Spent some time in Kampala myself 2000-2001.
Nearest I have come to death was on the back of a boda boda. We were zipping up the hill. Very big truck speeding down the hill. Road narrowed at exact point we passed truck.
That's the same time as me. What were you doing there?
A month after I arrived, Mick quit Adrift and began setting up his own company. Brums was made head guide. Brums had a Ugandan girlfriend, Joyce. See was absolutely lovely, but more importantly she came from a rich family. Thus Brums knew that she was truly interested in him as a person, not in what he represented. Piley had a live-in girlfriend as well. She however, used to be a semi-hooker. We weren’t too keen to have her in the house, as her motives and trustworthiness were extremely questionable. I never touched a Ugandan girl the whole time I was there. I was sorely tempted on occasion, but the high AID’s rate at that time, plus the fact that you could almost never be sure of their true motives led me to keep my distance. It was difficult though. So many beautiful women there.
Near our house was a little bar where some older ex-pats hung out. They looked to be in their late fifties. They always had a young girl on their arm. They spent their days drinking and watching the world go by. They looked to be completely brain-dead.
When Mick left we needed another guide and Brums had a good mate from Cairns who had just finished working a season in Norway. Jeno arrived like a blast of fresh air. I knew him from the Tully and we immediately formed a good rapport. Jeno was no-nonsense, extremely good fun, and a top guide. I took him into the city the day after he got there and he freaked out at my driving. He started yelling at me and dressing me down. I just looked at him in surprise. I wondered if he was a fish out of water. Two weeks later he drove me into town. He was worse than I was.
The owner of the company lived in New Zealand. At that time, Adrift was the premier rafting company in the world to work for. But he had started cutting corners, as well as costs, and my time there marked the beginning of Adrift’s long decline. He flew out about four months after I got there. It was the first time that I had met him. He seemed nice enough, was a good kayaker and he was enthusiastic to have me there. Our office manager was a Kiwi woman who had previously worked in the New Zealand army as an officer. She was completely incompetent. We held in thinly disguised disdain. The fact that we were doing so few trips made tensions fairly high all round as well. Added to that, our video kayaker, Dave, turned out to be slowly going insane.
In Africa, as a white man especially, you can push the boundaries. Maybe one day you do something that back home would get you into a little bit of trouble, whereas in Africa nothing comes of it. So you start doing it more often, and you push your boundaries further and further. I was driving Jeno out to the river one day on the main highway. In the distance I saw a policeman standing on the side of the road. He stepped out and indicated for us to stop. I had a quick look and then I put my foot down and shot right past him.
“Holy crap,” Jeno said. “Why the hell didn’t you stop?”
I looked at him. “No gun, no car, no radio. Why the hell would I stop?”
For some, pushing these boundaries became something of a nightmare. If you push too much you risk arriving in dark places. That was the case for Dave. He had been there for three years when I arrived. He had a dark sense of humour, and a great sense of injustice at the world that he carried with him. He had slept with every hooker at Al’s Bar without protection. Every morning a different girl would leave his room. His alcohol intake was impressive. His drug intake was disturbing. One day he went down to the Irish doctor to get an aids test. He came home with it in his hand. It was negative. He didn’t know whether to be happy or depressed. He went out that night and brought three girls home.
It got steadily worse and worse. One morning he didn’t come out of his room for work. The door was locked from the inside and we were unable to rouse him. Finally we broke down the door. He had taken two boxes of valium and drunk three bottles of rum. He had thoughtfully covered his bed in a big sheet of plastic so we wouldn’t have any problems disposing of his body. We rushed him to Doc Clark who managed to fix him up. Two days later he was back home. We located a white psyche to come out and see him. He advised us to send him straight back to New Zealand. Adrift wouldn’t pay the bill, his family didn’t want to know and we couldn’t come up with the money. He was trapped in his own nightmare. We began sleeping with our doors locked.
One morning I wandered on to the upstairs balcony and found him curled up in the fetal position moaning incoherently. His mind had gone. The English marketing girl was secretly in love with him. She was something of a head case as well. She phoned London and organized two tickets. She had had enough of Uganda as well. We drove them out to the airport. Two years later Dave finally succeeded in killing himself. I think of him as a victim of Africa.