Have you ever wondered: why me? Of all the people around, why me? As the two of us walked through Kampala with two light bin bags containing all we owned, we were attracting lots strange looks from the locals. Not often are two dusty mazunga’s going around town with black bin bags slung over their shoulders!
Things were going so well. The beers were going down nicely and we had finally showered and were relaxing for the evening in our hostel. We were sipping away trying to make friends after our excellent white water rafting in Jinja, Uganda on the first proper night of our holiday. Nobody, including me, noticed the thunderstorm with heavy rain that had arrived as the TV and the noise of banter drowned it out.
When the hostel owner found me by name at the bar I thought there must be something strange going on alright. She didn’t say anything except ‘something terrible has happened’. As she escorted me outside to my hut I finally noticed the rain and thought maybe there was a leak in the roof. With a combination of our terrible flash lamps and the rain it was hard to make out what had happened as I stepped into the hut. My plastic bag of socks and a t-shirt thrown on the bed where I left it was the same but the muddy footprints on the floor were new and, and ……….then I realised that both our rucksacks were gone. Right. It took about 2seconds to process this, our clothes, crap. Our camera’s. Really crap. Our passports. Sh!t. As this struck me, for the pantomime dramatic effect, a huge bolt of lightning lit up the room so I could see the nothing that was left. Our hut was the closest to the perimeter fence and the robbers cut a hole in the wire mesh fence and then slashed the canvas door and came in to our hut. Our first day in Uganda and our whole holiday was up in the air.
You get to see the good side of people in these situations as some people in the hostel gave us $10 etc which gave us enough to get by for a day or two and another hostel gave us free accom for the second night. As we waited for the police to get a report we took stock of what we had. The clothes we were wearing, lots of socks and jocks from my plastic sock bag which even in its clean state didn’t tempt them, the wet clothes that we wore rafting and one or two other t-shirts. All phones, chargers, lenses, medicines, jumpers, trousers, credit cards and passports were gone. Not much left. Of most concern was our gorilla trip in Rwanda in 4 days time, how could we get there without a passport after paying so much money for the trip? The only saving grace was that my small camera happened to be in my sock bag so at least we had that.
You don’t really know how you will react to situations like this until you are in them but I must say I was kindof impressed with the two of us. I thought I would get angry but I didn’t, in fact most of the time we made some dark humour of it. We just thought how ridiculous we looked and whether the robbers were now walking around with our clothes and what they looked like. Would they be going through our pictures on the camera? Would they even know the value or even the use of the contact lenses? We worked out what we had to do and just went and did it without thinking of what a balls all this was. After getting the police report we had to bus it with our plastic bags and then walk for 30min like bin men in Kampala to the Irish Embassy. They were very nice there and after some background checks (so we weren’t like some guy Seamus O’Flaherty they were telling us about who escaped the Sudanese police by fleeing over the border) we would have our new passports by lunchtime. Brilliant! Money was also a major issue and I never knew how Western Union et al really worked but I know now. After many emails, phone calls etc without getting any mothers too alarmed we bought ourselves some bags and trousers when the money came through hours later. As sad as I was to say goodbye to our bin bags, it was time to let go! We arrived back to the embassy to discover that they had spent the previous 2hrs trying to fix the passport machine and now our passports would have to be printed in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and we wouldn’t have these for 5days. During these 5 days you won’t be able to leave the country we were told. Ahh, Why me?
Now usually this would be cut and dry but from our hours in there we knew a bit more about emergency/temporary passports and pleaded our case for the money down the drain in Rwanda and the cute gorillas etc. A brainstorming session began and suddenly (all within 48hrs of the crime), we each had a temporary passport to get us across the border into Rwanda, a crazily complicated plan for a new passport to be ready and waiting for us in Kigali, a wad of cash from Western Union, some new clothes and a bag to put them in.
The plan was so crazy it worked! We were holding our breath every time we crossed a border but it worked out perfectly and we got to see those cute gorillas after all!