The night in the tent was a blessing. Mosquito-free and relaxing. I made the nightly walk outside to the toilet in the subtle red light of the headlamp. Attracted by the LED spotlight, with which I could have completely illuminated the outdoor area, numerous uninvited guests would have followed me under my mosquito net. Although I had gone to bed early and slept there restfully, I felt a cold gain in severity. By evening my sinuses had begun to drip like a faucet. Jonathan and his son had been struck by the same symptoms at Lake Bunyonyi the night before last. So it wasn't just a matter of personal sensitivities on my part, but together we had encountered a cold virus that had easily coped with our weakened defenses. Maybe it was the next zoonosis after the Covid-19 virus that the others had recently brought back from their visit to the chimpanzees or gorillas. So now I had a monkey cold. I countered runny nose as the most unnerving symptom with paper balls. With that I closed my nostrils and had peace from the steady trickle. A practice that my co-sniffles at first smiled at and adopted a little later.
Because today we had to get ready to drive and manage the last stage back to the northern hemisphere and to Kampala. The first 17 kilometers led back over yesterday's gravel road out of the national park onto the main road. Once again the occasional mud puddles had to be skirted through thickets and this time the final treacherous patch of sand almost cost me my integrity. I passed this exam despite my degraded general condition. In return, Ali, the driver of our escort vehicle, demanded that I only drive to the equator and then change to the SUV, given my cold. The sneezing attacks actually made driving on not only uncomfortable, but also risky. With increasing heat, we were also faced with the traffic jam in Kampala in the afternoon. When we left the Ugandan capital what felt like an eternity ago (in fact, it was only a week ago), we had successfully avoided rush hour. Now we had to go through.
Arrived at the zero degree of latitude I felt much worse. The sneezing would not end, my eyes were watering and all the dams in my sinuses were broken. You don't ride a motorcycle like that anymore. In a small café on the equator line we bought up all the cakes and drank coffee and cola. Then the others saddled up and I climbed into the Subaru. Before Ali started the engine, I fell asleep, didn't notice anything about the drive and even when I woke up later, I mostly kept my eyes closed and remained in the self-imposed delirium. Diana, who was also ill, had been stuck motionless between the luggage on the back seat since the start of the journey and did not make a sound. The traffic was so heavy that our motorcyclists decided to leave the access road to Kampala and try their luck off-road one last time. They found it and even got there before us in the 4x4. In the hotel room I immediately fell onto the bed and was knocked out for several hours.
In the evening we sat down for a last dinner together on the hotel terrace. Chuck who had an accident was there too. The thumb was still on and its owner kept apologizing to us for the inconvenience caused. The doctors in Kampala had fixed the open fracture with a metal rod. The bandage was as thick as Chuck's arm and had to be changed daily. Chuck would fly on to Dubai with the others, but would then travel back to the US from there, where a skin graft would need to be done to replace the tissue ripped off in the fall. His shoulder had also suffered and an old injury had come to the fore again, so that further lengthy treatments would be necessary here as well.
Despite my foggy state, I now had to say goodbye to the team members who would be leaving early the next morning. I would have liked to have done something together with all of them and talked a little longer. But a motorcycle adventure trip through a remote part of the world is no cocktail party where the focus is on small talk and getting to know each other. So, as a substitute, I stuffed whatever the hotel's dinner vouchers would allow, and then back up my nostrils with my paper beads. Our last complete get-together soon dissolved and so I crept to my room, sneezed quietly there for a while and went back into my healing cold delirium.