by Kevin Rubia
3oth May – 3rd June 2012
Thursday night: Departure
At approximately 8:25 pm, the Queens Coach we were in departed from Nairobi to Kampala, Uganda. We were a group of fifteen: Martin Karungi, Fr Edward, Tiren (KT), Sylvester (Sly), Leshan, Daniel Mburu, Thaddeus and Evans Kyalo(brothers), Kevoh, Mutemi, Cyrus, Deo, Christopher and Rubia (from Mbagathi) and Miguel ‘The Mzungu.’
By 1am we were at the border point at Malaba. It was irksome queuing to get our passports checked, half-asleep and in the cold, but a necessary procedure it was. We embarked on our journey long after.
Most of us slept on the way only to wake up, look outside the window and notice how green the countryside of Uganda is. It is a monkey’s paradise- with all the banana trees around; one would go bananas trying to count them all!
The Mabira Rainforest, past Jinja town, is a site to behold. Apart from being the largest rainforest in East Africa, it has a cooling effect on vehicles that pass by. Spectacular.
Kampala, just like ancient Rome, is known for its hills. On arrival, however, the sun’s heat is what strikes you at first. It is as hot as Mombasa.
The next destination was Bugala Study Centre and thanks to Stephen Mukasa and a friend, we were there.
A large palm tree stands in the middle, surrounded by the two-storey centre. What’s more is that there is a computer room and lounge in Bugala. We had mass, breakfast (at midday!) and a chance to freshen up.
3 pm. We were back on the road, this time to visit Marto’s home. The kind Mrs. Kassaija (Marto’s mom) and a driver, ‘Pilot’, took us there in a van. On our way we passed Mulago Hospital, the largest public hospital in Uganda and could also see Makerere University from afar.
The home is on a ranch- Kisombwa Ranch- owned by Mr. Kassaija, in Kitenga. We reached just before sunset and pitched up tents (we were camping for the night). Seated in a semi-circle, we thereafter took tea and home-made biscuits and caught up on the trip so far. The topic of discussion was the heavy sleepers. Apparently, Miguel and Sly were sleeping on our way to the ranch. “No, I was relaxing,” protested Miguel in his signature Spanish accent. Sleeping got a new name!
Supper followed a game of ‘Ping!’ Matoke, brown ugali, matumbo, beef stew, pilau… need I continue? To crown it all, Marto gave us a brief history of the ranch; on how it came about. His father, fond of red meat, was mesmerized by the idea of having a chance to eat it every single day. He began to rear beef cattle, hence the ranch. Baba Marto attested to this when he arrived at around 10 pm. Napoleon Hill once said, “Ideas are the beginning points of all fortunes.” He was not mistaken.
Fred, Marto’s elder brother, had also come with their father, and was equally thrilled to see us. The climax of the night was when Mr. Kassaija offered us some Chinese wine. The ‘lucky’ recipients were Miguel, Leshan and Mutemi, who could not contain the burning sensation they felt in their throats. That’s Chinese wine for you, 100% made in China.
Tour of the ranch
What were you doing at 7am on Saturday, 2nd June? We were milking cows-watching the cows being milked, rather. Those of us who actually milked were Marto, Leshan (of course), Evans and Christopher. The cows reared are majorly Ankole but some Friesian and hybrids of the two are on the ranch too. The former have very long horns.
Baba Marto told us about farming when we arrived from the cattle pen. He explained how the Karamajong, similar to the Maasai of Kenya, believe that all cows belong to them. By 9.15 am we were on an excursion to the highest point on the ranch. There you could see the 6km2 farm area. Not to mention the playful South African Boer goats on our way down.
Mass preceded breakfast. This was the second time Mr. Kassaija was having mass at his home. We also had prayer. The wind blew, as the sun shone, though shyly, that midmorning. The scenery reminded us of St Josémaria’s words: Heaven and earth seem to merge on the horizon but where they meet is in your hearts when you sanctify your everyday lives.
After relishing the jackfruit, a unique tropical fruit in Uganda, Marto took us to see the dam that supplied the ranch with water. Next was the vast banana plantation and soon we were back for lunch. We had a chance to eat goat meat on a stick.
In our final get-together, Marto’s parents shared their joy of hosting us. Subsequent to a group photo and the presentation of a gift to them by K.T, we headed to Bugala. We are forever indebted to their kindness.
Allan Kusimba joined us at Bugala and we went to Morris’ home for the night. A father of one with a great sense of humour, he was a wonderful host.
We woke up to a chilly morning. It was Sunday 3rd June, Ugandan Martyrs’ Day and the Feast of the Holy Trinity. Following breakfast and a group photo with Morris, we began our pilgrimage to Namugongo.
On our way into the Ugandan Martyrs Lake and Pavilion, where the mass is usually celebrated on this day, we got a glimpse of Namugongo Martyrs Shrine. It commemorates the lives of 22 Ugandan martyrs of ages 25 and below who died for their faith. They were killed between 1885 and 1887, during the reign of Kabaka Mwanga II and were canonized by Pope Paul VI on October 18, 1964. The most notable of the martyrs was St Charles Lwanga who was burnt alive on June 3, 1886. The shrine was built at the spot where he died.
The homily was in four different languages: English, Luganda, Kiswahili and Luo, and so were the hymns. The Bishop Celebrant spoke of the need to let Christ live in us and his image be seen in us. When it came to receiving the Eucharist, almost all the 700,000 pilgrims embraced the opportunity. Chris joked that one could be martyred in the process, as it was quite a struggle, but a worthwhile one.
We walked back to Morris’ residence to have a quick snack and pack. Mukasa and Morris drove us to Bugala soon afterwards. Highly grateful to the latter for his hospitality, we said our goodbyes and headed to Ggaba beach where we had fish, chips and drinks.
Back to Bugala for the Solemn Benediction and freshening up, the time came for us to leave. We had a fantastic time in Uganda, to say the least. Thanking Mukasa and the residents of Bugala, we left to board the 8pm bus to Nairobi, Kenya.