As we walked out of the building, Clare got a call about the land that that LC5 had told us about. Clare arranged a visit to the land, so she dropped Chris and I off in the shopping area of town, and she headed out to check out the land. While she was gone, Chris and I walked around, checking prices of things, and getting a feeling of what will become the home of my family in a few months. I was able to find some souvenirs, and finished my research about shopping in Fort Portal. When we had run out of places to go, we walked back to Hotel Dutchess to continue waiting for Clare. We didn’t mind that this place had the internet and some cool drinks. Add to that my lunch of delicious chips (French fries), and we had quite the spot to rest and wait.
After a solid three hours of not hearing from Clare, she called us and said that she would be picking us up in 20 minutes. Chris said that she sounded excited on the phone, so we expected good news about the land.
Clare eventually returned, in love with the land, and saying that she negotiated a great price. Clare did a great job haggling, and wanted to take us to the land to show us the potential. We were ready to go, but had to make a stop first. Clare had a friend who needed a ride, and we needed to pick him up. Andrew was a friend that Clare had come across, and he was in the Fort Portal area, and was going to hitch a ride back to Kampala with us. We drove 5 miles into the hills and found where he was staying. We found a white 21 year old with long surfer-dude hair who hadn’t shaved in months. This was Andrew from Seattle, Washington. He had piles of bananas to bring to the kids at Feed My Lamb, as well as his backpack and a huge sack of potatoes. He piled into the car, now filled with Chris, Clare and I, plus Clare’s cousin, Robert, and another local who had helped broker the land. So the six of us bounded down the dirt roads toward the land, stuffed into the little car, designed for 4.5 people at most. We drove, and drove, and drove. We drove for an hour on a dirt road, 45 kilometers away from Fort Portal, and then reached the turn off to the land. Chris turned left onto a muddy road, and we then realized that it was a very muddy road. Chris gingerly continued down the hill, anxious to get to the potential school location. Clare got out to walk ahead to see of the car would be okay on the road, that had been perfectly dry two hours previously when Clare had easily driven right to the site. We decided that we should not take the car any further right as two large off-road trucks full of Ugandan Army soldiers started toward us. Chris slowly but surely backed the car up the hill about 100 yards, tires spinning and throwing mud up in the air, but making it back to the “main” road. I was at least a little concerned about the two trucks full of armed soldiers, but our new friend Andrew jumped out of the car and walked up to the truck and started chatting it up with the soldiers. They praised Chris’s driving backwards through the mud, and asked us our business. When they heard that we were thinking of buying land here to start a school, they told us that we would have good company for neighbors – Uganda’s President’s wife had just bought 500 acres, because oil had been discovered nearby, so she took up a big chunk hoping for the same. This was actually good news for the area, because the government was going to pave this road that was currently too muddy for us to drive on.
We decided that we still wanted to see that land that was down the muddy road, so we took off on foot. I happened to wearing my boots, jeans and had my pack with supplies and water. However, others in our group were less prepared (for the adventure that we had not planned). Chris was wearing his fancy dress shoes, which did okay in the mud, but Clare and Andrew were wearing flip-flops, which they ended up taking off for much of the trip. Andrew fared okay, but Clare sustained several small cuts from stepping on stones and sticks buried in the mud. By the end of the trip, she was hurting. She was a trooper though, leading us (from behind) to the land! We walked for what seemed to be much longer than Clare’s estimated 2 km. We walked through several small villages, where people came out of their houses and shops to see and greet us; I take it whites don’t show up here much, or ever. We finally arrived, and found a breath-taking view, with rolling hills with a river at the bottom of the valley. The land was beautiful, and Chris and I started snapping photos to show others when we returned. But then we started looking a little closer. There wasn’t a single part of the land that was flat; we would have to dig significantly to put up a building, and even more for a play field. The land was covered with rocks, which would have to be removed in order to have a play area, buildings, gardens and a tea plantation. And it was remote. We walked the area, a very beautiful area, but not perfect in its current condition. I gather Chris, Clare and Andrew and we held hands and prayed that God would show us the land that He has selected for us, regardless of whether it was this parcel or elsewhere. We ventured back to the road, and headed back to the car. I tracked the distance on my GPS watch (which I had not reset at the beginning of our hike, so we didn’t really know how far it was until we got back to the car), learning that the land was 3.1 km from the turn off from the long dirt road, that (we learned on the return trip) was 45 km from Fort Portal. Chris navigated our group of six back to town, but not before we saw what both of us thought might have been a zombie……
Chris fueled up the car while I popped into the store, grabbing drinks and some cookies for our journey back to Kampala, now 5 hours behind schedule. We would have to make the 300 km journey in the dark, not arriving home until early the next morning. This was not the ideal time to travel a rural highway in Africa, especially for three white guys and Clare.
We made it for about an hour before the first police checkpoint. The very friendly officer did a good job of asking what I recognized as beginning interdiction questions. When he was satisfied with that, he asked what we had brought for him from Fort Portal. I hope he enjoyed the rest of my cookies as I would have. Three more checkpoints without issue, and we were back in the capital city. We dropped of Andrew and his gear, and then Clare dropped Chris and me at Jesus House at 2:00 AM. I gave Clare some bandages and triple antibiotic ointment to Clare and some instructions on how I thought she should doctor herself. Chris and I fell into the apartment, and crashed quickly. This was the beginning of my last night in Uganda, and I was not excited about having to pack and depart in the morning.