A road trip and then some is what you should expect if you’re starting a journey to Arua. You have to go through so many districts that if you’re as fidgety a traveler as I am, you’ll start to entertain paranoid thoughts like “We left Uganda miles behind and I’m being abducted by Congolese warlords for my LV bag”.
There’s a place in the middle of the nowhere between Kampala and Arua where ingenious people sell warm milk and other refreshments to the weary traveler. They’d be perfect angels if they didn’t try to poison their custom with rotten waffles. A bitter strawberry waffle is an expired waffle. No two ways about it.
The trials, tribulations.
Your marrow solidifies, your bum, giving up all attempts to bear the pressure shifts out of the way exposing your bones to the seat. Rigormortis, unsure but excited, starts to creep in, like a chicken that has gotten as far as the middle of the kitchen on its way to a tray of groundnuts.
Lizards are to Arua what cats are to Katanga. Now I know that some people, mostly male, feign a closeness to lizards and other such abominable looking things. They’re lying. No human being can be friendly with a creature that looks like a stunted crocodile. One Jim goes as far as calling himself nswaswa, which is the luganda word for Monitor lizard. He likes them so much that a feral looking one is his facebook picture. And all because it has been proven that monitor lizards can count up to six.
The ones indigenous to Arua are terrifying because:
Nwyip: They can talk. Either that or some bastard with a talent for ventriloquy had it in for me. When I needed to use the ladies’ a querulous little lizard fella jumped in front of me and refused to budge. I wouldn’t have been so disturbed if he hadn’t been…talking. That’s right. He was making a nwyip nwyip sound. His throat was trembling with hysteria.
I looked upon this stupid creature that was getting between me and nature’s incessant call and considered drowning it. It only survived death by angry-woman piss because when I looked around, I saw that I had a bit of an audience.
No fear: These devils are completely unafraid. Forget the pathetic variety that move around in quick little bursts and try to blend in with wall paint. These ones are bullies. They’ll zig zag infront of you and refuse you to overtake.
When in Arua town, don’t attempt to read as you walk because you will die. The moment you take your eyes off the road, a woman with a large basket on her head will knock you to death with her bicycle.
Ripoffs: Nothing sounds more soothing at 4am in the morning, when all your nerves are shouting insults at you than a hotel named slumberland. After you shuffle in and get a room, be sure to make as much a mess as you possibly can. This will help you feel better about things like: their breakfast, which wouldn’t suck if it weren’t so wallet stabbingly expensive and the ecosystem in their mat.
Bathroom mat: When I placed my feet on it, something went squish. I didn’t jump off when I felt this squish, because I wanted to be sure, like how you might poke a snake at the foot of your bed to convince yourself that it really is a snake. Anyway, suffice it to say that that mat was alive.
Good points: My first stop was the public library, a homey looking building with a most eccentric collection of books. On one shelf, I found a Canadian encyclopedia, Greek cookbook and On Writing Well, a brilliant book by William Zinsser that every writer should read at least twice.
Don’t travel with somebody square else the highlight of your visit will be a tour of St. Phillips and an encounter with the world’s most terrible and perverted lizard.
Largely Irrelevant: Arua, the word has a nice ring to it. You can base a whole vocabulary on it, you rua?