Monday, March 1, 2010

A Mudslingin' Birthday

Day 29: Jinja, Uganda
After a long day rafting yesterday, and today being my birthday, I was planning on having a rare day to sleep in. But my friends on the trip wouldn't have it – they burst in my tent, shoved a bunch of balloons in, and sang Happy Birthday. I realized how lucky we are that we have such a small group. It's easy to make friends with everyone, and as a result, there are no cliques. Everyone talks to everyone else in the group equally. That dynamic is rare on package trips, and I hope that everyone continues to get along when our group increases to 20 people in Nairobi.

Sitting on an ATV, Jinja, Uganda
Sitting on an ATV by the banks of the Nile in Jinja, Uganda
I relaxed around camp all day until 4:00, when I left to go ride ATVs (also known as quad bikes) with Deepa, Neerav, and my tent buddy, Tom. Our guide had us drive a few laps on a course to get used to the vehicles, and then we set off on a muddy adventure through villages and along the banks of the Nile. We sped down narrow red mud pathways past farmland and traditional round huts while kids ran up to us excitedly. Slinging the ATV through puddles was exhilarating, and we all returned to camp victoriously splattered with mud.

In the evening, I attempted to break the all-time Oasis Overland chapati-eating record of eight chapatis in a day. With influence from the longtime Indian population, chapatis have become a popular street food here in East Africa. Chapatis are essentially like burritos – the cook fries a round tortilla-like shell on a special oven and rolls various ingredients into the chapati. At a small stand outside our campsite in Jinja, an excellent chef known as "Mr. Chapati Man" offers a menu of chapatis stuffed with omelettes, vegetables, or bananas. I got off to a late start trying to meet my goal of nine chapatis, eating only three before dinner. Somehow, I managed to stuff myself with six more in the evening, most of them being banana with either peanut butter or honey. As rich as the sweet chapatis are, it would have been impossible for me to eat six of the vegetable chapatis, which drip with grease and render their newspaper wrapping almost transparent. Finishing my goal just before midnight, I was still full at breakfast the following morning.

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