I woke up this morning thinking about Fort Portal. Uganda and the DRC have been on my mind a lot lately. I can’t believe it’s been a year. Not that Fort Portal was exactly a year ago. Exactly a year would have been, let’s see, I think Kampala? Wow, early morning Kampala, trudging through the still-sleeping streets with too much luggage to catch the Post Bus.
But Fort Portal, perhaps more than any other place I can remember, represents the edge of adventure. That night, the first night in Fort Portal, when we all gathered around a little table, over a beer, and had The Conversation about medical conditions and next of kin and emergency insurance information. On the edge of venturing into the unknown of the eastern DRC. That tension, than intensity. A plan finally coming together. The introspection. No-one really mentioning the emotions just below the surface, but all the senses heightened. The incredible awareness of anticipation.
The moments, the images of Fort Portal are particularly clear to me. Perhaps because it was a place I truly fell in love with. Perhaps precisely because of that anticipation. The brightly coloured selection of fruit at the little market. The honey shop. The cranes by the river. The goats on what looked like a sports field. The men with their bicycles selling huge bunches of green bananas. The aid-agency land-cruisers – a different selection to Gulu or Bunia. The bank, looking just like a small-town, farming-centre South African bank. The crazy statue of Sir Gerald Portal. The round building on the hill, the purpose of which was never discovered. The food – some of the best in Uganda. The cold beer. The cool evening.
The Rwenzoris in the distance a path not taken. Early in the trip planning, we had been considering hiking in the Rwenzoris. I’m glad we didn’t because the path we chose was incredible, but the road not take always remains. One day I would like to go back and explore the “mountains of the moon”. One day.
It’s been a year since an incredible trip with incredible people into the heart of a place so often maligned, ignored and misunderstood. SADC has agreed to send troops into the DRC to enforce whatever peace is agreed upon. Rumours continue to surface of Rwandan and Ugandan involvement. Perhaps one day it will all be over and the eastern DRC will claim its position as a truly magical place to visit.
Perhaps I’ll go back. Perhaps I’ll go somewhere else. Waking up in the early hours of this morning, I could taste, again, the cool, just-rained air, the hotel sheets, the mosquito net, the excitement of that morning in Fort Portal. The edge of adventure. The anticipation of wonder.