Uganda diary: Airplanes, Africa, and Parmesan legs

5 09 2010

Heathrow Terminal 5

My journey to Uganda started, rather ideally in terms of constructing an idealistic narrative, on a rather pleasant English evening on Sunday 15 August. It had been raining for weeks before, so I was fairly annoyed that it happened to be lovely weather just as I was going away for two weeks.

As mentioned in a previous blog, I left my seating on the plane to chance. I didn’t check in online. For one flight this was fine, for the other, it led to me breathing in someone else’s dead skin.

The first of my two flights took me from Manchester to Heathrow. I sat down at the end of a row of three. Not ideal, but at least I wasn’t stuck in the middle.

But then my luck changed. We were on an emergency door row, and there was nobody sat in the seats next to us. Then a stewardess asked: “Would you like to sit over there by the emergency door? We need to have a passenger to sit there. Don’t worry, you probably won’t need to do anything!”

I said yes, and I sat myself down before reading and memorising the emergency procedure, equipping myself with the knowledge of how, if the time came, I would open the emergency door and save myself and my fellow passengers.
Thankfully that disaster never happened. Unfortunately, another – albeit minor – one did.

Parmesan legs

I was sat next to the emergency door – I had my window seat, and I had a vast amount of legroom. This was excellent. Then another passenger asked the stewardess if he, too, could sit on the same row. She said yes. That was fine with me – there was still a seat between me and my new emergency exit-row comrade, so I had plenty of space.

We were halfway into the flight when I noticed the sunlight catching a plume of dust. This was the first time I’d noticed dust on the flight. It seemed to be coming from down and left of where I was looking.

My eyes followed the stream of dust before landing at the legs of my fellow passenger. It wasn’t dust I was breathing in. It was his dead skin.

I looked down with sufficient horror to subconsciously scrunch up my face in disgust, but it didn’t matter, my fellow passenger was too busy concentrating on ferociously scratching his flaking leg.

The amount of flakes of dead skin dropping onto his sock, shoe and floor (I’m not criticising him for having a skin condition, but the toilet on the plane was vacant) led me I instantly clutch my fist, and shove my hand against my mouth and nose. I hoped this would help limit the amount of dead skin I inhaled.

If you’re wondering what the dead skin looked like, it was as though someone had got about one and half heaped tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, and sprinkled it on the floor. Remember that next time you have spag bol.

Eight hour flight – no parmesan legs to see. Or inhale

I got off the flight from Manchester feeling slightly ill, and considerably anxious about whom I’d sit next to on the flight. I did manage to take a look at Parmesan Legs’ ticket on the previous flight, and it didn’t say Entebbe, so I knew I wouldn’t be sat next to him.

But this didn’t mean I could relax – there was still the possibility I could sit next to someone with constantly flaking skin, or someone who smelt of BO, or who had a foul personality, or who kept needing the toilet every 15 minutes (I was on the end of the row of three, so this is why it would’ve been an issue).

Turns out I needn’t have worried. I ended up sitting next to the very lovely Amy who was travelling with about a dozen Northern Irish folk who were off to Uganda with the charity Abaana. Amy didn’t have flaky legs like my previous neighbour, so instead we talked for most of the flight. Oh, and she even gave me the leftovers from her Chicken Tikka Masala (after establishing that everyone around me had chosen Chicken Tikka Masala, I too chose this dish. This meant that if I burped, nobody would know it was me). So, the Manchester-Heathrow flight was awful, the Heathrow-Entebbe flight was excellent (if Dottie, one of the members of the Abaana group, is reading this, hello. I’m sure you’re delighted I’ve just mentioned Amy).

Hello Africa

After about seven hours of trying and failing to sleep, filling in questionnaires on the screen in front of me (four questionnaires to choose from, all the same), and talking, the sun started to find its way into the plane, bringing along some new scenery for all us British folk to look at.

Amy and I realised at this point that we were now in Africa. Neither of us had been to Africa before, so a mutual awareness that we were indeed in a completely different continent led to a few minutes’ awe, silence and thought.

Entebbe airport

After landing, we were transported by bus to the terminal (could’ve walked). Here, I spent a good 25 minutes standing in the wrong queues, wandering around and generally doing well to show myself off as a lost British tourist.

Fifty US dollars later, visa in hand, I waltzed through border control and retrieved my bag before meeting up with my cousin, Emma.

Entebbe to Kampala

The taxi journey from Entebbe to Kampala made me realise something. It was during this journey that I realised that any preconceptions, no matter how small, I had about Uganda – its society, geography and lifestyle – were to be completely shattered.

Journey from Entebbe to Kampala

An hour or so later we arrived at Emma’s house; a lovely little place.

That day we went, using a boda boda (the motorbikes which can be found even in the remotest areas which are basically taxis. No helmets, no safety gear, and, for most of my time in Uganda, riding three up. Scary at first, but fun), to a Belgian cafe, and generally chilled out.

The next two weeks would be filled with culture shocks (from the amusing to the horrific), cultural experiences, seeing some of the most majestic views and some of the grimmest, and acquiring a new understanding of the importance of drinking water on long bus journeys.

My hotel




8 responses

5 09 2010

Loving the parmesan legs! How long was the flight? I think I’d be sick.

6 09 2010
Peter Adams

Manchester-Heathrow flight was about 45 minutes. He grated his legs about 20 minutes into the flight. I probably came close to being sick. Other flight was about 8 hours 20 minutes.
(Thanks for reading and commenting, by the way.)

7 09 2010

Lots of experience while traveling; parmesan legs, cultural shock etc. Love it, I cannot wait to read more about your experience while traveling to Africa.

10 09 2010


Thanks for sharing your experiences. We have linked your page to our website

Liked the Manchester to Heathrow flight.

10 09 2010
Peter Adams

Thank you very much for this, it’s very much appreciated. I’m glad you liked reading about my flight – hopefully you enjoyed reading about it more than I enjoyed experiencing it!


11 10 2010

Parmesan leg is one of the most disgusting things I have ever read haha

15 02 2012
teresa kuempfel

Very entertaining and interesting as my 15yr old son flew from heathrow then doha to entebbe.travelling by road to kampala like you and then his last bit.of travelling to gulu in north uganda.i do hope that parmesan legs wasnt travelling at that time.many thanks for a fascinating insight into africa travel.

19 02 2012
Peter Adams

Thanks very much for your comment, Teresa – always a lovely feeling to know someone’s enjoyed what I’ve written! I hope your son enjoyed his time in Uganda. Beautiful country.

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