Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How not to go on holiday

To keep you entertained while you look at our professional-quality photos from our recent holiday to Uganda, here is a brief How-To note to spicing up what might otherwise be an uneventful holiday abroad.

Principle 1: Leave your wallet in your checked-in luggage.

Although not seemingly a catastrophic act, this makes your flight immeasurably more exciting once you realise that you will need to pay $50 per person to enter Uganda, and that your money is awaiting you on the other side of the nice customs officer. It is further enhanced by the kind Ugandan in the seat next to you, who swears blind that the baggage handlers in Entebbe will identify your bag and steal your wallet from it before it ever reaches you. Sadly the fun was spoiled by a very helpful attendant and the bag turning up intact. Unlike our other bag, which enjoyed an extra little holiday in Nairobi.

Principle 2: Use a bank that regularly blocks your card when it is used to draw cash overseas.

A cast-iron banker for setting your heart beating slightly faster is the polite message at the ATM that your only source of money for the holiday has been rejected, and is to all intents and purposes a useless piece of plastic. Although Lloyds do give you a number to call should this happen, they make up for it by insisting on your secret telephone banking PIN code which you made up in 2005 and have not used since. We reduced the fun factor by having access to the internet and therefore answers to obscure security questions about my account, but this one clearly has a lot of potential if done right.

Principle 3: Use a ‘cheap’ car hire firm

Our kind friends whom we were staying with had a deal with a tour company, getting us cut-price rates on a car for our little planned safari. So much the better, we thought. And when the nice Land Cruiser turned up, we saw little room for adding to the excitement. We were effortlessly disabused as the support bar broke (does a car even have one?), leaving us stranded for 5 hours on the side of a west Ugandan road. Handy hint – if you can secure a driver who will not tell you what is wrong or how long it will take to fix, so much the better. It is also useful to make sure that the owner of the company considers it your fault that the car is broken, rather than his.

Principle 4: Assume that a security guard will ‘secure’ or ‘guard’ your belongings

On the way to a hotel with some other nice friends, we had the opportunity to verify for you, the attentive reader, that little can trump this very simple but effective rule. On reaching a fuel station in a sleepy little town and deciding to grab some food there, we cleverly assumed that the presence of an armed guard within touching distance of the car would keep it safe for 20 minutes. 20 minutes later, and minus 2 passports, 2 flight tickets, a few books and 3 bags of clothes, we asked the guard what might have happened. Out of the question that he had hidden inside during the rainstorm, he steadfastly informed us that we must have forgotten all of the above at home, that he was standing by the car at all times, and that as a man of God he never lied.

And two rules to make life easier:
  1. Trust God. When all has gone wrong and there is nothing you can do, we remembered that there is a time to give up trying to make things happen and railing at the world. And that relying on the Big Man breeds patience and peace that we couldn’t have otherwise.
  2. Depend on others. A whole network of kind people, foremost Gandalady, her husband and their very cool kids who put us up for a week, combined to get us back less than a week late and still reasonably sane. And reminded us that the best bits of a holiday are not necessarily the ones you have planned and paid for…

1 comment:

Tooting bird said...

Awww, you guys! Actually we nicked your passports to get you to stay - desperate measures.
V glad you made it back in one piece