The Boda Boda Night Parade

Trip Start Dec 07, 2009
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Trip End Sep 26, 2010


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Flag of Uganda  ,
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Very early on Wednesday morning I said goodbye to my Kenyan family and Jau dropped me off at the bus station. After the Krabi debacle I wasn't taking any chances with terrible buses anymore and since this was a long one (12 hours) I booked on the first class bus service. It was nice and had big comfy seats and lots of room as opposed to the regular cramped buses most often seen in Africa. I feel pleased with this decision as I watch the African countryside go by. I see the same stoic baboon eating his maize. Before long we make it to the Ugandan border and I get through customs with no problem.

Upon arriving in Uganda I notice how much greener it is than Kenya, but the dirt on the roads is much more red. It provides an interesting contrast to the lush green beside it on the roadside. It is definitely warmer in Uganda and I started noticing it right away when I was outside at the border.

It was a good 12 hours because it didn't feel like that long, and the bus was approaching Kampala as the sun was starting to set. It was also a big difference from Nairobi, it appeared to be cleaner and more modern but the biggest difference I noticed wold be the addition of boda bodas on the road. These are motorcycle taxis and they are EVERYWHERE. They drive like maniacs is pretty much the best way to put it. They pass on the dirt sidewalks, they cut between cars in seemingly impossible spaces, wrong side of the road, you name it. (This is becoming a theme in a lot of countries.) But these boda bodas take it to a whole new level.

I was staying for a week with a nice Ugandan family, the Mayebos. Richard and Mercy and their three daughters. They met me at the bus depot and whisked me off to the house for a nice family dinner. It was a real privilege and honor to be included in the lives of an African family. Over the next week I did a lot of planning and errands to make sure I had all my camping supplies and I spent a little time exploring Kampala and of course did some relaxing as well. I was also lucky enough to be included in a big lunch party on Sunday where many African families gathered and had a big feast. The Mayebos place was nice, they had a nice home and big yard for their 3 dogs and 20 or so odd chickens. One day some construction workers came by to fix something on the car shade in the driveway. I thought it would be very nice to donate* my sweet Transformers t-shirt to one of the workers.

A week at the Mayebos went by rather quickly and soon I found myself on the way to Kampala Backpackers, a really cool hostel on the other side of the city. I met my roommates when I moved in and they were pretty cool. A couple of English blokes, or lads, or chaps, or whatever they're called in England. (Help Mum?) I digress, they were two cool dudes and we all decided to go check out the local market the day after I arrived. This was a real eye-opener. We were pretty much the only foreigners in this massive marketplace so we heard calls of Mzungu! Mzungu! the entire time we were there. It was a very interesting place, mostly selling second hand shoes and clothes and some random stalls selling assorted things like radios from 1985, chickens, watches, irons, airtime for phones, etc. The clothes shops were the most plentiful however and they consisted of hand-me-downs mostly from North America. I even saw a few shirts from squash tournaments in Vancouver. Small world, but it gives you some perspective on how one persons junk is another persons gold, or livelihood. Many of the shirt stalls had just piles and piles of what looked like dirty laundry sitting on the dirty ground, sometimes the shopkeepers were seated on or half-buried under the very shirts they were selling. They all called Mzungu to us and tried to get us to look, one lady even said Hey Mzungu! Give me some money for free. I did too because she was just so straightforward and honest and even her friends laughed when she said it. A good moment for sure.

After the market we walked into town and checked out some craft stores selling local African hand-made crafts but once you've been into a few shops you've basically seen everything their is to offer so we didn't stay long. Next came my first boda boda ride. It was pretty tame but it was definitely a good time as the three of us all caught bodas back to Mengo, a little market right near Backpackers. Here is where I tried my first rolex. A rolex is a very cheap local food made on the street-side. It is basically an omelet with diced tomatoes and onions rolled up inside a chapatti. Pretty tasty for 50 cents, very filling too. Then a quick hike up the hill to our home and we started the night early with some delicious Ugandan beers. Pretty sure I tried them all: Club Special, Moonberg, Nile Gold, Nile Special, Bell Lager. Winner goes to Moonberg for sure, that is a solid beer.

The night continued as 8 of us from the hostel decided to go to some random restaurant in the boonies called Pork Talk and we took 4 bodas between the 8 of us. This was what would be referred to as an impromptu Boda Boda night parade. The 4 bikes were zipping and dodging out of traffic like nobodies business. We definitely spent a lot of time on the sidewalks, scattering pedestrians left and right, just so we could avoid the traffic jams. 30 minutes and one extremely stiff pair of legs later we arrived and had some good times and beer and lots of pig. Eventually we ended up at Bubbles O'Leary's, some random Irish Pub with lots of people. Good times were had by all. I eventually crawled into bed at 2am, leaving myself plenty of time for sleep before my 7am shuttle bus to Jinja the next morning!

-js


*By donate what I really meant was a construction worker snagged it off the drying line without anyone's permission except his own. But donate was a nice euphemism! It's OK, I know he needed it more than I did.
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