February 14th, 2020 fell on a Friday. How I wish I owned a bar during that weekend. Kampala constantly has traffic but this Friday, the traffic was too much! Everyone brought their cars out. The clubs along Ggaba road were packed as early as 8 PM.
I’ll cut this short not to bore those that read the previous rally blog of the journey. By law, I’m normally asleep before we even set off from the IUEA bus stop, and as usual, upon arrival, someone announces, “we have arrived”, that’s when I get up.
Random paragraph: If you own a Subaru and are a huge rally fan, please follow the road signs and adhere to the speed limits. Prevent endangering others. Thank you.
It was about 6:00 am when the IUEA team arrived in Mbarara. Rooms were assigned, some slept while the rest wished that they could head to the rally grounds immediately (the type that doesn’t relate to fatigue). The exhausted ones won the silent vote. At 9:00 am, we went to show some love and support to the IUEA Rally Team. We made 3 stops before being granted access into the circuit venue. The commotion at the gate was unbelievable; that is a place where you have to be very careful. Anyway, that is a story for another day. The rallies usually have a huge attendance of thousands of people. Some are actual rally fans while others are there on a completely different shopping agenda.
We made it through the fuss. Phew! Having the IUEA Rally shirts has such great perks! We did not have to queue *insert a happy dance*.
We started hiking (hiking, yes, you read that right) through to make it to the circuit. We were early. The earliest I have ever made it actually. I had time to scout the area and luckily, I found a good unoccupied spot; the gods were with me. That is the spot where all drivers eventually came and parked their beasts before hitting the circuit, *insert happy dance*.
Random paragraph: I checked the weather and the forecast clearly claimed that it would rain at midday. Kama kawaida, I carried my ten-ton rain jacket, which is designed for extremely cold days. Let me tell you, the sun that shone on the 15th was sent by someone! It was so hot, that we ended up using my rain jacket as a mat for sitting and taking a nap before the races began. A power nap that proved necessary and if not had, my body would shut down.
Hassan was the 3rd driver to pull up with his navigator Mwangi (Wuhu, team Kenya). This was my chance, “Take as many pictures as you can now,” I said to myself. Have you ever met someone that is not photogenic? Let me introduce you to Hassan, and sorry we are not arguing about this. On the bright side, I did get some decent pictures. Actually, this was the closest I had ever been to the rally car! Congratulations to myself.
The time came for the 4 wheel drivers to compete amongst each other. Remember, we were IUEA branded; we were all waiting to cheer. Hassan got to the circuit, excitement and pride in our eyes, and the countdown began… 3… 2… 1…
A big ball of white smoke came out of the exhaust and the IUEA Rally car started moving very slowly. For the rally newbies, this was not supposed to happen. We were losing! I could hear guys all around me gasping. They stared at us like ‘what’s not happening?!’ This first round did not go so well. The engine had an issue and the last thing we wanted was to be disqualified for not taking part in the race.
The second race came up and you could see that the IUEA students had lost hope, BUT! When Hassan got back, the cheering spirit was fully ignited. We didn’t think he would defeat his opponent (he who shall not be named) given the state of his car but to our LITERAL surprise, he made it to the finish line first! As I write this, I am trying to understand what witchcraft took place on the other side of the circuit for this to happen. Congratulations to the IUEA Rally Team!!!
Random paragraph: I finally understand why some football teams have some diehard fans even when the team is failing. Arsenal supporters, where are you?
After the rally, it was time to hike back (yes, you read that right again) to the main road. There was a lot of temptation at this point. “Should I ditch my team and take a boda or ask for a ride at the back of someone’s truck?” It was scorching hot, but I stayed the course. I can testify that I have actually become 3 shades darker.
Pilau time: This is selfish but the pilau is one of the few reasons I insist on going for the rally, as it is the only place where I can find this pilau. For the 5 rallies I have attended, the taste has never changed. The chef is a pilau guru and I need that secret recipe. There were some smart students that even packed the meal for dinner, unfortunately, I was not able to do the same because I couldn’t find a kavera.
Random paragraph: We have the coolest Vice-Chancellor at the university. He was present too! He came all the way to Western Uganda to give his support. Dr Emeka Akaezuwa, a cold Fanta orange, in a 300 ml glass bottle on me, from the IUEA cafeteria.
We went back to the hotel. A pounding headache decided that I was not going to explore Mbarara Town. I couldn’t bear it! A sign from the gods, I needed to lie down.
When we’d checked into the hotel earlier in the morning, EVERYONE had wanted a room with a hot shower, but after roasting, eating all the dust at the rally and frying under the sun, I doubt the hot showers were used.
Do I feel some type of way for not exploring the nightlife with the rest? Not at all. Am I growing old? Absolutely. Am I growing old at a very very young age? Most certainly.
Morning came. ‘Ze bluetus device is ready tu pehr’, I was connected. Hardcore hip hop playing from the Made in China Bluetooth speaker, rally energy being boosted before we checked out. We set off for the same venue, only to receive the sad news that the IUEA Rally Team had experienced car trouble and would not race. The IUEA Rally Team is why we attend the rallies and therefore our presence at Lake Mburo resort was not needed any further.
We had breakfast and set off for Kampala. It was a smooth bus ride to and from Mbarara.
This is not the end; we will be back on the 7th of March, in Jinja.
To my fellow international students, take this opportunity to explore Uganda. I have had the chance to visit most of the big towns in Uganda. Spice up your university life. Na Twende Jinja!
By Michelle Wandia