Surviving Rush Hour and the Vernal Equinox
03.20.2017 - 03.20.2017
On Monday, we embarked on our trip westward from Kampala to Mbarara, a drive of 238 kilometers (about 150 miles). We switched from the bus and spread out into three large vans and departed our Kampala hotel, Forest Cottages, before 8:00am. It was early enough to compare and contrast this busy city's rush hour to our own: the streets were teeming with cars, trucks, buses, motorbikes, and those sights plus road construction provided a similar feel to our own traffic congestion back home. The obvious contrast was the informal economy setting up on the roadsides: bananas, vegetables, fruit, crafts, all sold by unofficial vendors who select a piece of asphalt roadside to sell their wares for the day.
Our first destination on this road trip was a stop at the Equator Point in Mpigi District. I was surprised and delighted to see some kitschy little tourist traps here: the golden line painted on the red earth meant to illustrate the Equator's "location," along with the photo op provided by the giant Uganda Equator circle indicating the Northern and the Southern Hemisphere. There were shops to buy tee shirts and unique gift items, and a place to order coffee and a "Rollex" -- a Ugandan treat made with chapati bread filled with scrambled eggs and "rolled" into a burrito; hence the name, Roll + Eggs = Rollex. I have been smiling about (and yearning for) this sandwich ever since!
At this stop, there was a gentleman who demonstrated that water drains clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere, and straight down the drain directly on the Equator. Adults and kids crowded around the little birdbath while the gentleman demonstrated by filling the basin with water and then dropping a small pansy into the basin so that the swirl direction was visible; sure enough, the flower swirled to the right when we stood to the North of the golden Equator paint, to the left when we stood to the South of it, and the flower was sucked straight down the drain when the basin was placed right on the Equator line.
We continued on from that location for a bit, as Professor Maitha calculated where we were going to stop for our next oh-so-cool phenomenon: this day was the day of the March Equinox, when the sun is directly overhead at the Equator and there are the same number of hours of darkness and sunlight in the day. Professor was calculating where to stop based on the moment the sun would be directly above in this region.
We disembarked our vans and took pictures of our shadows, not "casting a shadow" but situated directly beneath us! This is one of my favorite photos of our Ugandan adventure, that of our three guides, Ronald, Joseph, and Michael -- with the shadows of their outstretched arms directly underneath them.
Finally, I could not resist a photo of the blazing sun directly overhead me, on this Magical March Equinox. To you, it may not be much of a picture, but to me, it symbolizes a special and fortunate moment in my life, to be at the Equator on this day!