage limit. I’ve never packed so much stuff, including two Tag Rugby kits for the pupils of Rihamu, three fully resourced units of Geography work for our teaching commitments, plenty of cereal bars and even a couple of packs of nappies (these are not for me – our drivers wives are both expecting children in the next couple of months). Fortunately our bags were put through without problems and we took off on time for our 13 hour overnight flight at 10.15pm.
This time seemed to pass quickly with plenty of the latest movies to watch, surprisingly nice food to eat and a few bouts of restless sleep. We changed planes in Dubai. It seemed a real shame not to have the opportunity to explore this amazing city, but as we stepped off the plane and was immediately hit by a wall of intense heat (35 degrees at 6am!) I was quite pleased not to be stopping long. We touched down in Entebbe at about 2pm Ugandan time and I was immediately struck by how wonderfully green and lush the landscape was. A simply beautiful country.
Miss Duncan and I made our way through to customs where Nick, Luke, Megan and Andy had just arrived and were busy filling out their visa forms. I’d already been warned about how slow customs could be, but I was surprised at how inefficient the system was. Despite buying our visa in advance, we still had to provide more photos and sign further forms. Eventually we made it through to baggage reclaim to see our bags moving around on the conveyor (always a relief) and out of the airport to meet our driver Geoffrey. Geoffrey is an amazing ball of energy, immediately putting us at ease in a new country and providing a wealth of information about our surroundings.
First stop was to change money. The Ugandan Shilling is a closed currency and cannot be changed in advance. It also has the amazing exchange rate of about 4,500 shillings to every pound. I left the bank with a brown envelope stuffed with about 2.7 million shillings. I’m a millionaire.
Buying a SIM for phone was the next job. This was a trip to a shopping mall. The shop assistant couldn’t have been more helpful inserting the SIM card and even setting up my phone for me. I was unsure why she needed to scan my passport, take my photo and provide a thumb print however.
Our first night was spent in comfortable accommodation at Entebbe Zoo. Most were really excited to see elephants, giraffes, lions, chimps and enormous pythons as we waked down to dinner. Nick was slightly underwhelmed, knowing that in a few days we’ll be encountering many of these animals up close and in their natural habitat. Dinner was taken at a restaurant in a perfect setting.
Our table was on a sandy beach looking out at the beautiful Lake Victoria. The sun sets early and quickly in Uganda so early evening feels much later. This didn’t worry us however as we were tucked up early under our mosquito nets, catching up on missed sleep in readiness for our adventures ahead.