It is something everyone has done at sometime before - agreeing to go on a job and waiting at home for the phone call! In my case it was a job off the Ivory Coast and I was waiting to travel to Abidjan.
However the following morning I got a phone call asking me if I would go to Uganda instead. I was a bit taken aback at first as I had never heard of oil exploration in Uganda, but agreed to go.
The following day I am on the ground at Entebbe airport. It is early evening and about 30 degC. I approach immigration with some trepidation, for some reason I start to think of times arriving in Africa in the mid seventies to mid eighties, when the Manager would say “don’t tell them you are there to work, you won’t get in”. So you say you are on vacation, with an offshore bag and attached hard hat, and they believed you! Eventually I approach the immigration desk – they ask me in what capacity was I entering the country, and I reply to work for an oil company. She requested fifty US Dollars and waived me through. Relief!
Minutes later I am in the baggage hall fighting off the boys who think my bag is far too heavy for me to carry, and offer to help me to my transport.
Outside the heat hits me again and I start looking for someone from the Client carrying a sign with my name on it. After some misunderstanding of who was to collect me I am eventually
taken over to a minibus and I am the last person they are waiting for! I apologise for the mix up to the four people waiting.
We set off towards Kampala in the bus and finish up at a hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria called the Royal Beach Hotel, great, it is definitely five star! The thing that stands out though is the amount of armed security around the Hotel. It seems to take forever, as we have to get off the bus and walk past security to the reception with our bags. Everything we have is examined and scanned before we eventually get to check in. At reception we check in and we are politely asked not to take any photographs as the whole place is patrolled by armed security. At this point we are told that this was one of the hotels that could be used by the Commonwealth Heads of State, who were arriving in a few days with their parties for the annual meeting, led by the Queen and members of the Royal Family.
After finding that my room’s electronic door lock was not working, they eventually allocated me with a room which was on a wing closed off by locking doors and with a resident armed guard! My room was very Colonial with very expensive furniture and decorations and a Queen size bed. The bathroom was very large, but to me very old fashioned though still luxurious.
Breakfast the next morning was in the grand restaurant overlooking Lake Victoria – very impressive. It was the largest buffet I had seen with almost everything I could think of on the long silver side table, and a chef ready to cook my eggs in front of me to my instructions. After breakfast we all checked out and as we did the Duty Manager arrived at reception. We asked him to explain a little of what was going on and he explained that all the security was to do with the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of State meeting in a few days and this hotel was probably the one to be used by Charles and Camilla, in fact, if they came they would probably use the rooms in the wing I had stayed in. There was also a rumour that, as there was an eighteen hole golf course attached to the hotel, Prince Andrew might stay for a few days. We then said goodbye to all this luxury and set off for the airport for the flight down to the shores of Lake Albert where the operation was located.