Dreaming of Kidepo Valley National Park.

The old adage ‘We make plans and God laughs’ made so much sense to me on Sunday. And this time God wasn’t chuckling. He had that table hitting, tummy hurting, rolling on the floor kind of laugh at our plans to go to Kidepo Valley National Park. As you’ve probably imagined, this is about how nothing went according to plan.

Wait, what was the plan?
It was a solid plan. A plan that took one year to make. The group in Kotido was to meet the group of Kaabong and off we’d go to Kidepo Valley National Park. The plan was to camp at the camping site in the park. The plan was to have an early morning game drive, after all when else will you see the lions or the leopards for that matter? The plan was to take lots selfies and have the following hashtags #Kidepo #camping #excursion #mycoberssiteisbetterthanyours #Karamoja #funtimes…. I get carried away really easily when it comes to hashtags. However that was the plan. It was a solid plan, if I say so myself.
 
So, what went wrong?
Everything!!! Read the plan we had?  Now read it again. Nothing went according to plan. And when I say nothing I mean zero. Nought. Zéro. The plan started crumbling on Saturday. The Kotido group that was supposed to be in Kaabong by 3:30pm latest, arrived at 10:30 pm. It had rained so heavily on Saturday that the roads were almost impassable. I was told that on their way to Kaabong, the car got stuck on a seasonal river that had obviously started flowing and they had to push it out of the river. All this in the night. So the camping plan? It became a sleepover plan. However, we still wanted to catch the early morning game drive so we planned to leave our residence at 0400 hours. I was so excited I only slept for two hours! No kidding!! That 0400 hours plan? Yeah it didn’t work either. I tend to hate the phrase ‘African time’ because I try as much as possible to make sure it’s not applicable as regards to me but you know Africans and our pathetic time keeping? Eventually, we set off at 0430 hours. It was a smooth journey for only 25 minutes. Then, the  car just stopped. I really wish I could give you details but I’m lousy at car things. What I do know though is that we were stuck for 15 minutes in the dark in the middle of nowhere. Whatever it was that was wrong was fixed and our journey continued on, not too smoothly though. There were a few times we skidded off the road but got back on track. The third time we skidded, we weren’t too lucky. We drove right into a puddle and just like that, we were stuck! 
 
The sun was hardly up when we got stuck.
 
When photos were part of the plan you take them no matter what!!
It’s all fun and games till you see steam coming out of your car. This is what people who know about cars call ‘heating up’ I hear.
We were  told we were in a place called Kapedo that was only 7kms from the national park. Imagine being so close to your destination and yet so far. There was no Airtel network and MTN could only manage one bar of signal. I honestly have never felt so clueless and helpless about a situation. Right about this time we were holding on to the hope of a Good Samaritan. And as luck would have it a soldier passed by and promised to get us a tractor that’d pull us out. That was at 0800 hours and we’d been there for one hour. However, two and a half hours later there was still no sign of a tractor and still not one car had passed by us.
The place is beautiful though. And yes, this is still Karamoja.
1100 hours had better luck though. Some people on their journey to we don’t know where helped us out after reprimanding us for not being well equipped with spades and shovels. Spades and shovels!! They pulled our car out of the mud. And right after doing so the tractor came. That tractor reminds me a little of how in the movies the policemen show up right after all the hard crime-fighting work has been done.
 Pulling the car out of the mud. Yes people, these are the roads that have been making news all week long.
When the car was brought out, we realised that the hose pipe had been damaged and definitely required repairing. There was no one in sight and our Good Samaritans had left. All our energies were then directed to fixing the car. We eventually called the national park to send engineers to help us out. At this point time we were all hungry. We’d gone through so many phases of hunger, even nausea that the only option left was sleep. I think I need to describe this hunger better. You see because we wanted to catch the morning drive so badly we went without breakfast. We had packed a few daddies and biscuits that we finished way before the car stopped the first time. It was hours since our last real meal. While people were debating on whether to turn back to Kaabong town or to continue to Kidepo when the car was fixed, my stand remained the same ‘whichever got me food fastest’. And as though that wasn’t bad enough, the clouds were turning dark which basically meant that if it rained, the roads would be worse than they already were which would mean that we’d have to remain in Kapedo hungry and all alone.
My ‘I’m hungry, get me food now!’ Selfie.
So many cars past us by afterwards: NGO cars, personal cars, inquiring about the situation but nobody really helping. There is one car that passed by us that I remember vividly about. It was a sleek black car with a government registration number. I didn’t get to see who was in but just like the rest, he inquired and went on his way. The same car did pass by again about two hours later, however, by this time, the park engineers had already come. This time though I recognised him. He stopped to greet us and it was the Minister of Ethics and Integrity: Hon. Fr. Lokodo Simon in the flesh without any security detail. He did speak to us and he was really kind. He apologised for not thinking to bring us food. Apparently he didn’t expect to find us again, still stuck. So you can imagine his surprise when he passed by the third time and found the same fatigued faces of stranded university students he’d left behind with a messed up car that was still being fixed. He immediately ordered the one of the park officials to be drive us to the park in one of the pick up trucks the engineers had come with. So yes if you did see a bunch of overly excited uni students at the back of a pick up in the news that was us. I have never seen people so excited to be on a pick up truck. And as we were being driven to the park, I saw the sky change, it was clearing and at that point, I knew in my heart that our luck was changing.
How many times do you get too sit at the back of a pick up truck and be this happy about it? No seriously, how many?
 
Yes, it was a real pick up truck!
 
Denis!! No one beats him at being optimistic. No one!! 

The ride was a lot of bumpy it was so much fun. The entire experience of being stuck for over eight hours taught me a lot about myself and also about many of my friends. Like how Denis is literally the hope of hopes and me? I need food to survive. I learnt that about me. When we eventually did reach Kidepo Valley National Park, we forgot our fatigue, our hunger and our troubles. We had finally made it!!
I’d definitely love to continue, however, recounting the events has gotten me fatigued. Another day maybe?

What do you think?