Updated: Feb 14, 2021
AS soon as they alighted at Malaba, a squad of bodaboda riders wheeled their bikes to their spot, and seeing a white woman amongst our friends, they figured our friends were tourists.
“Kakapel Centre? --three hundred shillings,” one said.
“Two hundred,” Bruno said.
Four bobabodas who had accepted the bargain would have ferried them; for it was a distance under eight kilometers; only, a tout nearby grabbed Lady G.'s arm, and while conducting her to his matatu, promised to charge them fifty shillings each.
Malaba was another border town. It was smaller than Busia; it had a smaller market behind the shops. On the main road, which was tarmacked, tens of trucks lined--the stretch extending toward Amagoro.
The matatu that our friends boarded left Malaba for Amagoro with few seats empty. The people of Malaba (and Amagoro) were predominantly Teso; Bruno could not interpret a word to Lady G. as they traveled; but he knew the dialect was Teso. In about fifteen minutes they reached Amagoro, which was a small town centre, with linear settlement on either side of the road.
They would embark on a rough road to the left-hand side, at seventy shillings each; on bodaboda. This route led to Kakapel Centre. It had not rained for weeks and so the dust was thick. They rode for twenty minutes before the ascent became steep, and the road began to wind around the hills.
"Do you know where the stadium is?" Bruno said to his rider.
"I used to hear on radio--football matches being played here in Amagoro--where is the field?"
The rider pointed somewhere. Bruno dropped the questions. He now scanned the landscape as they went. He saw little houses of iron roofs, and crops in small parcels. In every eight hundred meters he would not miss a plot of tobacco plant; with their large, light green leaves stirring in the wind. The plants by the road however wore a brown layer, on account of the dust.
They arrived at the site by and by. A signpost stood at the start of long path--wide enough for vehicles to travel--which was lined with trees on either side. This straight path led to the centre's gate. The bodaboda riders dropped our friends here--at the start of the path, and they walked onward; with Syp trailing.
“Are you tired?” said Bruno to Syp.
“No,” she said. “I like this place.”
This was the first time Syp talked freely with Bruno. He stopped to wait for her. She said, “Thank you for yesterday. At the petrol station.”
“You are welcome.”
“That does not mean we are friends.” She passed him and now hurried forth to join Lodoviko. Bruno laughed quietly.
Our friends entered the centre's compound.
There was a circular structure--looking like a house--with iron roof, located at the very foot of a high and steep hill. Outside, on the white walls of this house, and inside (still on the walls) were condensed the history and culture of a people. There were drawings; there were paintings; there were writings in Teso dialect. The structure had wide openings in place of windows. They accessed the structure. A guide, who was a man of sixty or so, enlightened our friends about this heritage; at an entrance fees of two hundred shillings a head.
Then they stepped out. The compound, shaded by big trees, was cool. And the grass was light green; and tempting to lie on. Behind the structure, there was a hut and a granary. Beyond the compound, there was a structure under construction. The centre would be modernized in time--to provide social amenities to visitors like our friends.
After the tour within the compound, the guide permitted our friends to climb atop the hill, as he stayed to man the establishment. They followed an exit at the side of the compound, and first entered into a cluster of tall trees. Within this spot they saw a big and steep rock, upon a section of which were the famous rock art and paintings. Bruno seized this chance to educate the others about the history of these paintings.
"Are these really 3000 years old?" said Lady G., as she stretched her hand to feel the art, which was protected with a mesh.
"Probably 4000 years," said Bruno.
"Ouch!" said Lady G.
"What?" said Lodoviko.
In this cool place under the trees, there were cattle flies which stung our friends.
Bruno said, "Let's go up."
Syp and Lodoviko led the way; Lady G. started taking pictures of the landscape and rocks. Bruno followed Lady G.; he then, after few strides, snatched the camera from her.
“No!” said Lady G.
“No!” Lady G. blocked her face with outstretched hand.
“Come on. Let me.”
“I do not like my pictures taken. Give it to me.” Her tone was severe.
Bruno returned the camera. “Why wouldn’t you want me to take a snap of you?”
“I just told you.--I can take a shot of you. If you want.”
The ascent became steeper; and Bruno began to pant. He mounted a big rock and posed, raising his hands. She took a photo and showed him, saying, “Handsome!” They climbed on.
“Are you married or something?” Bruno said.
“Ha. Why do you ask?”
“Maybe I’d like to marry you.”
Lady G. laughed and brushed him at the back on his head. “Silly.”
“I know you are.”
“I mean it.”
“Your mama will not like it. ‘Bruno has hooked up with a mzungu.’”
“Never had a mother.”
“Don’t change the subject.”