On New Year’s Eve, we headed back toward Kampala. From the turnoff at Karuma Falls for 95 kilometers until Kafu bridge, the asphalt was pitted, sometimes covering only half the road, the other lane straddled onto red dirt. Young maneuvered from one side to the other picking out as clear a path as possible. The volume of cars,trucks and buses was so light, that he was able to pull over and pass at will without much delay. On the other hand, a steady stream of people walked along the road, sat at bus stops (though the busses rarely stop there), and sold various goods along the highways. By the time we reached Wobulenzi, the roads were filling up with travelers coming back to the capital from their holiday visits to the villages and the traffic ground to a halt. By this time we were anxious to get home and, quickly, Young moved into action. He made an artful dodge down a side street, escaping the worst congestion. We had to turn back left onto a major arterial clotted with vehicles of every description, the Boda Boda’s sifted through every seam pushing forward like a steady wind.
Blocked again, Young made his second dodge down a unnamed street through Bwaise. Looking ahead the road looked clear, but our progress was impeded by puddled water, sometimes stretching all the way across. In the unlit street It was suddenly quiet, as Young steered into a large puddle, no a pool, that spanned the road. We went down and then down more, a voice called out “stop” as we sank into the mud and came to a stop. A careful effort to move forward or back yielded nothing. I looked out the window and imagined climbing out into waist high water among malarial mosquitos to try to push. I realized that my left foot was covering with water that seeped around the door and Kate jumped to be sure that our gear was not getting soaked on the floor.
At once, a young man appeared at our window in a brightly colored polo shirt offering to pull us out for a fee. We had driven straight into his lucrative spider web. Young bantered and negotiated, but the well positioned truck was already backing up behind us. Once they had wrapped a cable around the towing hook it took just minutes to haul us free. For a few tense minutes, the engine failed to turn over thought the control lights glowed bright, suddenly we felt very hot. With a turn of a key, the engine kicked to life and Young navigated us carefully out of Lake Bwaise, watching in our rear view other cars winding toward their doom. Returned to solid ground and traffic jams, we counted our luck stars and laughed about the entrepreneurial pirates of Lake Bwaise.